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A HERO'S WELCOME: Robins Airmen return from 8-month deployment

Returning 78th Civil Engineering Squadron members walk away from the plane toward the passengerterminal following an eight-month Iraqi deployment.
U.S. Air Force photo by SUE SAPP

Returning 78th Civil Engineering Squadron members walk away from the plane toward the passengerterminal following an eight-month Iraqi deployment. U.S. Air Force photo by SUE SAPP

Family and friends of the returning Airmen show their excitement as the aircraft comes into view.
U.S. Air Force photo by SUE SAPP

Family and friends of the returning Airmen show their excitement as the aircraft comes into view. U.S. Air Force photo by SUE SAPP

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- More than 60 Robins Airmen returned after being away from home for eight months on the afternoon of Dec. 7.

A group of mainly civil engineers mixed with a splattering of administrative personnel came home from Iraq after being there for six months, following two months of deployment training.

The civil engineer deployment team was greeted by a crowd of about two hundred people consisting primarily of family members, a few fellow squadron members, their group leadership and members of the local media.

The civil engineer's brethren, the Robins Fire Department, even got in on the act. The fire department placed fire trucks on both sides of the taxiway and gave a watery salute to the contract airliner bringing the deployed Airmen home safely.

"There is nothing better for a commander to see 65 people coming back," said Col. Edward Piekarczyk, 78th Civil Engineer Group commander. "Everybody made it back safely with no injuries. It is fantastic to see all of you (family members) here to
greet them."

All of the civil engineer leadership was on hand to welcome the deployment teams back.
"It is great to have all of our civil engineer folks back after eight months," said Master Sgt. David Miles, first sergeant for the 78th Civil Engineer Group. "A lot of these guys were performing (hazardous) convoy details and escort duties."

There were more family members on hand than all of the military and media combined.

"The most import thing is for the families to be reunited," said Sergeant Miles. "Maybe not for me, but for the family members who have missed them this whole time."

There were even a few new family members to see their fathers for the first time.

"Xavier hasn't seen his daddy yet, except for pictures" said Caroline Spencer, a new mother and Staff Sgt. Alfred Winther's fiancé. "We have waited so long for this day. It's
time for him (Alfred) to be here and enjoy in all of this."

There were loud cheers as the large white commercial airliner parked outside of the
mobility center. All 60-plus Airmen, who were dressed in desert battle uniforms, descended the stairs and were honored by their leadership with hand
shakes and praises. The group then developed a rather quick gait as they saw their loved ones awaiting them in the restraining ropes near the passenger terminal.

There were tears and hugs for all the Airmen who were glad to finally be back home to Robins.

"It's wonderful to be home," said Senior Airman Thee Thorpe, an electrician in the 78th CEG. "I can't wait to take a shower, watch TV and lay in a bed! I'm looking forward to meeting back up with all my friends and family."

Colonel Piekarczyk summed up the feelings of all the family and friends at the homecoming when he told the Airmen "It is great seeing you all again!"