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300 troops with kin in Katrina zone sent home

Air Force personnel in Afghanistan, Iraq can now 'attend to families'

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(CNN) -- Three hundred Air Force members in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere abroad will return to their Mississippi Air Force base "so they can attend to their families' needs after Hurricane Katrina," according to an Air Force command statement.

The personnel -- active duty and reserves -- had been assigned to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, an area hard-hit by the hurricane.

The troops were assigned to bases throughout the Central Command area of responsibility and were supporting operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Nearly 100 airmen who were scheduled to deploy from Keesler AFB will not deploy now. Their jobs supporting the war on terrorism will be filled by others throughout the Air Force not affected by the hurricane," the statement said.

"Many of these 300 airmen have served for nearly four months and are going home as part of the Air Force's normal air expeditionary force rotation. Others have just arrived and are going home."

While this applies only to 300 troops assigned to Keesler, "Airmen assigned to other home stations who may have had families displaced by the hurricane or affected in other ways may be granted emergency leave depending on their individual situation," the military said. (See the cleanup efforts in Biloxi, Mississippi -- 1:32)

"While our focus remains on fighting the war on terrorism, taking care of people is a top priority -- they can't effectively perform the mission if their heads and hearts are focused on the safety and welfare of their loved ones," said Brig. Gen. Allen G. Peck, Combined Forces Air Component deputy commander, quoted in a news release.

"We are facilitating the effort to expeditiously replace airmen directly affected by this catastrophe with other Air Force personnel," Peck is quoted as saying.

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