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Arizona Security Forces en route to Iraq

Tucson’s Patriot Guard Riders, a group of motorcyclists that supports U.S. servicemembers, encircle the 162nd Security Forces Squadron while singing Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the U.S.A. Friends and families said farewell to 31 Guardsmen in the early morning hours of Jan. 2 before they set off on a six-month deployment to Iraq. The Airmen are assigned to the Arizona Air National Guard Base at Tucson International Airport. (Air Force photo by Maj. Gabe Johnson)

Tucson’s Patriot Guard Riders, a group of motorcyclists that supports U.S. servicemembers, encircle the 162nd Security Forces Squadron while singing Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the U.S.A. Friends and families said farewell to 31 Guardsmen in the early morning hours of Jan. 2 before they set off on a six-month deployment to Iraq. The Airmen are assigned to the Arizona Air National Guard Base at Tucson International Airport. (Air Force photo by Maj. Gabe Johnson)

Senior Airman Francisco Rodriguez says a prayer with his family before leaving the Arizona Air National Guard Base at Tucson International Airport for a six-month deployment to Iraq, Jan. 2. Airman Rodriguez is assigned to the 162nd Security Forces Squadron; a unit that previously deployed to Iraq in 2008. (Air Force photo by Maj. Gabe Johnson)

Senior Airman Francisco Rodriguez says a prayer with his family before leaving the Arizona Air National Guard Base at Tucson International Airport for a six-month deployment to Iraq, Jan. 2. Airman Rodriguez is assigned to the 162nd Security Forces Squadron; a unit that previously deployed to Iraq in 2008. (Air Force photo by Maj. Gabe Johnson)

Col. Karen Bence, 162nd Mission Support Group commander, gives her best wishes to Senior Airman Nicholas Schram before he and 30 fellow Security Forces members deploy to Iraq, Jan. 2. The Airmen are assigned to the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Fighter Wing at Tucson International Airport. (Air Force photo by Maj. Gabe Johnson)

Col. Karen Bence, 162nd Mission Support Group commander, gives her best wishes to Senior Airman Nicholas Schram before he and 30 fellow Security Forces members deploy to Iraq, Jan. 2. The Airmen are assigned to the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Fighter Wing at Tucson International Airport. (Air Force photo by Maj. Gabe Johnson)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- After Arizona Air Guardsmen from the 162nd Fighter Wing at Tucson International Airport rang in the New Year, they bid farewell to 31 Security Forces Airmen on their way to Iraq, Jan. 2.

The airbase security specialists will spend two weeks at a regional training center in Dallas before heading out on a six-month tour - the squadron's second Operation Iraqi Freedom deployment in 17 months.

"I feel great going back a second time," said Tech. Sgt. Abraham Peña, a fire team leader in charge of four Airmen. He's well-versed in deployed operations having spent six months at Baghdad International Airport in 2008.

"When they send Security Forces out to patrol a certain part of the base I take my team and we take care of it," he said. "It's something we've got to do, its part of our job - part of serving our country. Whatever is asked of us that's what we'll do."

Sergeant Peña said his three young children remember the last time he deployed. "I just tell them that I'm going to do the 'good guy' work again and they understand."

Peña's family, and the 30 others left behind, will now rely partly on the unit's family readiness group for information and assistance.

The group's role is to support deployed members and their families. If they have concerns about pay, medical benefits or virtually any issue at home the group will find answers or volunteers to help.

"We're here to help them with anything that may come up during the deployment from car trouble to a leaky sink," said Barb Gavre, the wing's family program coordinator.

"And thanks to generous donations from unit and community members we are able to mail care packages free of charge. All families have to do is bring in whatever they want to send their loved one and we will send it directly to them," she said.

"Barb has been instrumental in building a contact list for herself and my wife," said 1st Lt. Ben Swope, squadron commander. "They are going to be making calls to the families of the deployed troops to check on them while we're gone. She's also organized a few family readiness functions to familiarize our families with several support resources like Military OneSource."

Lieutenant Swope, along with the majority of the deployed group, is a drill status Guardsman; serving part time with the Guard while working full time in the community. According to Swope, the diverse career backgrounds will serve the mission well.

"We have a Phoenix cop, a Tucson cop, some people who work for the Department of Corrections, and we have a few Border Patrol agents so we have a good team from various law enforcement agencies," said the Lieutenant.

While their absence will be felt by families, civilian employers and fellow unit members, the local security mission will go on despite the void.

"There won't be any lapses in security here," said Lieutenant Swope. "The squadron members left here will cover for us while we're gone. We're also getting a lot of support from across the base. We will train up some folks from different career fields so they can support the squadron while we're gone."