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Airmen volunteer for Iraq deployment

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jason Schapp
  • 931st Air Refueling Group Public Affairs
Six members of the 931st Air Refueling Group's Security Forces Squadron left Aug. 12 for a six-month tour in Iraq. 

They were destined for Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq, about 140 miles north of Baghdad. Their duties, while deployed, will include air base defense, mobile patrol, entry control and internal security. 

They are headed for dangerous work, but they didn't go because they had to - they went because they wanted to. The six Airmen weren't ordered to the hazards played out everyday in the mainstream media. They volunteered. 

"It's my job," Staff Sgt. Tyrel Askren, 931st SFS, said about why he raised his hand to go. 

"This is why I signed up," Senior Airman Luke Mahoney, 931st SFS, said, sitting with Sergeant Askren just after an intelligence briefing they received a few days before leaving for Iraq. Intelligence briefings are often where troops find out just how dangerous their destination is. 

Besides a strong commitment to serve, Sergeant Askren and Airman Mahoney share another common trait with the other deployers: youth. 

High school graduation isn't a very distant memory for most of them. Even their leader, Master Sgt. Gary White, 31, looks especially young for a master sergeant. 

Two of the deployed Airmen, Staff Sgt. Jared Arrington and Senior Airman Patrick Strange, are young husbands and fathers. Airman Strange and his wife Tianna are due to have their second child a month after he gets to Kirkuk. 

On the day he left, Airman Strange turned back one last time to see his family before getting on the airplane. His face was red and his eyes watered. Tianna could be heard crying  throughout the gate area, reminding everyone her husband and his comrades weren't the only ones "volunteering" to help U.S. efforts in Iraq. 

"She supports me," Airman Strange was quoted in the Wichita Eagle. "She supports everything I do." 

Families of several security forces Airmen from Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., also said goodbyes that day. 

The Airmen were on their way to team up with the 931st Airmen to form a security squad at Kirkuk Air Base. 

The Seymour Johnson Reservists also volunteered for duty in Iraq. 

Sergeant White, the 931st's security forces chief, will be in charge of the combined squad. 

"We already know them. They joined us for predeployment training in Nevada a few months ago," Sergeant White said. "I have a good team. We work well together." 

One of Sergeant White's troops, Senior Airman Ryan Jarboe, said he's confident in the Airmen he's deploying with because of what he saw at the security training in Nevada.
"We got things right the first time," he said. 

Airman Jarboe and the rest of his squad are scheduled to return in February.