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Ky. Air Guard deploys 10 special tactics troops for Florence

Airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing load vehicles and cargo onto a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 15, 2018, in response to Tropical Storm Florence. The gear and 10 Airmen from the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron are being deployed to Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va., to provide stand-alone communications, air traffic control, personnel recovery and paramedic capabilities in response to massive flooding.

Airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing load vehicles and cargo onto a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 15, 2018, in response to Tropical Storm Florence. The gear and 10 Airmen from the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron are being deployed to Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va., to provide stand-alone communications, air traffic control, personnel recovery and paramedic capabilities in response to massive flooding.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Special Tactics Squadron deployed 10 special operators to the East Coast Friday in response to Tropical Storm Florence, which is bashing the Carolinas with extreme flooding.

The Airmen, who can provide stand-alone communications, air traffic control, personnel recovery and paramedic capabilities, departed at 2 a.m. aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft en route to Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Virginia, said Maj. Aaron Zamora, 123rd STS commander.

The Airmen will stand alert at NAS Oceana so they can respond rapidly as conditions permit, Zamora added. They deployed with a variety of disaster-response equipment, including Zodiac boats and swift-water rescue gear.

Zamora noted that the Kentucky unit was highly engaged in hurricane-recovery efforts last year, deploying more than 40 Airmen in the wake of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. The unit"s operators rescued 336 people stranded by flood waters in Texas and controlled 636 rescue aircraft evacuating 1,286 people from Caribbean island of St. Maarten.

"This type of mission is something our operators have a lot of experience with," Zamora said. "It"s also one of the most rewarding missions for us because we"re able to help our neighbors during a time of crisis."

The Kentucky Air Guard deployed two other members of the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron earlier this week.

Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Seifert left for Virginia on Wednesday, and Capt. Hunter Williams deployed to South Carolina on Thursday. Seifert is serving as a search-and-rescue liaison for the Virginia National Guard"s Joint Force Headquarters, while Williams is acting as the air-ground integration liaison to the South Carolina Joint Operations Center, Zamora said.

"As qualified Special Tactics operators with vast experience working in rescue and recovery operations, Sergeant Seifert and Captain Williams will help coordinate response operations as appropriate at the direction of local officials," Zamora said.

Other Airmen from the Kentucky Air Guard are standing by for additional assignments, said Col. Jeffrey Wilkinson, commander of the Louisville-based 123rd Airlift Wing.

"Our Airmen are on a heightened state of readiness so they can respond rapidly as needed," Wilkinson said. "Disaster response is one of our key missions, and we are prepared to provide any assistance necessary."

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