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NEWS | July 11, 2012

Charleston Airmen Return Home in time to Celebrate Independence Day

By 2nd Lt. Leah Davis Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

At approximately 11:30 p.m., July 2, a commercial airliner returning from overseas touched down at Joint Base Charleston - Air Base with more than 130 Airmen on board from the 16th Airlift Squadron, 437th Airlift Wing.

The 16th AS was deployed throughout Southwest Asia, supporting overseas combat operations as a part of the U.S. Central Command. They were recently relieved by the 17th AS which will continue the ongoing airlift support mission.

Families and friends waited along the flight line holding American flags, signs and balloons eagerly awaiting the touchdown of the plane.

Mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, girlfriends and children were full of anticipation, looking towards the sky trying to see a glimpse of their Airman coming home.

Capt. Janelle West, 628th Comptroller Squadron and wife of Capt. Jeffrey West, was excited to have her husband home before July 4th. "I could not wait to see my husband! Being dual military, every second we can be together is a big deal," said West. "I can't wait to celebrate Independence Day with him and hang out with our friends and family."

West and the rest of the 16th AS were deployed as the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. Flying the C-17 Globemaster III, they completed 2,500 sorties, logged nearly 6,500 combat flying hours and airlifted more than 127 million pounds of combat material. The squadron also transported more than 17,257 Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and distinguished visitors throughout the area of responsibility.

In addition, they airlifted 72 patients during aeromedical-evacuation missions and delivered more than 4,684 bundles directly to forward operating bases throughout the area of responsibility.

The 816th EAS is one of two C-17 Expeditionary Airlift Squadrons established to fulfill the two-EAS concept. The two-EAS concept, implemented in 2006, provides two intra-theater airlift hubs at separate geographical locations to speed the movement of passengers by the hundreds of thousands and pounds of equipment by the millions in and out of the fight, supporting multiple areas of regions.

Maj. Michael Peeler, 16th AS director of staff, was also happy to be home and proud of his squadron.

"This was a phenomenal opportunity for all involved. It was a chance to participate in something bigger than the 437th Airlift Wing and bigger than the Air Force," said Peeler. "This was a chance for us to focus on and contribute directly to the defense of our nation by delivering critical cargo to the front line forces in order to sustain the war effort."

Peeler also emphasized that every Airman played their part in a successful mission and that they would be celebrating a well-deserved holiday.