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107th Airlift Wing deployers return from final deployment with C-130H2 aircraft

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  • By Capt. Elaine Nowak, 107th AW Public Affairs Officer
  • 107th Airlift Wing
NIAGARA FALLS AIR RESERVE STATION- 33 members of the New York Air National Guard's 107th Airlift Wing were reunited with friends and family here Thursday after returning from a deployment in Southwest Asia.

The returning group of personnel is part of a larger deployment of 130 107th Operations and Maintenance Group personnel that rotated in over the past four months.

Families and friends gathered here Thursday evening to welcome deployers home with handmade signs, American flags, balloons and even custom-made t-shirts wore by excited sons and daughters. Master Sgt. Michele Martin surprised her sister, Tech. Sgt. Nicole Martin by bringing along her sister's beloved dog, Chip, whom she hadn't seen in the last four months.

There were many happy reunions after the C-130 landed, delivering the Airmen home. Staff Sgt. Aron Miller of the 107th Maintenance Group was reunited with his wife, Bonnie, infant son and young daughter. This was his longest deployment, during which he missed his daughter's first day of kindergarten and his some of his son's first year milestones.

"I get to see him lots now," said his daughter, Evenlyn, who had big plans for a spending time with her Dad. They plan to spend Monday, her day off of school for Veterans Day, at the movies and going out for ice cream.

The 107th's mission for the deployment was to transport passengers and cargo across the U.S. Central Command area of operations and is part of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM. Over the length of the deployment, members flew a total of more than 360 combat sorties, 650 combat flying hours, transported about 3,500 passengers and moved over 1,400 tons of cargo.

For the 107th, this deployment marked a chapter in the unit's history that will soon be ending as the unit prepares to convert to a new mission with the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle.

"This homecoming is bittersweet since it is likely our last combat deployment with the C-130s," said Col. Robert Kilgore, 107th Vice Wing Commander.

First time deployer, Airman 1st Class Kyle Zastrow, was one of the returning Airman. The deployment gave him an opportunity to use his training as a sheet metal technician, to learn some new skills and to work with other Air Force counterparts.

"It was definitely cool to see the other side of the Air Force. I have always been in the Guard. It was great integrating with active duty and reserve Airmen to see how they deploy and how they work," he said.

The remaining 40 wing members of the deployment are expected to return this weekend.