About 300 members of South Carolina’s Air National Guard were greeted Wednesday by hundreds of family members and friends as they returned home to McEntire Joint National Guard Base after a four-month deployment to Afghanistan.
“Deployments of this size and duration are not possible without the support of our families, our civilian employers and the community in general,” said Col. Mike Hudson, the commander of the 169th Fighter Wing.
The unit deployed in April with pilots, maintenance specialists and support staffers. They provided air support to ground units in Afghanistan. Pilots flew more than 2,200 sorties for a total of 9,400 combat hours, officials said.
The unit was deployed to Kandahar Airfield, where support teams worked under difficult conditions, said Maj. Shari Askins, the officer in charge of F-16 maintenance.
“Walking the flight line in 118-degree heat with jets running, dust blowing in your face and the constant anticipation of incoming rockets, their dedication is truly remarkable,” Askins said.
Guard spokesman Maj. James Roth said that no unit members were killed during the deployment.
“We had a good one,” Roth said. Their home base is east of Columbia.
The spokesman said the deployment was the largest for the unit since the first Gulf War, known as Operation Desert Storm, in 1990. He said it was the fourth major deployment for the unit’s pilots and F-16s since they flew more than 200 combat missions in the early days of the Afghan campaign in 2002.