More than 150 airmen and four C-130s arrived at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Tuesday in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel, the Defense Department's latest name for operations in Afghanistan.
The Reservists from the 302nd Airlift Wing, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, during their four-month deployment outside Doha will provide "airlift, airdrop and aeromedical evacuation support to operations throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility," according to a release from the base.
The Air Force anticipates a busy 2016 in the theater, even if President Obama said last year the U.S. will maintain 5,500 troops — a decrease from the current 9,800 — and a small number of bases, including at Bagram and Jalalabad in the east and Kandahar in the south through 2017.
Most recently, the KC-135 Stratotanker refueling fleet at Al Udeid completed more than 14,700 sorties for operations tied to Freedom's Sentinel and Inherent Resolve.
"There are different Air Force components like active duty, Reserve and Air National Guard out here," Lt. Col. James Murray, 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron director of operations, said in a release. "Imagine 12 airplanes flying 24 hours a day, it's incredible. If we were not out there to give gas to all our receivers, they we would have to fly shorter missions."
Over 60 KC-135s took part in achieving over 100,000 combat hours, the Air Force said.
For the 302nd, the scheduled deployment is the fifth for the wing since 2005; members from the wing previously deployed for Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and New Dawn.