JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
At approximately 7 a.m. Mar. 3, 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.
Their deployment had squadron personnel scattered throughout the Middle East and Eurasia, supporting overseas contingency operations. They were recently relieved by members of the 17th Airlift Squadron, who will continue the ongoing airlift support.
Excitement filled the air as families and friends of the deployed members strained to see the plane touch the ground. The anticipation of husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, young children and girlfriends, all holding homemade signs, was uncontainable as they all waited to catch a first glimpse of their loved one.
As the first Airman appeared on the steps to depart the plane, the crowd erupted in cheers as they searched for their returning hero.
Jackie Moritz, wife of Maj. Brian Moritz from the 16 AS, was patiently awaiting the arrival of her husband, accompanied by their new born baby of five months.
"I'm glad my husband is finally coming home," Mrs. Moritz said, with a smile on her face. "Taking care of three children can be challenging especially with your husband deployed. I learned to work smarter and not harder."
"Now that my husband is here, it's his turn to take care of the children and my turn to sleep!" she laughed.
For Capt. Kyle Jensen, a pilot from the 16th Airlift Squadron, and his wife Sarah, this was their second full deployment.
"I tried to stay busy so the time would pass," Mrs. Jensen said. "I went home for Christmas to Washington State and I became involved in my church here."
Captain Jensen was delighted to rejoin his wife and they both agreed they just needed some time off.
"I'm excited to be back, and I'm ready to catch up," Captain Jensen said. "We just want to relax at home, and then I'm going to sit on my boat and fish."
Captain Jensen and the 16 AS were deployed as the 817th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, which conducts airlift, airdrop and aeromedical evacuation missions daily to provide direct support to the warfighter.
Its sister unit, the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, operates out of a non-disclosed location in the Middle East. Since 2006, Charleston airlift squadrons have traditionally deployed as the 816 EAS, making the 16 AS deployment as the 817 EAS the second for Charleston airlift squadrons.
The two-EAS concept provides two airlift hubs at separate geographic locations to speed passengers by the hundreds of thousands and pounds of equipment by the millions in and out of the fight. The role of the unit makes mission focus for the deploying Airmen paramount.
"It's been an eventful, demanding, and rewarding four months and I am extremely proud of all our Airmen from the 16th Airlift Squadron and the fantastic folks of 437th Operations Group and Operations Support Squadron that served alongside us," said Lt. Col. Todd Hohn, the 16 AS commander. "Their professionalism and dedication to duty were evident during all of the long hours and hard work."
While deployed the squadron flew thousands of missions moving more than 100 million pounds of cargo and 170,000 passengers. Altogether they flew more than 9,500 combat hours in their different locations and completed more than 80 combat airdrops.
"Everyone did an amazing job safely executing the mission and supporting our warfighters overseas," Colonel Hohn said. "I couldn't be more proud of their accomplishments."