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114th Fighter Wing Deploys To South Korea

Two-hundred fifty South Dakota soldiers are deploying to the Pacific Theater. The men and women are military members with the 114th Fighter Wing in Sioux Falls. The Air Force National Guard unit is tasked with using tactical fighters to destroy enemy forces, supplies and equipment. Soldiers gathered Sunday for a mobilization ceremony. 

The thick soles of tan-toned boots hit smooth concrete at Joe Foss Field in Sioux Falls.  The boots match the fatigues of the men and women who lace them up. Hundreds of pairs shuffle together in the din of the crowd.

Dignitaries speak while boots bear the weight of soldiers standing silent. A little boy balances on the toes of his father's boots as he plays with a toy airplane.

Staff Sergeant Jessica Janke is a mechanic; her boots rest on the ground.

"It's one of those things where, once you go, you're fine. You get in that routine, you start hittin' the gym, it's not a big deal," Janke says. "For the first-timers, it can be a little bit scary, and it is hard on the family being back not really knowing what to expect, because they don't know what we're doing. They don't know what's over there."

Janke is four years into her service. She's part of the 114th Fighter Wing in Sioux Falls. Her boots and 249 other pairs are prepared to carry their wearers halfway around the world for a rotation in South Korea.

18-month-old Cayden sports blue Velcro sandals. His mom isn't in boots, either, but Britney Kirchner recognizes the significance of her husband's soles: a sacrifice. This is her husbands second deployment.

KIRCHNER: You know, he can call me if he needs to. If it's an emergency, I can contact the Red Cross and they can get in touch with him, so it's way different, and it's a lot easier I think nowadays.
BULTENA: Easier, but not easy.
KIRCHNER: Right. Not easy enough, but easier. I think it makes it nice, you know, we can coordinate our times to Skype during the morning so that he can see his and we can chat a little bit before I go to work and he goes to bed. 

Staff Sergeant Scott Kirchner's boots glide over to his wife and son. The soldier readies for a four-month tour. He's supposed to return home two days after his wife's due date. Then the family wants to focus less on beige boots and more on baby booties.

Members of the 114th Fighter Wing deploy later this month.

Kealey Bultena grew up in South Dakota, where her grandparents took advantage of the state’s agriculture at nap time, tricking her into car rides to “go see cows.” Rarely did she stay awake long enough to see the livestock, but now she writes stories about the animals – and the legislature and education and much more. Kealey worked in television for four years while attending the University of South Dakota. She started interning with South Dakota Public Broadcasting in September 2010 and accepted a position with television in 2011. Now Kealey is the radio news producer stationed in Sioux Falls. As a multi-media journalist, Kealey prides herself on the diversity of the stories she tells and the impact her work has on people across the state. Kealey is always searching for new ideas. Let her know of a great story! Find her on Facebook and twitter (@KealeySDPB).