Utah National Guard

Four Utah Air National Guard KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft sit on the flight line at Roland R. Wright Air National Guard Base during a unit training assembly weekend on Dec. 3, 2016.

SALT LAKE CITY — Following a host of other Utah-based military units that have taken a similar journey in recent history, the Utah National Guard is headed east.

UNG Public Information Officer Illeen Kennedy said approximately 120 airmen and four KC-135 Stratotankers assigned to the 151st Air Refueling Wing at the Utah Air National Guard will be leaving from Roland R. Wright Air National Guard Base today and tomorrow for a deployment supporting U.S. Central Command in support of Operations Inherent Resolve, Freedom’s Sentinel and Spartan Shield.

Kennedy said the UNG airmen will perform aerial refueling missions, which “extends global reach and power, and significantly increases the lethality and sustainment of air power.”

The Stratotanker is the U.S. Air Force’s chief aerial refueling plane and has performed in that role for more than 50 years. In addition to in-air refueling of next-generation fighter jets like the F-35 and the F-22, the planes are also capable of performing cargo missions, rescue operations and transporting ambulatory patients during aeromedical operations. The KC-135 also provides aerial refueling support for the Navy, Marine Corps and other allied nation aircraft.

“Our airmen are prepared to deploy and execute a mission of national, regional and global significance,” Col. Kurt Davis, commander of the UNG’s 151st Air Refueling Wing, said in a statement. “The year 2020 presented us with some unique and challenging circumstances to navigate through and prepare; however, our airmen are ready to serve, and we are incredibly proud of their commitment.”

In December 2020, 25 soldiers from the UNG’s 141st Military Intelligence Battalion left on a 12-month deployment in support of the U.S. Central Command operations. The group, which is made up of human intelligence and counterintelligence soldiers, are providing “force protection” support to ground forces in the area. Force protection operations essentially involve preventive measures to mitigate hostile actions in specific areas or against a specific population.

The U.S. Central Command stretches from the Horn of Africa through the Arabian Gulf region and into Central Asia.

Airmen from Hill Air Force Base have also deployed to the CENTCOM region heavily over the past two years.

According to 388th Fighter Wing spokesperson Micah Garbarino, each of the wing’s three squadrons, alongside reservists from the 419th FW, have deployed in support of the command’s mission at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. The 4th Fighter Squadron, which deployed in April 2019, was the first. The 34th FS followed, deploying in October 2019 and returning home in June and July 2020. The 421st deployed in June 2020 and returned in October of that year.

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