by Michael Dukes
315th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office
4/12/2013 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Hundreds
of family members and friends waited anxiously in a packed Joint Base
Charleston Passenger Terminal for a 747 charter jet carrying nearly 100
Airmen from 560th Red Horse Squadron returning from a six-month
deployment April 11.
The Air Force Reservists have been deployed as part of the the 557th
Expeditionary RED HORSE Squadron since November and were responsible for
heavy construction projects at various Middle Eastern locations. This
marks the first deployment for the newly formed squadron, which started
operations on Nov. 1, 2008.
"These HORSEmen have done some amazing work," said Lt. Col. Joseph
Swaim, 560th RHS commander. "Much of this could not be possible without
the support of the family back home -- the wives, husbands, moms and
dads that make things possible for these men and women to do what they
Reserve leadership was the first to welcome the troops back home. Col.
James Fontanella, 315th Airlift Wing commander, and Command Chief Master
Sgt. Gigi Manning joined Lt. Col. Swaim, and his 560th RHS chiefs,
Chief Master Sgt. James Hampton and Chief Master Sgt. Tonya Blythe at
the side of the jet. Col. Timothy Lamb, 622nd Civil Engineer Group
commander at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. Also was on hand to welcome
the Airmen back home.
Family members holding up welcome home signs cheered as the first
returning Airmen in red hats stepped out the jet's door and made their
way down the stairs to the tarmac. One sign read: "We are so Proud of
You Welcome Home," and another read: "We Miss Our Hero." Other signs and
banners had similar cheerful messages--many, no doubt, made by the tiny
hands of these Airmen's children. Tears of joy stained the cheeks of
some of the loved ones as they jumped up and down waving.
"The difference that we're making in the world; you see it on the news,
but to see it first hand, it's a terrific experience to be there and do
it," said one of the returning Airmen Senior Airman Michael Crump as he
held his two children in his arms. "I wouldn't say I want to do it
often, but any time our country calls on us we'll be there."
"This is what we have been waiting on, it's fantastic," said Chief
Master Sgt. Gregory Rice of the enthusiastic reception. "We really
missed them and we are just ready to go and spend some good time with
our family. It's good to be home."
Approximately two months into their deployment, the 560th RHS executed a
critical $31 million construction program spanning from the Middle East
to Central Asia. Projects included a tactical operation center, command
and control infrastructure, strategic airlift ramp and fuel farm,
emergency airfield repairs and several other facilities delivering
mission and life-support functions across the U.S. Central Command area
Swaim said there were over 20 individual Red Horse construction projects
distributed across eight different sites throughout Southwest Asia,
with majority of the projects located in Afghanistan. The HORSEmen moved
over 100,000 tons of dirt, maintained over and distributed over $20
million worth of materials, and performed many maintenance actions on
Air Force Central Command's largest single-unit fleet worth $85.2
"These HORSEmen have done some amazing work," Swaim added. "Much of this
could not be possible without the support of the family back home. The
wives, husbands, moms and dads that make things possible for these men
and women to do what they did."
Red Horse squadrons are capable of rapid response and independent
operations in remote, high-threat environments worldwide and provide
heavy repair capability and construction support for the Air Force.