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From Ice to Fire for 109th Airwing Lift

Local aircraft troops to Afghanistan this summer

For the first time since the Vietnam War, aircraft and troops of the 109th Airwing Lift, based in Scotia, will head out to perform tactical missions in the hostile environment of an active combat situation.

Commanders at the New York Air National Guard, housed at the Schenectady County Airport, announced Thursday that members of the airlift squadron will be deployed to Afghanistan later this summer. Officials were tight-lipped with most of the details of the operation, including how many of the base's 1,300 personnel would head out to Operation Enduring Freedom, where they will land, what their mission will be, and how long they will remain in the war-torn country.

There are many unknowns, and we haven't had Intel briefs yet, said 190th Airwing Lift Colonel Anthony P. German. "What we're doing now is preparing for the conditions we'll be landing in, and doing specialized tactical training. We conduct more intensive preparatory training for deployment in a combat theater of operations."

Since 9-11, the unit has been on a variety of missions in support of operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, sending personnel that were primarily medics and engineers. The 109th unit has become well known for its airlift operations supporting science research at the north and south poles.

Major Mike Steindl of Greenwich was the only unit member to on his way to Afghanistan with his identity made known Thursday. A former United Airlines pilot, Steindl has flown into combat support missions, including several to Haiti, but said those were peaceful operations.

"I haven't been in combat before this," said the 36-year-old father of three young children. "I'm not nervous; when you fly airplanes you develop confidence. We all rely on the training we receive to keep us safe and successful. We're all part of a team."

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