Air National Guard members of the 180th Fighter Wing and their families received words of appreciation from commanders and community representatives in a ceremony Sunday after their return from a deployment 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.
PHOTO GALLERY: Air National Guard ceremony
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 patiently as could be expected through the speeches.
“It’s a struggle,” Ms. Dalton said of the separation period. “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.
Dennis McCoy of Toledo said he enjoyed the deployment.
“I got to see different parts of the world,” said Mr. McCoy, 24, whose job was loading and unloading weapons on aircraft. He’s been in the guard for seven years.
“It wasn’t bad, just a couple of problems here and there at home,” said Mr. McCoy. His wife, Ashley, 24, said Mr. McCoy’s absence became more difficult after they redeployed from Africa to Jordan, where the Internet and email were much less reliable. They have a daughter Taylor, 1, and another one on the way.
Mrs. McCoy said the ceremony was “very nice.”
“Everybody had nice things to say which made them being gone a little easier,” Mrs. McCoy said.
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 reassignment 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 Maj. Gen. Deborah Ashenhurst, adjutant general of the Ohio National Guard, and U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green). General 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.
Contact Tom Troy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6058.