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    MacDill air wing receives orders to deploy

    By Times staff writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
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    published January 17, 2003

    TAMPA -- The 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill Air Force Base received deployment orders last week, a wing spokesman said Thursday.

    Sgt. Chris Miller said he did not have details of the deployment order, such as when or where the MacDill crews would be deployed or how many wing aircraft are involved. Normally, he said, that kind of information is classified.

    The 6th Air Mobility Wing is a 3,000-person force capable of rapidly projecting air refueling power anywhere in the world.

    MacDill is home to 12 KC-135 Stratotankers used to refuel aircraft in flight. Each tanker, Miller said, employs three crew members, a pilot, copilot, and the boom operator who controls the refueling pump.

    In recent weeks the Pentagon has stepped up deployment orders for the buildup in the Persian Gulf, should President Bush decide to invade Iraq.

    Gen. Tommy Franks, the Tampa-based commander who would direct any operation to oust Saddam Hussein, has begun dispatching his staff to the Central Command's heavily protected forward headquarters in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar, where they would coordinate an invasion.

    In recent days three large deployment orders signed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- two for a total of 62,000 troops and one on Dec. 24 for about 25,000 -- have set in motion critical reinforcements of troops, armor, warships and combat aircraft.

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