The 180th Air National Guard Fighter Wing today officially welcomed back its guardsmen and women who were deployed this summer in Africa and the Middle East.
The 221 pilots and support staff returned July 13 following two and a half months in Djibouti, Africa, and Azraq, Jordan.
Lt. Col. Chris Belli, Operations Group Commander of the 180th Fighter Wing, said the ceremony was delayed until the hangar could be available but was important to recognize the sacrifices of family members who were away from spouses and other relatives who were defending the country. He also expressed appreciation to employers who allow workers to be in the reserves.
The returning guardsmen, who deployed as the 112th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, under the 180th, and family members filled the hangar at Toledo Express Airport near Swanton for the event.
Among them was Laura Dalton, of Toledo, wife of Tech. Sgt. Justin Dalton, 31. Her children and his stepchildren, Cyrus, 4, and Kira, 7 months, waited as well as could be expected through the speeches.
"It's a struggle," Ms. Dalton said. "Change out of the norm really throws them for a loop. It took a while to get adjusted to the change, and then it took a while to get adjusted back."
"Justin fights the bad guys," said Cyrus, as he asked questions about military equipment inside the hangar.
The original plan was to have the 112th squadron, with eight F-16 jets, deploy the entire time to Africa, but then the unit was given a surprise re-assignment to Jordan. While in Jordan, the unit participated in exercises that included dropping live bombs. Commander Belli said "the whole thing went off safely."
The unit was welcomed as well by Major General Deborah Ashenhurst, adjutant general of the Ohio National Guard, and U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green). Gen. Ashenhurst said the unit flew 138 sorties in Djibouti and 63 in Jordan with no mishaps. In Jordan, the guard also made weekly visits to an orphanage and delivered boxes packed back home.