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Security Forces Coming Home

BARNES AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Massachusetts -- Citizen Airmen returning from Iraq with honor

It has been said that "time flies when you're having fun." Well, I can tell you the time has flown by during our deployment here to Sather Air Base in Baghdad, Iraq. However, I think if you asked the men and women of the 447th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, they would rephrase it to say "Time flies when you work 12 to 16 hours a day--everyday." The "fun" part...well, not so much.

That's not to say things have not been interesting and down right exciting some days, because they certainly have. Everyday in Iraq brings a new set of challenges to overcome in order to accomplish the mission. Securing Sather AB on a day-to-day basis can be a tedious, physically demanding and a mentally challenging job. We are the first to respond to emergencies including indirect fire attacks and we must always be vigilant for anything that looks out of place within and around our area of operations.

We fight being lulled into a feeling of complacency or status quo. The enemy is here and they are always watching for a soft, predictable target. Fortunately, things are a little quieter recently, and this level of "quiet" is a very visible change since we arrived in February.

We protect the Air Base in order to ensure expeditious movement of personnel, equipment, and materials for U.S. and Coalition forces throughout the COMUSAFCENT Area of Responsibility in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. Sather is the number one air base in supporting passengers and the number two air base in transitioning cargo in Iraq. During our deployment through the effective use of integrated base defense techniques, we enabled the safe passage of over 190,000 military, coalition and civilian personnel and 80,000 short tons of critical war-fighting cargo, which were flown on more than 7,000 fixed and rotary wing sorties. In addition to securing the base 24/7, our men and women have helped to train Iraqi soldiers in weapons marksmanship and individual search procedures.

During our time here, we have seen Air Expeditionary Forces (AEF) one and two rotate out and AEF three and four begin. They are excited to be here and "rip-roaring ready-to-go." That was us a few months ago. Now we are the "veterans" of Sather. The Air Force Security Forces are one of a few career fields pulling six month tours--longer than some but shorter than others.

We work very closely with the Army here at Sather and are very sensitive when we discuss how long we have been here, since many of them have served up to 15 months. That's a long time to be away from home; and it's a heck of a long time in Iraq.

Our squadron is now within weeks of stepping on a plane and departing Iraq for home. The redeployment buzz has started and you can see it in their faces, hear it in their voices and sense it as you speak to them.

Our homes are in Massachusetts, Arizona, Kansas, Illinois, New York and Texas, as well as many other active duty bases. Home represents all that we miss, love and care for in our lives. Home represents safety and security and a normal life. Home also represents the completion of an honorable and important mission.

In just a few more weeks these proud, hard working Security Forces men and women will be heading home to their families and their units. They all have worked hard in tough conditions. They have served proudly with honor supporting each other and supporting a free Iraqi nation to transition to a representative government and secure their country in order to support its people. Welcome them back to a hero's reception, they deserve it.