32nd Air Operations Squadron gets a warm welcome home
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — When tensions rose between U.S. troops and Iraqi insurgents this summer, members of Ramstein’s 32nd Falconer Air Operations Center made sure American GIs got the air support they needed.
The center provided all command and control for coalition sorties over Iraq and Afghanistan, from developing strategy to combat execution, said Lt. Col. Rob Evans, commander of the unit at Ramstein and deputy chief of strategy downrange.
About 80 members of the unit came home Friday, tanned and tired after three months at Al Uedid Air Base, Qatar.
“It’s awesome to be home,” Evans, 42, of Sacramento, Calif., said.
When Marines asked for airstrikes in Fallujah, the center made it happen. When the Army’s standoff with the Sadr militia in Najaf got ugly, the center ordered up the firepower to help suppress it.
“We contributed to the outcome there,” Evans said.
Center members also were waiting with a plan in place in case things got nasty during the transfer of authority from the United States to Iraq.
“There were peaks and valleys in the action,” Evans said. “But the level of intensity got pretty high at times.”
Rumors of a base swimming pool were true, Evans admitted, though he said he didn’t have a lot of time to lounge poolside.
“We had over 100 days of 100-degree temperatures,” he said.
Family members and colleagues greeted the returning airmen with hoots, hugs and hollers when they arrived in a blue Air Force bus at the group’s compound on Ramstein. Another bus with more airmen was expected later Friday.
The center, part of the 32nd Air Operations Group at Ramstein, was the core of a 700-member Air Force team that had its eye on the entire Middle East battle space from Qatar.
“There’s always a lot going on. Technology has increased practically to the speed of light,” said Senior Master Sgt. Don Ennis, superintendent of the 32nd Air Operations Squadron.
In his off time, Ennis said, he did some shopping in downtown Doha and enjoyed a couple of Starbucks coffees.
He greeted 5-year-old daughter, Michaela, when he got home.
“She grew about three feet,” Ennis, 40, of Aromas, Calif., joked.