Deployed Airmen Honored at Welcome Home Ceremony

  • Published
  • By SSgt Richard Murphy
  • 185th Public Affairs
Over 800 airmen, family members, and distinguished visitors crowded into a hanger Saturday morning to honor the men and women of the 185th Air Refueling Wing who have deployed over the previous three years. With a large American Flag at his back, Col. Brian Miller, 185th ARW Commander, gave thanks not only to service men and women who have served the needs of the United States over the last three years but also the family members who made sure things on the home front were taken care of.

In the last three years, over 400 airmen have deployed all over the globe in support of the various missions of the United States. These deployment locations include:
· Al Dhafra, United Arab Emirates
· Al Udeid, Qatar Ali Al Salem, Kuwait
· Andersen AFB, Guam
· Ashkhabad, Turkmenistan
· Bagram, Afghanistan
· Balad, Iraq
· Eskan Village, Saudi Arabia
· Incirlik Air Base, Turkey
· Kirkuk, Iraq
· Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan
· Ramstein AFB, Germany
These deployments have lasted between 30 and 190 days and ranged from large scale deployments of 30 or more to deployments as small as one airman. 

Miller said that many people outside of the unit may think that the men and women of the 185th are in constant anxiety over the thought of deploying overseas. He quickly countered this notion and said, "Most of our service men and women volunteer and are eager and excited to deploy."

Lt Col Joe Ascherl, the Commander of the 185th Personnel Flight, was one of those airmen who actively pursued a deployment overseas. He served under Lt Gen Gary North as the CENTAF Deputy Air Reserve Component advisor. During his deployment, Ascherl traveled to places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia to help other Airmen with issues such as pay, travel, benefits, and mobilization.

In all, Ascherl traveled across 8 countries and over 12,000 miles. He said, "At every base I traveled to, I saw a member of the 185th. He recalled a colleague wondering why he seemed to know someone at every base. He replied, "That's the 185th. We are out there fighting this war."

While Miller acknowledged that the fact that this ceremony was held so close to the anniversary of September 11th was a coincidence, the significance of that date was not lost. He said "We want to make sure that (our enemies) never get the opportunity to do that again."

Miller continued to defend the mission that many of the service men and women deployed in support of. He said, "I truly believe there are evil people out there." He added, "We would never be able to enjoy what we have today without the dedication of our service men and women." He then looked directly to the service men and women in formation and announced, "The only thing that has kept these people at bay for the last eight years is you."

Miller also gave praise to the family members of those deployed airmen. He said, "You are the ones who make sure everything runs smoothly." He added that these family members are critical to the successful completion of the 185th ARW's mission. So much, in fact, that he suggested, "We should offer all of you uniforms."

Mandy Christensen, the wife of Capt. Tim Christensen who was deployed with the 185th ARW in Turkey, was one of those family members who were in attendance. She commented on the experiences she had during his deployment, "It seemed like everything in the house broke when he was gone." But, she countered, "We were able to stay in touch with webcams and pictures, which helped a lot."

After Col. Miller thanked the airmen and their family members, TSgt Noelle Jacobs presented the many missions of the various units of the 185th. Two large screens to the left and right of the main stage depicted images from these deployments and the names of the airmen who were deployed. Throughout Jacobs's presentation, many family members snapped photos of their loved one's names as the appeared on the screens.

Once Jacobs completed her presentation, she asked to audience to thank the airmen who had deployed. All of the family members, the commander, and his distinguished guests stood and applauded the members of the 185th ARW.

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