MADISON, Wis. --
Approximately 270 Airmen from the Madison-based 115th Fighter Wing returned to Truax Field Nov. 8 after a three-month deployment to Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea.
Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, Wisconsin's adjutant general, Col. Erik Peterson, 115th Fighter Wing Commander, and senior Wisconsin Air National Guard leaders welcomed home the Airmen at a ceremony at Truax.
"Airmen of the 176th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, from the moment you arrived at Kunsan Air Base, your outstanding performance, attitude, and effort resulted in immediate positive impacts," said 115th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Erik Peterson. "Our experienced cadre of pilots immediately set to work instructing numerous inexperienced active component pilots and reducing a tremendous backlog of upgrades both at Kunsan and Osan air bases, while our maintainers similarly demonstrated their experience while improving maintenance processes and repairs."
The 115th Fighter Wing deployed to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to help maintain a deterrent against threats to regional security and stability. Movement of U.S. Air Force Theater Security Packages into the region has been a routine and integral part of the U.S. Pacific Command's force posture since March 2004.
"It feels great to return home to my family, and I'm excited to get back to work at my civilian job," said Staff Sgt. Brett Gerritsen, an ordnance equipment mechanic with the 115th and a City of Waupun police officer. "I went to Korea knowing the tension between the U.S. and the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea), and prepared mentally and physically to do my job.”
"I thought the mission was an overall success," Gerritsen said. "Our unit quickly acclimated to the situation. Within two weeks of arriving, we were fully engaged in a very intense exercise and keeping up with our active duty counterparts."
Lt. Col. Bart Van Roo, who commanded the deployed Airmen, said the deployment was a rewarding experience.
"I thought this was a unique one just because of the heightened tensions in the region," Van Roo said to a Channel 3000 reporter at the homecoming ceremony. "Talking to my own family, and they are used to us going on combat deployments, but I think the tension was a little different dynamic."
Dunbar spoke of the 'Total Force Concept' that provides great value to the defense of this country.
"The men and women who designed that concept had exactly what you just did in mind. Taking the experience, skills and the diligence and dedication of the 115th, and bringing that to a unit that is younger but on the frontlines of our mission, falling in on them and making yourself part of the 8th FW and standing on point. Absolutely outstanding job, I couldn't be prouder of the job you just accomplished," said Dunbar.
The 115th Fighter Wing mission is to support the President of the United States and Governor of Wisconsin with a premier fighter and mission support force, that provides superior and reliable personnel, equipment and facilities to support our community, state and federal missions. 115th Fighter Wing - "Dedicated to Excellence."
"Whether in Wisconsin, somewhere within the United States or half-way across the world in South Korea, I know that you can count on the Airmen of the 115th Fighter to do an outstanding job and continue to show the world that we are a premier fighter wing with outstanding Airmen who are trained, ready and dedicated," said Peterson.
“It's the greatest feeling ever to be back, even if it hasn't fully sunk in yet that I'm home,” said Staff Sgt. Tyler Gates, a 115th FW crew chief, who was recently inducted into the NCO corps while deployed by his father, Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Gates, a 115th FW maintenance supervisor. “It was a blessing having my father's guidance on the trip since this was my first deployment, and he helped make me feel a little more comfortable while deployed. On this deployment it was interesting to see first-hand how the active duty operates because my shop fully integrated into their maintenance squadron.”
During the ceremony, Peterson also took the opportunity to recognize members of the 115th Fighter Wing who provided critical support during our nation's hurricane response efforts in Texas, Florida, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. The 115th Fighter Wing's RC-26 pilots provided incident awareness and assessment in both Texas and Puerto Rico, identifying critical infrastructure needs, while airfield managers coordinated flight operations throughout the disaster region. In addition, the unit's Joint Incident Site Communications Capability, or JISSC, team deployed to Puerto Rico to provide critical communications support to the Federal Aviation Administration, alongside the 115th's Disaster Relief Mobile Kitchen Trailer, which provided meals to civilians, military and other first responders assisting with relief efforts there.