South Carolina Air National Guard airmen came home after a 120-day deployment to Iraq. Members of the 169th Fighter Wing returned to McEntire Sunday.
Brigadier General Scott Williams says they have a sense of accomplishment:
… because this wing… the 169th FW was there in the first days of Operation Desert Storm, so the 169th FW was there from the beginning, and then the first days of Operation Iraqi Freedom we were there for the first phase of the “shock and awe” phase we were there from the very first night supporting the army and the marines going in. And then our Swamp Foxes were there as the last combat troops were being escorted into Kuwait.
Military officials say more members of the 169th Fighter Wing are expected to return on Tuesday.
Brigadier General Williams says he is very proud of the 169th Fighter Wing:
I’ve got nothing but accolades for everybody who was over there. Great support from the community. The employers who were back here supporting them while they were gone from their jobs. The families: the support was outstanding. And then everything the people that stayed back, it was a great rotation. So, job well done by everybody. As a community effort, family effort and a group effort from the entire Fighter Wing!
While just getting home, there’s always the expectation of another deployment. Brigadier General Williams says that from the end of this deployment to the beginning of the next one should be no earlier than 16 months from now.
But there will be some cats and dogs and there’ll be a few people that might go here and there, usually voluntarily. But things are starting to stabilize and it’s more predictable than it was in the past, right now with the draw down in Iraq.
During this deployment, the 169th Fighter Wing participated in their first combat operation since becoming an “Active Associate” wing. This agreement with the 20th FW at Shaw AFB embeds 150 active duty Airmen with the 169th Fighter Wing forging an even stronger, more mobile force.
Brigadier General Scott Williams says the Active Association is built to enable a guardian like theirs to go on longer deployments.
So we have 150 active duty airmen that have been assigned to us from all over the world. Some straight out of training from tech school, some have had 1st or 2nd assignments before coming here, and they’re assigned to McEntire. And they have administrative support from the 20th FW over at Shaw AFB.
The 169th Fighter Wing detachment was assigned to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. The 332nd flew more than 800 combat air patrol missions over Iraq from May through August.