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Guard Airmen Return Home

Friends and family welcome home Airmen after a six-month deployment overseas

Friends and family welcome home Airmen after a six-month deployment overseas, Jan 30, 2021, Tucson International Airport. The 162nd Wing deployed 73 Airmen in 2020 amidst the COVID pandemic.

Friends and family welcome home Airmen after a six-month deployment overseas

Friends and family welcome home Airmen after a deployment overseas, Jan 30, 2021, Tucson International Airport. The 162nd Wing deployed Airmen in 2020 amidst the COVID pandemic.

Friends and family welcome home Airmen after a deployment overseas

Friends and family welcome home Airmen after a deployment overseas, Jan 30, 2021, Tucson International Airport. The 162nd Wing deployed Airmen in 2020 amidst the COVID pandemic.

Friends and family welcome home Airmen after a six-month deployment overseas

Friends and family welcome home Airmen after a deployment overseas, Jan 30, 2021, Tucson International Airport. The 162nd Wing deployed Airmen in 2020 amidst the COVID pandemic.

Friends and family welcome home Airmen after a deployment overseas

Friends and family welcome home Airmen after a deployment overseas, Jan 30, 2021, Tucson International Airport. The 162nd Wing deployed Airmen in 2020 amidst the COVID pandemic.

MORRIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ariz.—162nd Wing Airmen returned to a heartfelt “welcome home” last month, after completing a overseas deployment.

As the COVID pandemic slowed down many day-to-day operations worldwide, the 162nd continued to serve our nation around the globe. Airmen deployed to various locations in support of operations around the globe.

Members from emergency services to maintenance and just about every career specialty in between deployed to fill critical roles. Unlike other deployments a pandemic environment proved to be unique.

“The pandemic definitely presented some challenges for everyone involved in these deployments,” explained Senior Master Sgt. Callie Handa, 162nd Wing Superintendent of Plans and Integration. “It took a lot of patience, a lot of effort and a lot of coordination on everyone’s part. Things were changing every day.”

As cases of the virus continued to rise, deployment preparation had to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances and guidelines. In March, the Department of Defense issued a stop-movement order to prevent the spread of the virus, which delayed many deployments. In May, the stop-movement order was lifted, however preventing the spread of COVID-19 and the safety of our Airmen continued to be top priority for the Air Force.

Staff Sgt. Caleb Smith, 162nd Wing Firefighter, said his team was required to complete a stateside two-week quarantine prior to departure to Kuwait. Once in theater, service members took additional precautionary measures.

“Once we got there, there were mask restrictions in place and mass gatherings weren’t allowed. It was a challenge at times but it never stopped the mission. I do wish I could have experienced a COVID free deployment, but I am just glad I’m back home with my family.”

Smith returned home last month, after six-months away from his wife and three-year-old daughter.
“Being deployed over the holidays was tough, but all the camaraderie we established over there made it a bit easier. I’m grateful for the memories and friends I made and the relationships that were built."

These critical missions and their successes would not be possible without the support of members from what Handa call the deployment “machine”. “It takes a village to deploy these people,” said Handa.

The deployment machine includes the Unit Deployment Manager, Medical Readiness, Combat Arms Training and Marksmanship, Emergency Management, Family Readiness, Command Support Staff and Finance.