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New Role for Mississippi Air Guardsmen: The Mississippi Air National Guard has activated the 286th Air Operations Group at Key Field in Meridian to support the homeland defense and domestic disaster-response missions of the Continental US NORAD Region and 1st Air Force (Air Forces Northern) at Tyndall AFB, Fla. The new group belongs to Key Field's 186th Air Refueling Wing, which is losing its KC-135 tankers under BRAC 2005. "The 286th will be able to rapidly augment our organization in the event of an emerging natural disaster or air threat to homeland security, and having this manpower pool and technical expertise will greatly enhance our ability to respond at a moment's notice," said Maj. Gen Garry Dean, CONR-1st AF commander. The group activated on April 8. Key Field is also slated to host C-27J transports to succeed the KC-135 mission. (Tyndall report by Lt. Col. Susan A. Romano)