Keesler airlift squadron deploys for the second time this year

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - For the second time this year, members of the 345th airlift squadron at Keesler Air Force Base are flying into harm's way to assist in the war on terror. Thirty members of the Golden Eagles took off Thursday morning, surrounded by family and friends.

"It's a bittersweet moment. I'm very sad that he's leaving but at the same time I'm a very proud wife," Sarah Haynes said.  "That's his second time serving overseas already so I couldn't be more proud."

The job these men and women will be doing is critical in wartime.  Lt. Col. Mike Ramirez is the squadron commander.

"We're going to be supplying the troops with all the needed equipment that they need, landing on runways out there, airdropping supplies to forward operating bases, humanitarian airlifts to the nationals in Afghanistan," Ramirez explained.  "Also any wounded warriors that need to come home and anything like that we're doing air medical evacuations as well."

The planes themselves are built for his type of mission. Sgt. Kevin Haynes is with the 345th.

"The capabilities of the C-130J and how fast it is and how good it going off into remote areas and areas where other planes can't get to."

For some, like Sgt. Joseph Peterson, the reason they serve is simple.

"It hurts at times but I'll tell you what, when you look at your child, this right here is the main reason," Peterson said, pointing to his young son. "That's why everybody joins for this reason right here."

It's almost time to leave, but not before a time honored Air Force tradition of the airfield salute,  a show of respect and unyielding devotion to duty and country.

As with any military deployment, loved ones and spouses are left behind to cope. Even so, they know this mission is important.  One final kiss, followed by words of encouragement and love from Lauren Parker to her husband.

"Oh, we're so proud of him. We hate to see him go but we know this is what he has to do," Parker said.

A short trip down the runway, and then off into the sky as these brave men and women do what they do best, protecting our country.

This current deployment will last about three months. One interesting note about the squadron: In January of last year, it set a record of 261 successful airdrops during a single deployment.

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