130th AW Airmen return from OEF deployment
By SSgt. Shane Arrington, 130th AW/PA
/ Published July 17, 2012
Charleston, W.Va. -- C-130s landing at Yeager Airport in Charleston, W.Va. usually happen without fanfare, but on Saturday, July 13, there were tears and screams as one carrying Airmen returning from their deployment touched down to reunite them with their loved ones.
The contingent of 130th Operations, Maintenance and Support personnel flew and maintained C-130 aircraft while completing 280 missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Kuwait.
"For the last 120 days these men and women have been engaged in the Global War on Terrorism," said Col. Jerry Gouhin, 130th Airlift Wing commander. They were in Afghanistan originally and then in mid-rotation they moved to Kuwait. They had a mission capable rate of more than 90 percent, which is outstanding by any standards whether peacetime or wartime. They flew more than 2,800 hours, which is something we would typically fly in a year here, they flew in 120 days."
Gouhin also mentioned that the deployed Airmen not only put up impressive numbers, but also did it with a mishap free safety record. He said he's proud of everyone who deployed and their amazing accomplishments -- especially considering toward the end their families were fighting a war of their own back home.
"Their families have been through a major storm here in West Virginia with power outages and they've also had to deal with that," Gouhin said. "Everyone has done a super job. The commitment of these men and women is phenomenal. Like I've said, I couldn't be more proud of what they've accomplished and what they give to the state and nation every day."
The National Guard is often referred to as the "weekend warrior," but for many members, such as Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Fallecker, Flight Engineer with the 130th Airlift Wing, this wasn't their first deployment. It's never easy leaving family and friends behind, but Fallecker said technological advancements and familiarity with simply being deployed help make things go a little more smoothly.
"This is my third deployment and everyone gets a little easier with the communications back home," Fallecker said. "Internet is better every time we go back, news feeds are better every time we go back, the infrastructure there for us personally is getting much better -- it all makes it a lot easier to keep in touch with the folks at home and stay abreast of current events. We were all aware of the storm pretty much within a couple of hours of it happening."
Fallecker said fortunately his family had somewhere to go with power, but it wasn't easy on those who lost communications with their families. He said no one liked it, but they had a job to do and you just have to "keep on keeping on."
While it was difficult to be gone, and toward the end without communication for some, it is also not easy being the ones left behind. Fallecker's wife, Jennifer, said while she's proud of the job her husband does while deployed she's beyond happy to have him back.
"We're just going to relax and spend time with each other," Jennifer said. "You never really get used to it, but this one has been hard on the kids. My husband missed our son's first birthday as well as his daughter's eighth. He's been deployed before, but this is the first one she remembers. There were no behavior problems or anything like that, just sadness."
Fallecker's daughter Jaiden said she missed her dad a lot, but talking on the phone with Skype made it easier. She also said she looks forward to going on vacations and fishing with her dad - something Fallecker also looks forward to.
"On leave I'm going to get back into my leisure time, my fishing," Fallecker said. "Were going to take a little vacation, spend some quality time with each other and just have some fun this summer before the kids go back to school."
All in all Fallecker said he just can't wait to get back into his routine. He said the toughest part about returning is not stepping on the toes of what the spouses have set up while their husbands or wives are deployed.
"The jobs the spouses have at home are incredibly difficult, and I think people fail to realize that sometimes," Fallecker said. "And even when you come home getting back into the regiment your spouse is used to doing by his or herself is difficult. The transition takes time. You can't just jump in feet first."
Fallecker, and those who returned with him, are the first of the 70 plus Airmen to deploy from the 130th. The rest are scheduled to return early next week.