JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
At approximately 12:55 a.m. Nov. 6, the 14th Airlift Squadron, 437th Airlift Wing, returned to Joint Base Charleston-Air Base from a 120-day deployment to Southwest Asia. Friends and families lined the flightline waiting for more than 130 Airmen to walk down the stairs of the commercial airliner they flew home on.
While deployed, the Airmen of the 14 AS, known as the Pelicans, served under the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, headquartered in the Middle East. They supported combat operations in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility and were recently relieved by the 15th Airlift Squadron, which will continue the ongoing airlift support.
The crowd erupted with clapping and cheers as the men and women reunited with their loved ones.
Kim Damron, wife of Maj. John Damron, said she was very excited for her husband to be home again so he would be able to spend time with their children during the holidays.
"It's awesome to be back to see my little ones and my wife and everything. It's a great time right now. I'm going to enjoy my time off but I know that a job's still out there. It's something that's just always there," Major Damron said.
For Senior Airman Lauren Craig, her six-month-old baby, Jayden, was the first person she wanted to see. She said, "He has grown so much since I last saw him," Craig said. She was also thankful to her parents who took care of Jayden while she was gone.
Flying the C-17 Globemaster III, the 14 AS Airmen flew roughly 2,800 sorties, logged more than 7,900 combat flying hours and airlifted more than 126 million pounds of combat material and more than 27,000 Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and distinguished visitors throughout the area of responsibility. The squadron also performed 382 combat airdrops, delivering 16.7 million pounds of cargo to 52 drop zones, breaking the record for deployed C-17 combat operations.
"What we did a lot of out there was to deliver things directly to full operating bases with airdrops. That keeps convoys off the roads; that saves lives," said Lt. Col. Tony Carr, 14 AS commander. "It allows us to keep those troops out on those bases supplied without a lot of moving around and that is what enables us to do our ground mission, most of which is in Afghanistan."
The 816 EAS conducts airlift, airdrop and aeromedical evacuation missions daily to provide direct support to the war fighter. The squadron is the second half of a two-part, expeditionary airlift squadron concept established in 2006.
Its sister unit, the 817th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, operates out of several detachments throughout Eurasia and the Middle East. Since 2006, Charleston airlift squadrons have traditionally deployed as the 816 EAS.
"Our Airmen did a great job" said, Carr. "They broke several records, they broke a lot of records in the airdrop side of the mission, but I'm really proud of the enthusiasm and character with which they did it."
The two-EAS concept provides two airlift hubs at separate geographical locations to speed passengers and pounds of equipment in and out of the fight.
"No one has ever done as much as we did on this deployment, that's a statement about us" said Carr. "It shows what our mission at Joint Base Charleston and what our mission as an Air Force offers to the nation."