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Airman 1st Class Richard Reed, a 67th Fighter Squadron weapons load crewmember, receives a welcome home from his wife, Tina, and son, Sonny, after returning from a 125-day Air Expeditionary Force deployment last week.

Airman 1st Class Richard Reed, a 67th Fighter Squadron weapons load crewmember, receives a welcome home from his wife, Tina, and son, Sonny, after returning from a 125-day Air Expeditionary Force deployment last week. (Courtesy of U.S. Air Force)

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Some 100 Kadena airmen and several F-15s — no longer needed for the war in Iraq — have returned to their base on Okinawa.

How many more Pacific-based airmen are slated to return from extended deployments remains unknown, said Maj. Gwyn Poock, a Pacific Air Forces spokeswoman from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.

The troops likely will continue to trickle back in coming weeks, Poock said, but U.S. Central Command officials will determine the number and timing of such releases.

Although every Air Force base in the Pacific has personnel deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Poock said Friday, to date mostly Kadena-based airmen and planes have returned from the war zone. The Kadena members who have returned include those from the 909th Refueling Squadron and support crews from the air base’s 18th Wing Equipment Maintenance, Component Maintenance, Aircraft Maintenance, Logistics Readiness and Munitions Squadrons.

“Central Command didn’t need us any longer,” said a jubilant Airman 1st Class Richard Reed, a weapons loader for the 67th Fighter Squadron.

“We really weren’t expecting to be home so soon. … It was a shock when we got the word,” said Reed, whose unit deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, in December.

On a deployment that originally was to last 90 days, through February, the 67th’s mission was to patrol the no-fly zone over southern Iraq in support of Operation Southern Watch. But with hostilities looming, the deployment was extended indefinitely.

Reed’s job was to load air-to-air missiles on F-15Cs that provided air cover to coalition aircraft bombing selected targets in Iraq.

An undisclosed number of Kadena-based F-15s have been in the region since deploying for Air Expeditionary Force 5/6 in September. The aircraft stayed in Saudi Arabia when AEF 7/8 began in December.

Still, Reed said, “We really didn’t get much action” — in part because Iraqi aircraft remained grounded throughout the conflict.

“We loaded the aircraft with missiles. They went up and waited for something to come up, but nothing came up,” Reed said.

That was all right with Reed’s wife, Tina. “He was close enough to the action that I was somewhat worried,” she said, “but he was far enough away that I wasn’t a wreck dealing with it.”

He arrived April 13, one day before their second wedding anniversary.

He didn’t have a present, but she didn’t seem to care.

“Just him being home was enough,” she said. “I haven’t been this happy in four months.”

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