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SCANG Airmen swap out during AEF

Personnel from McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., arrive at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, June 10, 2012, to begin the second half of the unit's Air Expeditionary Force rotation in country. Members of the 169th Fighter Wing are deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Swamp Fox F-16's, pilots, and support personnel began their AEF deployment early April to take over flying missions for the air tasking order and provide close air support for troops on the ground in Afghanistan.
(U.S. Air Force photo/TSgt. Caycee Cook)

Personnel from McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., arrive at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, June 10, 2012, to begin the second half of the unit's Air Expeditionary Force rotation in country. Members of the 169th Fighter Wing are deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Swamp Fox F-16's, pilots, and support personnel began their AEF deployment early April to take over flying missions for the air tasking order and provide close air support for troops on the ground in Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/TSgt. Caycee Cook)

Personnel from McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., arrive at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, June 10, 2012, to begin the second half of the unit's Air Expeditionary Force rotation in country. Members of the 169th Fighter Wing are deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Swamp Fox F-16's, pilots, and support personnel began their AEF deployment early April to take over flying missions for the air tasking order and provide close air support for troops on the ground in Afghanistan.
(U.S. Air Force photo/TSgt. Caycee Cook)

Personnel from McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., arrive at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, June 10, 2012, to begin the second half of the unit's Air Expeditionary Force rotation in country. Members of the 169th Fighter Wing are deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Swamp Fox F-16's, pilots, and support personnel began their AEF deployment early April to take over flying missions for the air tasking order and provide close air support for troops on the ground in Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/TSgt. Caycee Cook)

Senior Master Sgt. Tommy Claytor and Chief Master Sgt. Dennis Burton, from the 169th Maintenance Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., wait to begin in-processing after arriving at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan June 10, 2012. Members of the 169th Fighter Wing are deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Swamp Fox F-16's, pilots, and support personnel began their Air Expeditionary Force deployment early April to take over flying missions for the air tasking order and provide close air support for troops on the ground in Afghanistan.
(U.S. Air Force photo/TSgt. Caycee Cook)

Senior Master Sgt. Tommy Claytor and Chief Master Sgt. Dennis Burton, from the 169th Maintenance Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., wait to begin in-processing after arriving at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan June 10, 2012. Members of the 169th Fighter Wing are deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Swamp Fox F-16's, pilots, and support personnel began their Air Expeditionary Force deployment early April to take over flying missions for the air tasking order and provide close air support for troops on the ground in Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/TSgt. Caycee Cook)

Captain Grady Patterson, the maintenance officer in charge assigned to the 451st Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, helps unload luggage for members just arriving June 10, 2012. Members of the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., are deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Swamp Fox F-16's, pilots, and support personnel began their Air Expeditionary Force deployment early April to take over flying missions for the air tasking order and provide close air support for troops on the ground in Afghanistan.
(U.S. Air Force photo/TSgt. Caycee Cook)

Captain Grady Patterson, the maintenance officer in charge assigned to the 451st Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, helps unload luggage for members just arriving June 10, 2012. Members of the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., are deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Swamp Fox F-16's, pilots, and support personnel began their Air Expeditionary Force deployment early April to take over flying missions for the air tasking order and provide close air support for troops on the ground in Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/TSgt. Caycee Cook)

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- When the C-17 Globemaster III touched down at Kandahar Airfield, members of the South Carolina Air National Guard's 169th Fighter Wing, based at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., spilled off the ramp and into the Afghan summer heat. The nearly 100 Swamp Foxes made their way across the concrete and were met by some familiar faces. This group of Airmen is part of the swap out of SC Air National Guardsmen currently deployed here.

They arrived Sunday, June 10 after several days of flying and a brief stopover at the Transit Center at Manas in Kyrgyzstan for briefings and to receive extra gear. Regardless of jet lag, many of the Airmen met their co-workers in their work centers and went straight to work.

In April, the 169th Fighter Wing deployed more than a dozen F-16s and 400 personnel including pilots, maintenance specialists, and support staff to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The swap out allows traditional Guard members, who may have time constraints from their civilian jobs to deploy for a shorter period of time, said Col. David Meyer, deputy operations group commander while deployed to Kandahar Airfield.

"The good news is that all our members are arriving with all their training complete - not an easy task - and ready to perform the mission," Col. David Meyer said. "I greatly appreciate the sacrifice each member, and their family is making."

The 169th, while deployed for a four-month AEF rotation, is still supporting its flying operations at home and executing the Aerospace Control Alert mission at McEntire. Meyer said this swap out allows the unit "a lot of flexibility" in manning both commitments.

Tech. Sgt. Stacey Wellington, a munitions support section specialist from Atlanta, Ga., was one of those Airmen. This is her third deployment to Southwest Asia, and her first to Afghanistan. Wellington said she enjoys deploying with the people from her Air National Guard unit because it strengthens their already tight bonds.

"This is what gets me really excited about my job," Tech. Sgt. Wellington said of the deployment. "What I like is I learn so much about my job."

This is the wing's largest deployment since Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and the fourth major deployment of its F-16s since 2002 when the Swamp Foxes deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom when they flew more than 200 combat missions in the early days of the Afghan Campaign. The wing also deployed in 2003 and 2010 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Swamp Foxes are deployed through August of this year.