Nat'l Guard head to Africa for mission

April 21, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
About 50 members of the California Air National Guard are on their way to Africa. The 129th rescue wing out at Moffett Field took off Tuesday evening for Djibouti, which is bordered by Somalia to the southeast.

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They will be apart from their families for nearly two months, which is why members of the California Air National Guard tried to make the most of these final moments before their departure. The 129th rescue wing is heading to Djibouti, a country just north of Somalia.

"We're sent over there to do search and rescue, so you know whoever needs us over there and whoever wants us to do a rescue, we'll execute the mission," says Maj. Mike Wagle, from the 129th Rescue Wing.

Many of the crewmembers have been to Djibouti before, but they and their families are well aware conditions in that part of Africa are different this time. Piracy off the coast of Somalia has made the area increasingly dangerous and for spouses that's been unsettling to say the least.

"But now also the added fear that this could be potentially dangerous definitely puts a different spin on him being gone," said Brynn Wagle, a guardsman's wife.

It's a legitimate concern. Although their primary mission is to assist groups working on infrastructure projects, these guardsmen could be called to assist with anti-piracy operations, and they say they're ready.

"It would be great to take part in that as the Air Force and California Guardsmen to go over and help out with something that's been on the world news for months and it's a 16th century problem that we're dealing with in 2009," says Capt. Pat Slavin, from the 129th Rescue Wing.

Many spouses are thankful the deployment is only 40 days -- a relatively short period of time they say is manageable.

"Just hoping they come back safe if they do get called into danger," said Amy Slavin, a guardsman's wife.

The 129th rescue wing will get to their destination next week. They say it will take about 30 flight hours to reach the Horn of Africa.

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