SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. (WIS) - Nearly 300 Air Force personnel from a South Carolina Air Force base are scheduled to deploy to Iraq.
Air Force Lt. Emily Chilson says the group scheduled to leave on Saturday from Shaw Air Force Base includes pilots, medical technicians, maintenance specialists and support personnel.
A farewell celebration for families and friends was slated prior to the men and women departing for a four-month stint overseas.
The airmen are members of the 55th Fighter Squadron, the 55th Aircraft Maintenance Unit and the 20th Component Maintenance and Equipment Maintenance Squadrons.
The units support the F-16 Flying Falcons that conduct air patrols protecting and supporting forces on the ground.
We talked to several of the airmen who told us what was going through their heads in the last few minutes before takeoff. There were hugs, kisses, tears and some major separation anxiety.
"I build bombs, I bring missiles for the pilots to load onto the jets," said Senior Airman Rayanne Delpek, who was on the plane.
Moments before taking off, Delpek told us what would go through her mind as the wheels went up. "Just basically getting the job done, just focusing on what I have to do, ya know being attentive and vigilant," she said.
This will be her first deployment. Like her peers, she says she will miss her spouse. "He's a weapons troop," she said. "I bring out missiles and these are the guys who load them up into the jets."
Delpek says leaving Shaw for the desert will have its perks. "I guess the gym," said Delpek. "They have one there, they have a brand new gym."
Senior Airman Xavier Diaz knows the layout. This will be his second deployment in two years. "It's gonna be tough," said Diaz. "She's gonna turn on while I'm over there. She's just starting to get mobile and walking around. Miss my wife, it's gonna be a tough one."
He was a bit less stoic when describing what he would reflect on as the crew took flight. "Is the house gonna be safe?" he listed. "Did I take care of everything? How's my little girls gonna be doing."
Whether it was their first deployment or their last, hundreds of different faces filled with the same emotions, proving there is absolutely no place like home.