Another large Iowa National Guard unit is headed for Iraq. The Des Moines-based 132nd Fighter Wing of the Iowa Air National Guard is being deployed later this week and next week. It’ll be the second mission to Iraq for the Wing of F-16 fighter jets, which also served there in 2005.

Guard spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Greg Hapgood says this time, some 250 airmen from the unit are being activated and some are already overseas. Hapgood says, "The 250 members are expected to be (in Iraq) about two months, some may be there a little bit more than that, depending on the jobs that they’re going to undertake over there." Hapgood explains what sorts of things the unit will be assigned to do.

He says: "They will certainly provide what we call close air support to combat units on the ground in Iraq. They may provide reconnaissance or surveillance missions and also do some overwatch missions to provide additional security over there." Hapgood acknowledges that many Iowa Army National Guard units are often sent to Iraq and elsewhere for a year or longer, while this Air Guard unit will be staying a much shorter amount of time.

"The missions that they provide are typically somewhere between 60 days and 120 days and basically, it’s a mission that’s shorter in duration than what you see in the Army National Guard, but they go more often," Happgood explains, "it’s not unusual in the 132nd Fighter Wing to have airmen that have been to the Central Command Theatre multiple times, five, six, seven, eight times, depending on how long they’ve been in the unit."

It’ll take the number of Iowa Guard members on active duty to more than 1,200. Some 550 Iowa troops are already in Iraq, 330 are in Kosovo and 90 are in Egypt on the Israeli border. Hapgood says it’s the "new normal" to have between a thousand and 15-hundred Iowa Guard members on active duty outside Iowa’s borders.

Audio: Radio Iowa’s Matt Kelley reports. :43 MP3