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Ellsworth Airmen deploy to Southwest Asia

Ellsworth Airmen prepare to enter the deployment center at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Jan. 19, 2013. Approximately 350 Airmen will deploy to Southwest Asia to support missions in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Anania Tekurio/Released)

Ellsworth Airmen prepare to enter the deployment center at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Jan. 19, 2013. Approximately 350 Airmen will deploy to Southwest Asia to support missions in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Anania Tekurio/Released)

Ellsworth Airmen enter the deployment center at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Jan. 19, 2013. The Airmen will deploy to Southwest Asia and conduct B-1 missions designed to rapidly deliver precision and non-precision weapons against adversaries. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. John Barton/Released)

Ellsworth Airmen enter the deployment center at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Jan. 19, 2013. The Airmen will deploy to Southwest Asia and conduct B-1 missions designed to rapidly deliver precision and non-precision weapons against adversaries. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. John Barton/Released)

Airmen assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron enter a deployment processing line at the Deployment Center on Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Jan. 19, 2013. Approximately 350 Ellsworth Airmen are deploying to Southwest Asia to support missions in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kate Thornton-Maurer/ Released)

Airmen assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron enter a deployment processing line at the Deployment Center on Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Jan. 19, 2013. Approximately 350 Ellsworth Airmen are deploying to Southwest Asia to support missions in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kate Thornton-Maurer/ Released)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Approximately 350 Airmen bid farewell to their families, friends and co-workers Jan. 19, as they prepare to deploy to Southwest Asia to support missions in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

"We will be doing a variety of missions - providing close-air support and helping our troops on the ground accomplish their mission," said Lt. Col. Joseph Sheffield, 34th Bomb Squadron operations director. "We're primarily focusing on providing stability for the Afghan people."

Col. Mark Weatherington, 28th Bomb Wing commander, said this deployment is the second half of a yearlong commitment by Ellsworth to conduct vital operations in Southwest Asia.

"The Tigers continued to provide vital armed overwatch and reconnaissance capabilities to support American troops and our allies on the ground in Afghanistan," said Weatherington. "For many of these Airmen, this marked the fourth, fifth, or even sixth deployment to the region - a sacrifice that is also deeply felt by their families and friends. They performed remarkably well and upheld the proud combat heritage of the 28th Bomb Wing."

For Senior Airman Nery Bolano, 34th BS aviation resource manager, this deployment serves as a first in her career.

"I'm very excited, but nervous because this is my first time deploying," said Bolano. "I'm confident the training we received in interacting with locals - as well as combat training - will help a lot.

Sheffield said Ellsworth's involvement in Southwest Asia has evolved tremendously ever since he originally deployed there in 2002, adding that technology has played a big role.

"The 37th Bomb Squadron is deployed there now," Sheffield explained. "We're stepping up as a team to relieve them so that they can come back home in the next few weeks. Even though it's difficult to leave because we all have families and loved ones at home, we've trained for this and we know our loved ones will be taken care of."

Ellsworth has a variety of programs to support families of Airmen who deploy, including the Airmen and family Readiness Center and Ellsworth family advocacy.





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