WESTFIELD, Mass. – Cheering and tears were abound, here, as mothers, brothers, sisters, fathers, sons, daughters, and friends poured off a plane seeing their loved ones for the first time in three months. Approximately 250 Airmen from the 104th Fighter Wing, Massachusetts Air National Guard returned home after a deployment overseas, July 10, 2012, here, after completing their mission in the Middle East.
The 104th’s mission was to provide airspace theater security to the Central Command area of responsibility using their F-15C Eagle and F-15D Eagle fighter aircraft.
All of the Airmen were vital to the mission, providing maintenance and logistical support, which allowed the pilots to accumulate more than 1,000 flight hours.
"This deployment was one of the first for the unit since the F-15 conversion" said Col. James Keefe, 104th Fighter Wing Commander. "I am very proud of the members of this incredible unit; they represented the Guard and the Air Force extremely well."
Furthermore, many Airmen were deployed to Jordan. They were a part of a massive military exercise known as Eager Lion. This exercise included more than 12,000 members from 15 allied nations.
In addition, this deployment is the largest since 2003 at the beginning of the Operation Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. Also this is the first deployment of the new F-15 aircraft after the conversion in 2010.
Since 2003 the 104th has an average of 90 Airmen deployed each year. They deploy to various locations to augment active duty teams of around two to five personnel.
"While deployed, the unit attained a mission capability rate, nearly five percent higher than the active-duty standard, with no safety or maintenance related cancelations, which is virtually unheard of, said Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, Massachusetts Adjutant General (Acting). "The proven experience of the 104th's leadership team - both officer and enlisted - and the hard work of all aircraft maintenance personnel demonstrated the capability of the Air National Guard and is truly commendable. I'm honored to lead such a fine group of Airmen."