JACKSONVILLE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Fla. --
Airmen, family members and friends gathered at the 125th Fighter Wing to welcome home over 200 members of the wing who returned home from a deployment to Southwest Asia, Oct. 7, 2019.
For the first time in nearly 20 years, Airmen of the 125th Fighter Wing deployed as a unit to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Spartan Shield. Operators, maintainers, and support staff from the 125th Fighter Wing were responsible for supporting defensive counter-air missions, aircraft maintenance, and logistics.
“This has been a unique deployment, it’s the first time in almost 20 years that we’ve actually conducted combat operations in our F-15 aircraft in an overseas deployment,” said Air Force Col. George Downs, acting 125th Fighter Wing Operations Group Commander. “It’s certainly something we’re very proud of. We train for a long time to get ready for a deployment like this and to be able to go overseas and conduct a mission safely and come home to our friends, family and loved ones. It’s truly a remarkable feeling.”
This deployment gave Florida Airmen the opportunity to work with and learn from their active duty counterparts and coalition partners.
“We definitely learned a lot from our active duty component,” said Airman First Class Huy Dinh, a Munition Systems Apprentice. “It was good to see different processes and ways of doing the job.”
Family members, friends, wing leadership and community members gathered in the hangar full of food, music and games, eagerly awaiting the return of their loved ones. As the buses pulled up, the energy of the crowd quickly reached a fever pitch of excitement and cheers as families were reunited for the first time in four months.
“They did awesome,” said Air Force Col. Richard Coffey, 125th Fighter Wing Commander. “We are very excited they’re home, we’re really appreciative of the support we got from the community, employers, family and friends.”