130th AW Members Return from Afghanistan
By Staff Sgt. Christina Hammack, 130th Airlift Wing
/ Published March 07, 2009
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Approximately 200 airmen from the 130th Airlift Wing returned home to Charleston, West Virginia late February following a deployment to Afghanistan. Members left home the beginning of January to support Operation Enduring Freedom as part of their Aerospace Expeditionary Force (AEF) mission.
The AEF concept of continually deploying Air units on a rotation schedule is the response to the increasing number of contingencies that call for worldwide deployments of military forces. As part of this mission, forces are presented in a consistent manner and conduct military operations across the spectrum of conflict. The 130th AW deployed members of the base from Operations, Maintenance, Logistics Readiness Squadron and Medical Group. Though a handful of 130th members will remain in Afghanistan the full duration, most members were able to return home after only 45 days because the AEF fulfillment was shared with other units. Between the units, the entire AEF requirement is covered.
The 130th AW traveled over a course of four days, stopping to rest and refuel before their arrival at the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing in Afghanistan. The 455th primary mission is to support the Global War on Terror by providing aerial support for the United States and coalition forces on the ground in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Upon arrival, members flew and supported tactical airlift missions in which they air-dropped and moved troops, equipment and supplies. Air crew utilized the latest technology available for their navigational airdrop system. Maj. Timothy Mewes, navigator for the 130th, served as the chief of tactics in Afghanistan. During the deployment, Maj. Mewes was able to contact his family via phone and email, as were all members. His wife commented, "The hardest thing is knowing he's not coming home to put the kids in bed." The couple has young children who were happy to be reunited with their father February 22nd upon his return to Charleston.
130th members worked seven-day weeks at 12 hours a day; sometimes longer. They were bedded down in semi-hardened facilities and were fortunate to have beds to sleep on instead of cots. The dining facility was contracted out and the food served was reported to be outstanding, which is always a major morale factor for military members away from home. The weather was cold and wet, so it wasn't hard for members to adjust considering they came from similar weather in Charleston. "Given the weather conditions while flying, we put our best foot forward and excelled," said Master Sgt. George Saunders. Master Sgt. Saunders, a 1st Sgt. in the130th Operations Group was the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron 1st Sgt while deployed. He added that the 455th Operations Group Commander, Col. Strausberger, commented that the 130th AW did an outstanding job and was very impressed with the unit's ability to adapt to changing situations.
The cold weather on the trip home delayed some of the flights from returning members as scheduled. Nonetheless, each flight returned home to a large, anticipating crowd of family and friends who gathered inside the 130th Fire Department facility to keep out of the cold. Emotions poured from their faces at the sight of the C-130H aircrafts that were carrying their loved ones. Capt. Jamie Aguilar's daughter waited anxiously for him to scoop her up into his arms. She ate an M&M candy for each day Capt. Aguilar was gone. This was a way her mother arranged for her to count down the days until she would see her father again. Capt. Aguiler is a navigator for the 130th and has had six family members serve in the Air National Guard, so his family is no stranger to deployments.
It is always difficult for family and friends when military members deploy away from home, no matter the duration, but they are well trained to do the jobs they enlisted to do and the camaraderie among the 130th members keeps morale high. The unit always anticipates a safe return of their airmen and is proud of the outstanding job they do.