In a cavernous building on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson early Tuesday, more than a dozen airmen from the Air Guard's 176th Wing were dressed in camouflage uniforms and waiting to board the plane that would fly them thousands of miles away.
They won't return to Alaska for about four months.
Their mission: Support the fight against the Islamic State, said Lt. Col. Matt Harper, commander of the wing's 210th Rescue Squadron, an elite search-and-rescue unit.
Altogether, about 60 airmen from the 176th Wing will leave JBER this week on a series of flights headed for the Middle East, including pilots and aircrew with the 210th, as well as maintenance and support units. They will join 20 or so of the wing's airmen who left the Anchorage military base last week, said Maj. John Callahan, spokesman for the 176th Wing.
Learn more about how airmen prepared for their mission to the Middle East in this video.