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Staff Sgt. Paul Hickey, 48th Equipment Maintenance Squadron, kisses his wife, Agnes, while holding his 5-year-old son, Peerless. Paul Hickey, along with roughly 300 other airmen, returned to RAF Lakenheath in the early morning hours of Friday after a deployment to the Middle East.

Staff Sgt. Paul Hickey, 48th Equipment Maintenance Squadron, kisses his wife, Agnes, while holding his 5-year-old son, Peerless. Paul Hickey, along with roughly 300 other airmen, returned to RAF Lakenheath in the early morning hours of Friday after a deployment to the Middle East. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)

Staff Sgt. Paul Hickey, 48th Equipment Maintenance Squadron, kisses his wife, Agnes, while holding his 5-year-old son, Peerless. Paul Hickey, along with roughly 300 other airmen, returned to RAF Lakenheath in the early morning hours of Friday after a deployment to the Middle East.

Staff Sgt. Paul Hickey, 48th Equipment Maintenance Squadron, kisses his wife, Agnes, while holding his 5-year-old son, Peerless. Paul Hickey, along with roughly 300 other airmen, returned to RAF Lakenheath in the early morning hours of Friday after a deployment to the Middle East. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)

Families and friends wait outside in freezing temperatures Friday morning for the arrival of roughly 300 airmen who returned from a deployment to the Middle East.

Families and friends wait outside in freezing temperatures Friday morning for the arrival of roughly 300 airmen who returned from a deployment to the Middle East. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)

Capt. Nora Monnett, a pharmacist for the 48th Medical Group, embraces her husband, Justin, upon returning to RAF Lakenheath on Friday morning from a deployment to the Middle East.

Capt. Nora Monnett, a pharmacist for the 48th Medical Group, embraces her husband, Justin, upon returning to RAF Lakenheath on Friday morning from a deployment to the Middle East. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)

Senior Airman Benny Rutledge, an F-15E jet fighter crew chief from 48th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, kisses his 10-month-old son, Christopher, as his wife, Senior Airman Charlene Rutledge, from 48th Dental Squadron, watches. Benny Rutledge returned to RAF Lakenheath following a four-month deployment to the Middle East.

Senior Airman Benny Rutledge, an F-15E jet fighter crew chief from 48th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, kisses his 10-month-old son, Christopher, as his wife, Senior Airman Charlene Rutledge, from 48th Dental Squadron, watches. Benny Rutledge returned to RAF Lakenheath following a four-month deployment to the Middle East. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)

RAF LAKENHEATH, England — Roughly 300 airmen attached to units across the 48th Fighter Wing reunited with family and friends early Friday following their return from the Air Expeditionary Force 4 rotation out of Qatar and other locations.

At about 3 a.m., busloads of airmen arrived at a Lakenheath hangar where hundreds of supporters were waiting outside in freezing temperatures. Hugs and kisses were exchanged between loved ones, and friends mingled with maintenance and support personnel who had been deployed for an average of four months.

Airman 1st Class Tristan Galloway, an electrician and environmental specialist with the 494th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, didn’t hesitate to envelop his wife, Helen, in his arms to protect her from the chilly weather, which, at times, sprinkled snow onto the group.

“I’m extremely happy to see my wife,” he said, embracing her. “It was definitely tough being away from her.”

The deployment was perhaps harder for the Galloways than other couples, since they had been married only since April.

“I missed him not being there, that closeness,” said Helen Galloway, a British national.

On the other hand, the airman said that his time deployed opened a lot of doors for him.

“I love the stuff that we’re doing over there. I learned a lot of new things besides my own job,” he said. “I also made some more connections and learned more responsibility.”

Senior Airman Benny Rutledge, an F-15E Strike Eagle jet crew chief from the 48th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, was quick to scoop his 10-month-old son, Christopher, into his arms upon arriving.

“It’s great to be back with friends and family,” he said.

Although Rutledge didn’t have any complaints about his deployment, he admitted it was hard being away from his newborn.

“It was difficult, missing some of the little stuff, like his first words,” he said.

His wife, Senior Airman Charlene Rutledge, from the 48th Dental Squadron, said she was really happy to have her husband home.

“I just missed him being here and giving a hand with the baby. It was a difficult time,” she said.

One thing that Capt. Nora Monnett, a pharmacist with the 48th Medical Group, will not miss about her deployment experience was the ongoing rocket attacks during her five-month stay at Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq.

“No more bombs” is the best thing about being back in Lakenheath, she said.

It was also the first deployment away from her two children and her husband, Justin.

“It’s one of the best feelings in the world,” he said about seeing his wife again.


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