Airmen return home after six-month deployment

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published October 30, 2015


HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Around 500 airmen from the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base returned recently from a half-year deployment in Asia.

According to Selfridge Brig Gen. John D. Slocum, commander of the 127th Wing, the airmen have been filtering home over the past several weeks, with the largest contingency returning to Michigan over the Oct. 22-24 weekend, with 10 jets and pilots returning on Oct. 22 and the majority of the airmen coming home on Oct. 24. Another group of 50 airmen returned at the end of October.

A majority of the airmen and aircraft spent six months, the longest mass deployment of Selfridge airmen since the Korean War, in southwest Asia, supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, the mission to eliminate the Islamic State group (ISIS), and other missions.

“Our airmen, and their families, have been fully engaged. It is with great gratitude and respect for a job well done that we welcome them home,” Slocum said last week.

The largest group of airmen, about 350, were from the units that fly and operate the A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft at Selfridge, notably the 107th Fighter Squadron, 127th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and 127th Maintenance Squadron. A-10 pilots and support crews sported more than 1,600 sorties, logging more than 11,000 combined hours of combat flight time. The A-10 is principally an air-to-ground attack aircraft; it is popularly known as the Warthog, according to Selfridge officials.

Smaller contingents of airmen from the KC-135 Stratotanker units at Selfridge deployed for two- and three-month periods, flying 300-plus missions and logging almost 2,200 combat flight hours. They completed their deployments early in October. Units involved in the KC-135 deployment included the 171st Air Refueling Squadron, the 191st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and the 191st Maintenance Squadron. The KC-135 is principally an air-to-air refueling aircraft, though it can also be configured to carry injured personnel or troops and cargo.

Following their safe return, officials voiced their gratitude for the airmen.

“I join the entire state of Michigan in welcoming home the brave men and women of the 127th Wing and thank them for their service on behalf of a grateful nation,” said U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township. “While the airmen of the 127th Wing have made great sacrifices in defense of our nation, we owe a debt of gratitude to their families, who have endured months away from their loved ones. The parents, spouses and children of America’s service members are heroes who do not get thanked enough, and it is their steadfast support that helps keep our military strong.”

U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, chairperson of the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, issued a statement saying “Welcome home.”

“Today, we welcome home these servicemen and women who have just returned from a six-month deployment in-theater to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” she said. “I cannot stress enough how proud we are of them for their service and sacrifice on behalf of our great nation. For their dedication to the causes of liberty, freedom and democracy, we are extremely grateful.”

Slocum noted that while many of the Selfridge airmen were deployed, missions also continued at the base. The local aerial port unit supported 89 different missions in fiscal year 2015, which ended Sept. 30, moving a total of 2,230 passengers and 625 tons of cargo via aircraft. In addition, while significant numbers of airmen were still deployed, the 127th Wing also underwent a prescheduled operational readiness inspection, receiving an overall grade of “Excellent.”

“Many of our airmen are now enjoying a hard-earned period of rest and recovery,” Slocum said. “I cannot emphasize enough how proud I am of each one of them.”