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Bittersweet send off for Security Forces team

Feb. 5, 2009 -- Members of our Security Forces Squadron said their final goodbyes today before boarding a chartered flight that would eventually take them to their deployed base in Iraq.

Twenty-five of forty-two Airmen departed today for a six month deployment where they will provide security of crucial military base infrastructure and assets in the Iraq area of responsibility. The second half of their team will join them later this month.

Col. Frank Sullivan, Chief of Staff for the Pennsylvania National Guard, along with Command Sgt. Maj. Don Shiner flew in from State Headquarters to pass along well wishes from the State Staff. "I spent a year at the same base you're going to and it's a great place." said Col. Sullivan.

In addition to the State leadership, Brig. Gen. Uptegraff could not contain the immense pride he has in this group and knows that they will perform admirably. He encouraged each member to hold onto the Air Force core values of Integrity, Service and Excellence, and encouraged them to "return with honor." He is equally proud that this group will be commanded by our own Security Forces Commander, Lt. Col. Steve Painter.

"We have the training, we have the right people, and we are ready to do this," Painter said. Lt. Col. Painter is anxious to dig in as commander and serve with a mixture of regular Air Force, Guard and Reserve Security Forces team members.

It was a bittersweet hour for the families of those deploying. Weeks of pre-deployment training, and a host of briefings came down to this final good-bye! This group is unique in the sense that it is comprised of a wide range of age groups. For some it will be a return trip, for many others however, a first major deployment.

Looking around the Aerospace Dining Facility you could see the pride and sadness on the faces of the many family members who came along to say farewell. Many of us have been through this same process and know the feeling. This new generation of deployers will no doubt carry on the fine tradition of the 171st and return, mission accomplished.