MANSFIELD, Ohio - Families and friends of 32 Ohio Air National Guard Members gathered on their home base, eager to welcome the group home following a nine-month rotation in Afghanistan.
Those returning on Monday represent the final group in the nine-month rotation, during which they were the first to use their plane, the C-27J to deliver cargo and personnel throughout the region.
Their mission was also a first for the Air National Guard to take airplanes over there for that long while other units around the country have been getting the same planes and getting familiar with them according to Col. Gary McCue, the 179th Airlift Wing Commander.
"Logistics is put out there as one of the most difficult parts of warfare combat, because without the beans and bullets, so to speak, at the front lines nothing's going to happen," said Col. McCue of their mission. "The best tactics in the world cannot be realized unless you have all the equipment necessary and this (airplane), these crews bring that to the forefront," he added.
For all of the support the 179th Airlift Wing provides for the U.S. service men and women still in Afghanistan, however, Col. McCue points out that they cannot do their jobs as well without the support of their families and communities from back at home.
And among those there to welcome them home were proud relatives like Desiree Windsor, eager to greet her husband, Tech Sgt. Brad Windsor who had been overseas since January.
"He's a wonderful husband, wonderful father, we have missed him a lot. I know the kids are so excited, can't wait for them to come back to do activities and soccer and baseball and t-ball," said Windsor.
Also there to greet her husband, Capt. Matt Dudley, was his wife, Jennifer, and their three children.
Their 18-month-old daughter, Elizabeth, learned to walk while her father was away, and their son Ben needs his father to fix a broken matchbox truck.
"Coming home is great, it's fantastic," said Jennifer. "We've really missed him, they have changed so much."
As the 32 members of the 179th Airlift Wing got off their plane in Mansfield, their families rushed the airbase, wrapping their arms around each other in tight, lingering hugs.
"This is the most important part," said their commander. "The families, the significant others all of those folks who are here today represent the backbone, if you will, the foundation of what we do. A lot of the folks in this area have been over there many, many times and they couldn't do it without the support of their family and their community."