Pentagon to deploy 12 A-10s to Middle East

Pentagon to deploy 12 A-10s to Middle East
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The Pentagon is deploying 300 airmen and 12 A-10 combat jets to the Middle East in early October, according to the Indiana Air National Guard.

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The six-month deployment from the 122nd Fighter Wing is not specifically part of President Obama’s fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but the airmen and jets could provide air support to troops battling ISIS on the ground.

"I don't know of a time in Blacksnake history we have taken this kind of aviation footprint forward," said Col. Patrick R. Renwick, 122nd Fighter Wing commander, in a statement. "The A-10 'Warthog' is uniquely suited for the Combatant Commander's needs, and the Blacksnakes are the right team to bring that capability to combat."

The airmen have been through "extensive preparation," the statement said, ranging from "cultural awareness to weapons qualification to medical training."

Renwick called the deployment "historic for its length and size relative to previous Air National Guard deployments, which in the past have ranged from 30 to 90 days."

"While it is common for the active duty Air Force to deploy a base overseas for an extended amount of time, the 122nd Fighter Wing is one of the only Air National Guard bases in history to take on a mission of this size and length," Renwick said.

"We have the best training, equipment and aircraft in the world; we've been preparing and training for this deployment for the past few months; and I am fully confident in our ability to deploy one of the country's most lethal fighting forces to support and defend US efforts abroad," Col. Craig E. Ash, 122nd Fighter Wing Maintenance Group commander, said in the statement.

The 122nd Fighter Wing will send 303 airmen, and the Terre Haute Air Guard base will send five as part of the mission, The Journal Gazette reported.

Second Lt. Christopher Myers, public affairs officer for the 122nd Fighter Wing, told The Journal Gazette that the A-10 jets would be “in a support role.”

Although A-10s generally are used to support ground combat troops with close air support, Obama has repeatedly said that U.S. troops would not have a combat mission. 

But Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week that recommendations on using ground troops would be handled on a case-by-case basis.

The United States has 1,700 military advisers in Iraq.

Myers told the local newspaper that time would tell how the forces would be used.

“We are available for whatever mission the commander in chief really needs us for,” Myers told The Journal Gazette. “So time will tell. But our airmen are always ready and prepared.”

"The Airmen of the 122nd Fighter Wing are trained and ready to answer our nation's call to duty," said Renwick. "The Air National Guard and the Blacksnakes are a proven choice in combat, I have no doubt we can accomplish any mission assigned!"

— This post was updated at 2:30 p.m.