More than 300 pilots and aircrew from the 354th Fighter Squadron and 355th Maintenance Group here returned this week after a six-month deployment to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.
While in Afghanistan, the aircraft flew over 10,000 combat hours in order to complete their mission of providing close-air support for troops on the ground.
Although the Airmen had a mission overseas, their families had a mission here; to run their households and families without physical help and support from their spouses.
“It’s been hard for Evan to adjust,” said Laurelle Candland, wife of deployed Airman Staff Sgt. Jacob Candland. “The first time his father left, Evan was only nine-months-old. With him being 3-years-old, it affects him more.”
Although families were split by thousands of miles, they still had some communication ability.
“This isn’t our first deployment,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Walls, a pilot who returned home yesterday with the 354th FS. “Over time, support has gotten easier with the internet and Skype, but it just isn’t the same as being home.”
Every family was glad to have their loved ones home safe.
“This week has been an amazing success as we welcomed home many of our Airmen who’ve been overseas in harm’s way for the past six months,” said Col. Kevin Blanchard, 355th Fighter Wing commander. “Our operations and maintenance professionals did a phenomenal job generating and executing more than 10,000 combat flying hours, meeting ground commanders’ intent, and saving lives over and over again. I cannot be more thankful for their success and safe return.”