LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The Kentucky National Guard deployed its 4th group of C-130 aircraft Thursday, November 11, mobilizing approximately 160 members from the 123rd Airlift Wing in support of Operation Enduring Freedom while deployed to Afghanistan.
The 123rd Airlift Wing Detachment Commander, Lt. Col. Robert Hamm, deployed the first series of Kentucky C-130 sorties on Saturday, October 30 from the Kentucky Air National Guard base for Bagram, Afghanistan, as part of the Central Command's Air Expeditionary Force air-package.
Thursday, the 4th chalk out of five deployed to join them. The deployed members from the 123rd Airlift Wing will work alongside guardsmen from Missouri and Wyoming conducting tactical lift operations of resupply and troop movement in support of Operation Enduring Freedom while deployed to Afghanistan.
"I'm proud of these Kentucky Guard Airmen," said Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, Adjutant General for Kentucky." This is such an important mission and our guys are already making a huge impact over there."
Thursday was a day met with mixed emotions.
"Heartbreaking and prideful all rolled into one. I'm very proud of him," said Jennifer Hodge. Her husband, John, is heading over to Afghanistan for his second deployment.
"The packing part's hard, like putting things in a box... it puts a final touch on it and makes it more real," Jennifer said.
They agree it never gets easier to say goodbye.
"A little bit nervous going over for an extended period. We've done power of attorney, we've done wills. Hopefully all those tasks around the house are done and its almost winter time so we've got to make sure the vehicles are ready and the house is ready," Master Sergeant John Hodge said.
Their two teenage sounds will help out. Meanwhile SSGT Chris Hodge, no relation, will also leave behind a wife and a one and five year old.
"We kind of waited a week beforehand so we didn't have to draw it out. One of the unique things we'll do in our home is a construction paper chain that the kids will be able to take a piece of everyday.. Knowing I'll get closer to being back," he said.
They'll all be gone until at least the end of the year. While they'll all be gone over Thanksgiving and Christmas, they're all staying upbeat.
"It's going to be hard but its better for it to happy while he's young and he won't remember a whole lot," said Tosha Bruner - a soldier's girlfriend and mother of a 13 month old.
"I kept teasing that we were going to go to the Bahamas for Christmas, and he didn't like that idea," joked Jennifer Hodge.
"20 years in the military and this will be the second Christmas so that isn't too bad of a record," John Hodge said.
"We were home for Halloween, so we got one holiday in we were happy about that its one of our favorites," Christopher Hodge said.
Despite a nearly two-hour delay due to a minor electrical issue, the plane left, taking the servicemen overseas.
The 123rd Airlift Wing has deployed countless times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom as well as supporting both state-side and overseas disaster relief missions.
The Kentucky National Guard currently has over 300 soldiers and airmen deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. Nearly 14,000 troops have been mobilized for the War on Terror since 2001.