MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, SC (WIS) - Before the sun ever came up over Columbia, more than a dozen F-16 fighter jets from McEntire Joint National Guard Base took to the skies en route to Afghanistan to support Operation Enduring Freedom.
More than a dozen F-16 fighter pilots from the 169th fighter wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base will join more than 400 other service men and women from the 169th who are already in Afghanistan to provide air support to troops stationed on the ground.
The servicemen and women are scheduled to be deployed for four months.
This is the group's largest deployment since Operation Desert Storm back in January 1991 and the fourth major deployment of the planes since 2002.
Unfortunately, many of these pilots are leaving behind families. Lt. Col. Brent Allen was with his family in the final moments before leaving.
"Leaving the family never gets easier, but I know that they support what I'm doing 110 percent, just like the great community we have here in Columbia," Allen said. "We know that they support us and they support our families. It's a great place to live. It's a great place to serve and we're happy to be a part of the unit."