About 200 Madison-based members of the Wisconsin Air National Guard are heading for Iraq in the next week.
Their destination and exactly when the jet mechanics, maintenance specialists, support personnel and pilots will leave is being kept secret for security reasons. But early next week, the roar of F-16 fighter jets leaving Truax Field will signal that the 115th Fighter Wing is on its way.
An undisclosed number of the warplanes will depart between midnight and 6 a.m. The departure time is set so they arrive at their destination on schedule, said Master Sgt. Daniel Richardson, spokesman for the wing.
Members of the Guard who are not pilots will travel separately over the next few days.
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A departure ceremony for family members took place Thursday, and another is scheduled for Saturday. The sendoffs at state Guard headquarters on Wright Street are not open to the public.
The 115th Fighter Wing is expected to be deployed for two months, providing an "eye in the sky" for ground forces who request help after coming in contact with enemy forces, Richardson said.
In most cases, the pilots fly over and radio information about what can be seen from the air, he said.
A secondary mission is flying over roads used by ground forces. The pilots look for signs of explosive devices, Richardson said.
The 115th previously went to Qatar in December of 2004 and to Iraq in June 2006 and January 2008.