JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
More than 160 Airmen from the 17th Airlift Squadron returned home from a 120-day deployment to Southwest Asia when a commercial airliner touched down at Joint Base Charleston-Air Base.
Excitement filled the air as families and friends of deployed members gathered in the passenger terminal awaiting authorization to access Joint Base Charleston's flightline. The anticipation of spouses, grandparents, children and friends was uncontainable as they waited to be reunited with their loved ones.
As the first Airmen exited the aircraft, the crowd erupted into cheers and tears as they searched for their returning hero.
"I am very happy my husband is returning home," said Rena Granholm, wife of Lt. Col. George Granholm, 17th AS director of operations. "It seems the second they leave everything breaks, but it is how you react to it and persevere through the troubling times that matters."
While the 17th AS had some deployment veterans, there were a handful of Airmen who earned the opportunity to participate in their first deployment. Some of them also had to ensure they completed their career development courses while overseas, which entailed studying material relating to their job and passing an end of course exam.
There were 10 members within the 17th AS who completed their career development courses during their deployment all averaging a 90 percent, to include Airman 1st Class Nicholas Church.
"My deployment helped me gain extra experience relating to my job," Church explained, 17th AS loadmaster. "I am happy with the way it went, but right now I am looking forward to spending time with my wife and having a good American steak."
While deployed, the Airmen of the 17th AS served under the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron supporting overseas contingency operations. The 816th EAS is responsible for airlift, airdrop and aeromedical evacuations, all of which directly support the combatant commander.
Flying the C-17 Globemaster III, crews flew and supported roughly 2,467 sorties, logged more than 5,600 combat flying hours and airlifted more than 105 million pounds of cargo and more than 14,000 personnel throughout Southwest Asia.
Additionally, the 17th AS executed 143 airdrops which resupplied service members serving in the areas of responsibility with 5.7 million pounds of supplies.
"Our crew was relatively young mixed in with a few seasoned members," said Lt. Col. Todd Groomes, 17th AS commander. "They did an outstanding job. With the high operation tempo, being away from home and the long days, they managed to stay focused and were amazing."
The 17th AS is one of four squadrons within the 437th Airlift Wing who share responsibility for the 816th EAS. The airlift squadrons rotate operating the 816th EAS continuously. Operation of the 816th EAS allows Air Mobility Command to consistently provide coverage to the AOR.