MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — The 14th Fighter Squadron is winding down its time in Iraq and spirits are rising.

In his latest “code-a-phone” to Misawa residents, 14th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander, Lt. Col. Chuck Toplikar, said “everyone is starting to describe the light at the end of the tunnel. We have just over one month left and spirits are lifting daily.”

As the level of anticipation and elation grows, Toplikar said his focus is “to finish strong and fight complacency. We have had a stellar deployment, but it is not over until we are all safely back home.”

The squadron has been deployed to Balad Air Base north of Baghdad since January. Its primary mission is providing close-air support to U.S. and coalition ground troops.

More than 400 airmen are deployed for the current Aerospace Expeditionary Force rotation. Misawa’s 13th Fighter Squadron will replace the 14th later this month, with another 650 Misawa airmen getting ready to deploy. Most airmen in the next AEF are going to Iraq or Afghanistan, according to base officials.

Toplikar also noted the work of the phase dock maintainers at Balad. The squadron’s F-16 fighter jets go through a rigorous inspection every 400 hours, he said.

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