News: Misawa welcomes home over 300 deployed Airmen
Story by Staff Sgt. Rachel Martinez
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan – The Misawa community welcomed home deployed Airmen throughout the weekend.
The more than 300 Airmen were deployed to Joint Base Balad, Iraq, in support of the 14th Fighter Squadron and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Families gathered on the cold flightline to await the arrival of their loved ones who have been gone for five to six months.
"It's unbelievable and really exciting," said Mindy Robert, while waiting for her husband, Lt. Col. Christian Robert, to return home Feb. 27. "The whole day has kind of been in slow motion. I didn't tell our boys that he was coming home until this morning.
With three boys ages 3 to 7, Mrs. Roberts said the support she received while her husband was deployed really made a difference.
"Without good friends and neighbors we couldn't have done it," she said. "The squadron family has been great.
As part of air and space expeditionary force five/six, deployed Airmen missed multiple holidays with their families, to include Thanksgiving and Christmas. Some Airmen missed more than that. Staff Sgt. Dennis Horlador, 35th Operations Group, missed the birth of his first child.
"It's been hard, but I had family to help, and I know what they're deployed for," said his wife, Ivy. "I'm happy he's coming back though, and I'm excited for him to see her," she said while holding her daughter Natalya.
After stepping off the plane and locating his wife among the hundreds of family members gathered, Sergeant Horlador met his newborn baby girl.
"This is my fourth deployment, but all my other deployments I was single," Sergeant Horlador said. "This is my first one with a family. I was really looking forward to coming home and seeing my baby for the first time. She is so beautiful. I'm so blessed."
Sergeant Horlador wasn't present for the birth of his daughter, but he was on the phone with his wife during it. Just as the phone helped connect Sergeant Horlador and his wife, many families used the phone and e-mail to stay in touch.
"It's tough, but we worked at it," said Capt. Evan Schonour, a pilot with the 14th FS. "By keeping in touch, it went by quicker than we thought."
Thanks to the support the deployed Airmen received back home, they were able to focus and accomplish their mission, according to Lt. Col. Shane Riza, 14th FS commander.
"I want to thank the families and all those we left behind," said Colonel Riza. "They did the hard work, often dealing with the uncertainty of our timeline for return, while we just focused on the mission. For those who choose for it to be, the Air Force life is a team effort of the Air Force member and the family. We appreciate your support."