Tester honors Iraq-bound Montanans on Senate floor

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester today went to the floor of the U.S. Senate today to recognize the service of nearly 200 Montanans headed to Iraq tomorrow.

175 members of the 120th Fighter Wing of the Montana will leave Friday to serve at Balad Airbase, just north of Baghdad.  Fifty members of the 120th are already in Iraq.

The airmen will fly and maintain their squadron of F-16 fighter jets while in Iraq.  They will be assigned to the 322nd Air Expeditionary Wing to help provide close air support.

"I want each and every one of them to know they have the support of every Montanan," Tester said on the Senate floor. "We honor their sacrifice, especially those on their second, third or even fourth tours.  We pray for their safety and take great pride in knowing that the men and women of Montana's Air Guard are serving us proudly."

The airmen will join nearly 200 members of Malmstrom Air Force Base's RED HORSE Squadron currently serving in Iraq. 

Altogether, nearly 500 Montana-based airmen and Army Reserve soldiers are now serving in Iraq.  The members of the 120th Fighter Wing are expected to return to Montana in mid-May.

"Our state is small in population, but our sacrifice is significant," Tester said.