SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today addressed about 150 members of the Illinois Air National Guard’s 183rd Fighter Wing at a departure ceremony before they mobilized for active duty at various locations throughout Southwest Asia. Members of the 183rd, based at Springfield’s Capital Airport, will fly “Operation Southern Watch,” enforcing the no-fly zone over southern Iraq.
“The 183rd has a proud tradition of service,” Gov. Ryan said. “You’ve served in ‘Operation Southern Watch three times before, you know your mission and you know how to perform it. You are among Illinois’ finest, I know you will serve with distinction and honor.”
The mission to “Operation Southern Watch” had been scheduled for quite some time as part of the unit’s Aerospace Expeditionary Force (AEF) cycle. AEF is the concept that allows the Air Force to package pre-designated combat, mobility, support and leadership capabilities from the active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. The theater commanders can then tailor the desired operational effect utilizing a Total Force integration of all available assets.
The unit was initially scheduled to deploy for 30 days, but due to the terrorist attacks of September 11th the unit was called to active duty under the Partial Mobilization
authority issued by the President. That authority allows for mobilization for up to 24 months; however, the members of the 183rd are initially being ordered to active duty for up to 120 days.
“The 183rd Fighter Wing has incredible combat power, their aircraft are equipped with the latest in advanced technology and targeting systems,” said Maj. Gen. David Harris, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. “The members of the unit are highly trained professionals who will do an outstanding job. The 183rd is one of the premier units in the Air National Guard structure nationally.”
The unit was notified last month of its missions and the unit members have spent the past several weeks getting their personal affairs in order.
The members began reporting to the 183rd Fighter Wing located in Springfield at the end of February to complete their processing. Processing for deployment includes briefings from the Judge Advocates office, the Finance office, review of medical and personnel records, intelligence and information is collected to assist family members and employers.
This deployment marks the fourth time the unit has deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Southern Watch. In 1996 and 1997 the unit was deployed for 30 days at Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base in Kuwait and 1999 to Prince Sultan Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The 183rd Fighter Wing has already deployed nearly 100 members in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Noble Eagle and Expeditionary Combat Support worldwide. Additional members are serving on active duty in Springfield in support of deployed members and for increased security. Upon completion of this mobilization, approximately 400 of the Wing’s 1,100 personnel will be on active duty.