Deployed members of 167th Airlift Wing's Security Forces Squadron welcomed home
By Staff Sgt Sherree Grebenstein, 167AW/PA
/ Published November 10, 2010
Martinsburg, WVa -- Family, friends and fellow Airmen were on hand Wednesday afternoon to welcome home 24 members of the 167th Airlift Wing's Security Forces Squadron deployed to Saudi Arabia for the past six months.
"My daddy is coming home!" exclaimed one very excited 3-year-old boy as he scurried around outside the air base's building which is home to the Security Forces Squadron. Inside a reception would be hosted by the Wing's Family Readiness Group to celebrate the Airmen's return.
While some held homemade signs reading "We've Missed You" and "Welcome Home," one young lady clutched a red carnation which she was eager to give to her brother when he got off the bus which brought the Airmen back to base.
Arriving earlier than expected, the bus rolled up to the sound of cheers and waving of small American flags.
Tech Sgt. Jon C. Lamp, on his first deployment with the Wing's Security Forces Squadron, was quick to reply what he missed most about his excursion from home.
"I missed the green grass, clean air and mountains," Lamp said matter-of-factly.
Originally 25 Airmen with the unit were deployed to Eskan Village in Saudia Arabia. They were tasked with providing various security measures there. One Airmen returned home early due to medical reasons, said Command Chief John H. Alderton, the command chief for the Wing who also serves as the installation's chief of security forces.
Looking a little tired as he greeted loved ones, Staff Sgt. Eric S. Wharton said being back home seemed a bit surreal.
"It's not real yet," said the Inwood, W.Va., resident and father of two.
Adding: "It's going to take a couple of days to get use to."
Now a veteran of two deployments, Wharton said his first priority would be to spend time with his two children.
"I really missed them," he said of the pair, ages 5 and 7.
Asked what advice he would give others who find themselves deployed, Wharton said keeping close to family members is key.
Wharton's wife, Rebecca, was happy to have her husband home.
"My kids are thrilled to have their daddy finally," she added.
Capt. William C. Lemon, commander of the 167th Airlift Wing's Security Forces Squadron, said the return of the 24 Airmen makes the unit whole again for the first time in three years.
Deployments to Iraq and Saudi Arabia have impacted the unit's manpower.
"Half of our unit deployed over the past three years," Lemon said.
But with the return of the Airmen, the Security Forces Squadron now has everyone back at home base.
"It's great that we can come together as a whole unit now," he said. "It's like a family back together again."
Staff Sgt. Edward L. Rollyson was greeted by his 6-year-old son, Dalton, as he got off the blue bus.
"I'm grateful to be back with my son," Rollyson said.
Looking into his father's eyes the feeling appeared to be quite mutual.
Inside the Security Forces Squadron's classroom, Col. Brian A. Truman, the Wing's vice commander, greeted the Airmen and their loved ones.
"You did us proud," he said looking at the Airmen who achieved a number of accomplishments during their half year deployment. From taking military and civilian courses to further their educations to being honored by senior leadership for job performances, the small contingent of Airmen kept busy.
Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, presented Staff Sgt. Michael A. Bettis with a coin of excellence after the Airman was selected as a Warrior of the Week in June while deployed.
Master Sgt. Daniel H. Kline, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the deployed Airmen, said he was impressed with how the Security Forces tried to better themselves even as they faced 115 degree heat and worked 12 hour plus shifts.
Incredibly, the deployed Airmen lost a collective 300 pounds with one Airman shedding 65 pounds alone.
"I can't say enough about them," Kline said.
Alderton said the Wing consistently was advised of the Airmen's accomplishments while they were deployed.
"We have heard nothing, but accolades from their deployed leadership on their performances," he said.
The Wing's command chief credited the Airmen's family members and friends with providing the much needed support system back home which allowed them to focus on their mission while abroad.
"You are the unsung heros," he told those who had come to greet the Airmen home.