Base readies for deployment

Members of the 523rd Fighter Squad at Cannon Air Force Base check the inventory of their chemical protection gear during the war readiness mobility deployment process Monday morning at the base.

By Tony Parra: Freedom Newspapers

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE — Hundreds of pilots, airmen and other Air Force officials on Monday geared up for an upcoming deployment overseas. The personnel will provide war-ready air combat if the need of support in the Middle East arises.

Col. John Posner spoke to roughly 300 members of the 523rd Fighter Squad of the 27th Fighter Wing about their deployment to the Pacific Theater.

Roughly 200 more Cannon enlisted are also scheduled to be deployed to various places around the world, including Iraq, within the next week or two, said Capt. Andre Kok of Cannon Public Affairs.

On Monday, commanders and Cannon leaders prepared the squadron members for deployment with briefings on the mission and went over classified information.

“This is not for training,” Posner told the group. “We want to deploy air power in support of war-fighting. We want them (squadron members) to be prepared in case they need to be deployed to the Middle East. We have prepared and equipped them to do the job.”

Airmen and pilots were also given mobility bags that include chemical warfare gear, helmets, canteens, training and cold-weather gear. They also took inventory of the supplies in their mobility bags.

Officials said members of the 523rd Fighter Squad need to be prepared to deploy during the first week of January.

Posner advised the number of planes and specific location of the deployment is sensitive information.

“A lot of people out there want you dead and they want you dead in large numbers,” Posner said. “Be careful who you talk to … about the deployment location. You could get a lot of people killed.”

Posner advised members of the squadron to only leave base with a complete understanding of the mission, and who they will be working for during their mission. Posner stressed they will be working for a new set of commanders at the base location.

Some have already had the experience of other missions under their belt and they were familiar with the pre-deployment processing.

Matt Yeatter, 523rd Fighter Squad pilot, said he has been on missions to Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

“They’re used to it,” said Yeatter, who will be leaving behind a wife and two children under the ages of 10. “I left for missions while we were living in Italy. They have been real supportive.”

Yeatter said he has been on three previous missions, and advised members on their first mission to take care of bills before departure.

Unlike his first mission when he said he was apprehensive, Yeatter said he doesn’t get as nervous anymore.

The group has been preparing rigorously the last three months for the deployment, Yeatter said. The preparation included medical and chemical warfare training sessions.