by Senior Airman John Hillier
188th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
10/12/2012 - FORT SMITH, Ark. -- At 9:07 a.m., an MD-11 carrying 280 Airmen with the 188th Fighter Wing touched down in Fort Smith Oct. 12. The Airmen were returning from a deployment to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The deployment was part of an Air Expeditionary Forces (AEF) rotation, which the 188th shared with the Baltimore-based 175th Wing. Several 188th Airmen deployed for a total of six months. Most who returned Oct. 12 were deployed for three months. More than 50 Airmen with the 188th will return from Bagram next week. The exact date will be released when it becomes available.
"We're excited to get our Airmen back," said Col. Mark Anderson, 188th Fighter Wing commander. "Our members have done amazing work, and we're ready for them to be home, get back with their families and reintegrate with the community. I couldn't be more proud of the work they've done. We're excited for those coming back home today and we anxiously await the safe return of our remaining Airmen."
Approximately 2,000 friends and family, many waving handmade signs or banners, were on hand to welcome their Airmen home.
"Our family is celebrating today," said Shirley Bearden, who was waiting to be reunited with Master Sgt. James Bearden of Fort Smith. "It's been a long three months, but we made it through with help from other 188th spouses. Everybody's been sticking together, and I just can't say enough good things about them."
Kasi and Colton Carter were very excited to have Senior Master Sgt. Jerid Carter back home after being away.
"This was his second deployment, but it's been a while since the last one," Kasi said. "It's not something that gets any easier the second time around. Our guys did a great job; they worked hard, and I'm glad they all came back safely."
This was the second AEF deployment for the 188th as a unit since receiving A-10s April 14, 2007. The 188th's last AEF rotation transpired in 2010 when the unit deployed approximately 300 Airmen and 10 A-10Cs to Kandahar, Afghanistan.
The A-10 mission in Afghanistan is to fly close-air support in response to ground troops who may be in contact with the enemy, or to escort convoys in particularly hostile areas. When not supporting ground troops, A-10s patrol designated sectors and provide aerial reconnaissance on locations of interest to ground commanders.
Source (including 7 photos)