The Wisconsin Air National Guard's 115th Fighter Wing is pulling double-duty for the next several weeks.
The Madison, Wisconsin-based unit continues to conduct its homeland defense mission, a round-the-clock responsibility. But as of Monday, 12 F-16 Fighting Falcon jets took off for Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan to support a Pacific Command Theater Security Package training mission.
"We're not going to a combat zone again, so this is a little different," Capt. Mike Koob,
who is making his third deployment, said at last week's sendoff ceremony on base. "Leaving Wisconsin in the middle of January is pretty nice, too."
All told, roughly 250 Airmen from the 115th Fighter Wing's 176th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron will fall under the Air Force's largest combat unit, the 18th Wing. There they will assist a variety of operations — including disaster relief, combating piracy, active defense, power projection and global situational awareness.
Gov. Scott Walker and Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin adjutant general, attended the sendoff ceremony.
"They answered the call of our nation's commander-in-chief, while still being fully prepared to respond to needs right here in Wisconsin," Walker said during his Jan. 13 State of the State address. "This is the strength of the National Guard."
Dunbar was confident in the 115th Fighter Wing's ability to conduct two significant operations simultaneously.
"These opportunities do not come along very often," Dunbar said. "The 115th Fighter Wing is one of the first National Guard units to perform this Theater Security Package mission, and I think this speaks highly of the skills and capability of the men and women in the fighter wing as well as the Wisconsin Air National Guard."