Delaware Air National Guard Members Deploy - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Delaware Air National Guard Members Deploy

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NEW CASTLE, Del.- This year, 30 percent of the Delaware National Guard are being deployed around the world.

 It's considered the largest deployment in 11 years. 

This first round of deployments began this week, sending about 100 Delaware Air National Guardsmen overseas to Southwest Asia combat zone in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

About 50 members prepared to deploy on Thursday morning from New Castle.

"I have two daughters now so I tried to spend as much time with them as possible. I picked one up from school and spent the day with her until about six and then spent time with the rest of the family for a couple of hours before I tried to go to bed," said Larry Grandpre of Dover from the 166th Airlift Squadron of the Delaware Air National Guard.

Heather Hampton of Dover was spending some of her last moment with her husband Charles before he headed overseas for the next four months.

"I'm a very strong person. I go through a lot of mental preparation as well as physical preparation so when this day comes I'm prepared," said Heather Hampton.

"It's not very easy, but I have a God that I rely on. Church members help me, my family helps me and members of the air guard help me," said Sheet Metal Mechanic Charles Hampton of the 166th Airlift Squadron.

As the time came to say goodbye, guard members and their families filed out of a large room, outdoors to board a bus. For some, saying goodbye is never easy, especially for 11-year old Morgan Eastburn of Middletown.

Wiping away tears, she hugs her dad one last time as he tells her, "Don't Cry, I'll Facetime you everyday, OK."

"It has gotten tougher and more emotional," said Eastburn.

Charles Hampton says he's been in the service for 30 years and remembers when communicating with family members was a lot harder.

"Back then we had payphones. You would have to wait in line and still at times some of the trips I've been on in the past we would have to wait in line to make a phone call. Now with the technology with the computers and the iPhones, it's easy," said Charles Hampton.

The deploying Delaware Air Guard Airmen are from two groups in the 166th Airlift Wing; the 166th Operations Group, which includes all C-130 aircrew and other Airmen with various critical job functions, and the 166th Maintenance Group, which includes crews who maintain and repair the aircraft.

"Our crews are conducting normal pilot and aircraft commander certification training, and normal C-130 airdrop and assault landing training in preparation for their mission," said 166th Operations Group Commander Lt. Col. Rob Culcasi. 

As guardsmen depart by bus, they give one final salute, one final look, one final wave, at their family left behind.
 
"We're all supporting our families back home and defending our country. At the end of the day as long as you give your love and support to the people in uniform that's all that matters," said Grandpre.

Families share one message that rings loud clear.

"I love him and I miss him and I hope that he's safe," said Eastburn.

As the Air Force plane departed from the runway, families held their camera's and iPhones capturing moments, capturing keepsakes, until their loved ones return from serving our country, and protecting our freedom. 

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