Wyoming National Guard troops return home
CHEYENNE -- The C-130 cargo plane dipped toward its side Wednesday as it performed a low-to-the-ground pass over the Wyoming Air National Guard base.
Dignitaries, military colleagues and loved ones of those on board eagerly watched from the ground as the plane came in for a landing.
Minutes later, 16 Wyoming Air National Guard airmen were on the runway and done with a two-month deployment in the Middle East.
“I feel ecstatic to be back,” said Senior Airman Jessica Spainhower as she hugged and greeted her friends and family who came out to meet her on the runway. “It’s just a relief to be done and to be able to see everyone here.”
The airmen were part of a group of 44 Wyoming Guard members from three separate deployments who returned Wednesday in different waves to Cheyenne or airports closer to their homes.
The group included:
* The 16 airmen from the 153rd Airlift Wing’s 187th Airlift Squadron, who provided support operations out of Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait.
* Five airmen from the 187th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, who returned from a four-month deployment in Afghanistan.
* Twenty-three soldiers from the Wyoming Army National Guard’s Detachment 3, B Company, 777th Aviation Support Battalion, who served for a year in Kosovo providing aviation maintenance support for the North Dakota Army National Guard.
Gov. Matt Mead and Wyoming Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Luke Reiner met with and thanked the service members upon their arrivals.
“We are thrilled to have our men and women home from their federal duties, serving our state and nation in a time of war,” Reiner said. “We continue to demonstrate our Guardsmen are the right people for the right jobs, no matter where they serve.”
Lt. Col. Mark Schmidt, who returned with the group from Kuwait, said 16 other airmen from the 187th Airlift Squadron recently arrived in the Middle East to replace the 16 who returned home.
He said that group also will serve a two-month deployment.
The squadron is responsible for loading and unloading cargo and troops out of the region. They also handle much of the logistics of making sure the personnel and equipment make it to their proper destinations.
Schmidt said it was an honor to help the multiple units operating in Southeast Asia, which includes troops involved in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
“Honestly, it’s been great to be able to do well and make sure all of our troops out there are safe,” he said. “We are also very proud of everyone (in our unit, including) a few who were on their first deployments.”
The group of first-timers included 1st Lt. Scott Skelton, who co-piloted one of the C-130s for the 187th Airlift Squadron.
Skelton, a Fort Collins, Colo., resident, said it was a great and meaningful experience to be deployed abroad after training more than year and half for his role.
He added it was also “amazing” to see his mom and dad, who greeted him when he got off the plane.
“It was emotional for them,” he said. “And it was the same for me.”
Distributed by MCT Information Services