CHARLOTTE — Rock Hill Police Officer Ray Murphy was among 40 Charlotte-based airmen who left Wednesday on a two-day journey to Afghanistan, the first step in a four-month deployment for the N.C. Air National Guard.
After farewells to family and friends, Guard members boarded a C-130 transport, one of three that will be based this summer at airfields in Afghanistan to haul cargo and soldiers in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Charlottes 145th Airlift Wing has 10 of the big transports, including two that are equipped to dump retardant chemicals on forest fires. Called MAFFS, for Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System, those two aircraft will remain in Charlotte in case they are needed by the U.S. Forest Service this summer for blazes out west.
Two more C-130s with the second half of the force headed to Afghanistan will depart from the Air Guard base at Charlotte Douglas International Airport on Thursday morning. Included in the group headed overseas are technicians who keep the transports in working order during the deployment.
Joining those at the Guard base to see the airmen off was Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., who greeted them personally, and Col. Marshall Collins of Rock Hill, who assumed command of the 145th Airlift Wing this month. In his 31 years in the Air Force, Collins has more than 6,000 hours of flying time aboard C-130s as a navigator.