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MILWAUKEE — Gov. Scott Walker, Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin adjutant general, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and senior Wisconsin National Guard leaders joined community members and families at a Sept. 29 sendoff ceremony for members of the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 128th Air Refueling Wing, who will begin deploying to the Middle East to support Operations Inherent Resolve and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

Col. Dan Yenchesky, commander of the Milwaukee-based unit, explained that five KC-135 refuelers and more than 140 Airmen would deploy in a series of rotations beginning Sept. 29 and over several weeks to support the Air Force’s largest combat squadron.

“The five KC-135s from the 128th will be just a fraction of the fleet of coalition and U.S. tankers that it takes to run an air campaign day after day, night after night for operations in support of Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf and Yemen,” Yenchesky said. “This is a historic time. Our nation is relying on the Air National Guard, and the tanker community in particular, more than at any time in our history. And our Air National Guard continues to deliver.”

sm150928-Z-AS463-065.jpgYenchesky told Lt. Col. Andy Wahl, who will command the deploying group of Airmen and refuelers, that there is no higher honor or responsibility than to go into combat operations with Airmen under his command.

“We have full confidence you will make us proud,” Yenchesky said.

Wahl told the audience that military service is a higher calling.

“The oaths we have taken remind us that we serve freely in support and defense of our constitution,” Wahl said. “Our Air Force core values serve as our compass and provide the fortitude and foundation of our service. We abide by a code of conduct that captures our resolve, while our Airman’s Creed highlights and strengthens our diverse Airmen who fly, fight and win as one Air Force.

“Col. Yenchesky, it is my duty to report we are mission ready.”

Command Chief Master Sgt. Greg Cullen, the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s senior enlisted advisor, invoked the Green Bay Packers to remind the deploying Airmen of the need for teamwork.sm150928-Z-AS463-052.jpg

“I need you Airmen to be team members,” Cullen said. “It doesn’t matter what team you’re playing for — you’re the Airmen of the United States Air Force for this game. I want all the Airmen to remember the little brown book. If you remember the standards that are set forth in this little [handbook], you’ll have no problem and you’ll be a good Wingman no matter where you are.”

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said that his lack of military service made him feel “not quite worthy” to address the deploying Airmen.

“Even though we don’t always say it, rest assured that those of us who have not served, those of us not in uniform certainly understand the level of sacrifice,” Johnson said. “A mere glimpse of your service and sacrifice is enough to bring an immediate acknowledgement of respect, a tear to our eye, and render us entirely speechless.”

Dunbar explained that the fallout from the Vietnam War resulted in the Abrams Doctrine — a total force policy that ensured National Guard troops are part of the warfighting effort to maintain a connection between the American public and its service members.

“And since Desert Shield, when this unit was one of the first out the door, we have been there at every part of these modern conflicts,” Dunbar said. “The National Guard is front and center.”

Acknowledging the mayors of local communities attending the sendoff ceremony, Dunbar said the policy is working to keep communities across America connected with its service members.

“We connect the Army and the Air Force in ways the active duty simply cannot do on their own, and it’s very important to our nation,” Dunbar said.

The mission that lay ahead of the deploying Airmen is also important, Dunbar continued.

“It’s critical, or they wouldn’t ask them to go,” Dunbar said. “And if they didn’t need the best, they wouldn’t send the 128th Air Refueling Wing. And it is assuredly connected to that morning on Sept. 11 when those terrorists hijacked those planes and changed the world. This is part of that enduring response that our country is engaged in to make sure it never happens again.”

Walker thanked the deploying Airmen for supporting an important ongoing mission.

“You’re the best of the best,” he emphasized. “That’s why we’re here today — not only to tell you thank you, but to reassure and reaffirm that you are indeed the ones that we want in a position like this at a time like this.”

“I salute each and every Airman in this room and in this Wing,” Dunbar said. “There’s nobody better at this than you.”