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910th reserves head out for a year



Published: Sat, March 8, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The 910th is the lead C-130 airlift unit for NATO's Operation Joint Forge.

By WILLIAM K. ALCORN

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

VIENNA -- A final tender kiss and hug between husband and wife.

Children clinging to their uniformed father or mother, worried but trying not to show it.

Families, smiling through tears, waving goodbye as buses take their loved ones to the planes.

Kids holding little American flags.

Airlift wing

Relatives are staying behind, proud but sad, while 80 members of the Air Force Reserve's 910th Airlift Wing left Friday afternoon for Germany and a year's tour of duty in support of Operation Joint Forge.

The reservists are members of the 757th Airlift Squadron, one of two C-130 units assigned to the 910th, and the 910th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

The 910th has been the lead C-130 airlift unit for Joint Forge, a NATO-led stabilization force supporting peacekeeping operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

About 258 reservists, volunteering for two-week periods since then, have been flying missions out of Ramstein Air Base in Germany, said Brigadier Gen. Michael F. Gjede, 910th commander.

The primary mission of the 910th is to deliver personnel and cargo by airdrop and air-land techniques. The C-130 can carry 92 people, about 45,000 pounds of cargo, or 64 paratroopers.

Getting it over with

"We've known it was coming since 9/11. It's almost a relief for them to go and do what they have to do and come back," said Amanda Birmingham of Cortland.

Her husband, Technical Sgt. Michael, who works on aircraft electronic systems, has served in Joint Forge before, but only for a couple of weeks.

"As a reservist, I knew it was coming. It was just our time to go," Sgt. Birmingham said.

"I'm sad he is going, but he's the best man for the job," 9-year-old Crystal Cadwell said of her stepfather, Senior Master Sgt. George Saad of Atwater.

Saad, who works on aircraft instrumentation and navigation systems, was with his family just before he left from the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna for Germany.

"I'll miss just having him around," said 12-year-old Ross Cadwell of his stepfather.

"I'm not happy, but it's got to be done," said Saad's wife, Edie.

It was much the same story from other reservists and their families.

Last moments

Senior Master Sgt. Donald Cutrer of Canfield was spending the last few moments with his wife, Linda, and sons, Donald Jr., 5, and Dean, 3. Cutrer is chief loadmaster for the 757th.

Linda said she is used to her husband's being gone for a week or two here and there, but this is her first time facing a year without him.

She said once they knew he was leaving they tried to spend as much time as possible together as a family, and with family and friends, before he left.

"I thought I was too old for this," Senior Master Sgt. Bryan Welsh of Lakewood said.

Welsh, 41, an aerospace ground equipment superintendent, also served in Desert Shield, when only one of four children, 17-year-old Jessica, had been born.

Worrying about safety

Even though the reservists who left Friday are not slated to go to the Persian Gulf, there is still concern for their safety.

"I'm ex-military and I understand, but it doesn't make it any easier," said Welsh's wife, Annette, who served four years in the Air Force.

"I'm proud of him and I believe in what he's doing. But I'm always worried. Things can happen anywhere. I know he'll return ... he has to," she said.

Seventeen-month-old Connor was sound asleep in Welsh's arms, but his son Justin, 10, was aware of what could be at stake.

"I'm glad he's knows where he's going. He knows the area because he's been there before. I'm just glad he's not fighting so he doesn't get hurt," Justin said.

These are excellent people. Morale is good and they are excited to be a part of this, Gjede said.

"In this business, it hasn't been once a month and two weeks in the summer for a long time. It's way too serious for that," the general said.

alcorn@vindy.com




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