Airmen unload an M984 Wrecker from a C-5 Galaxy on the Altus AFB flightline Jan. 4. U.S. troops helped deploy Patriot batteries, more than two million pounds of equipment and approximately 300 personnel from 3-2 Air Defense Artillery Battalion to Turkey in support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. (Airman 1st Class Levin Boland / Air Force)
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The Air Force delivered about half of the troops and equipment for two Patriot anti-missile batteries being set up in Turkey to protect the allied states and U.S. interests from instability in neighboring Syria.
C-5 and C-17 airlifters, with assistance from KC-135 and KC-10 air refueling aircraft, have flown about 200 troops, along with heavy equipment, ahead of the missile crews that will deploy to Gaziantep, Turkey, about 125 miles from Incirlik Air Base near the Syrian border.
About 400 troops are expected to stay for about a year, Pentagon spokesman George Little said Tuesday. The airlift mission is expected to continue through early next week, according to the Air Force.
The U.S., Germany and the Netherlands agreed in December to send Patriot batteries to Turkey to augment the country's air defense as part of a NATO request. The U.S. contingent is made up of the 3rd Battalion of the 2nd Air Defense Artillery from Fort Sill, Okla.
"This is something that we believe is very important for our alliance with Turkey and is very important in the context of NATO," Little said.
The airmen involved come from active-duty, Guard and Reserve units from Bangor International Airport, Maine; Pease Air National Guard Base, N.H.; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Pittsburgh Air Reserve Station, Penn.; Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas; Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass., and Shephard Air National Guard Base, W.Va. The airlift mission was staged at Altus Air Force Base, Okla., about 55 miles from Fort Sill.
In addition to the U.S. contingent, Germany will deploy its batteries to Kahramanmaras, and the Netherlands will deploy to Adana.