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115th Fighter Wing returns from Iraq deployment

Technical Sgt. Matthew Stai, an Aircraft Armament Systems Craftsman with the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, Wis., holds his son Ethan after returning home from a two month deployment to Iraq Nov. 12, 2009. The unit deployed approximately 200 members as part of its scheduled Air Expeditionary Force rotation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Dan Richardson)

Technical Sgt. Matthew Stai, an Aircraft Armament Systems Craftsman with the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, Wis., holds his son Ethan after returning home from a two month deployment to Iraq Nov. 12, 2009. The unit deployed approximately 200 members as part of its scheduled Air Expeditionary Force rotation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Dan Richardson)

Gov. Jim Doyle greets members of the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing Nov. 12 as they return to Madison from a two-month deployment to Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Dan Richardson)

Gov. Jim Doyle greets members of the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing Nov. 12 as they return to Madison from a two-month deployment to Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Dan Richardson)

Jared Lenzendorf son of Major James Lenzendorf an F-16 pilot with the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, Wis., holds a sign as he waits patiently for his dad at a reunion ceremony Nov. 12, 2009. The unit deployed approximately 200 members as part of its scheduled Air Expeditionary Force rotation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Dan Richardson)

Jared Lenzendorf son of Major James Lenzendorf an F-16 pilot with the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, Wis., holds a sign as he waits patiently for his dad at a reunion ceremony Nov. 12, 2009. The unit deployed approximately 200 members as part of its scheduled Air Expeditionary Force rotation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Dan Richardson)

Senior Master Sgt. Jarrett Calhoun, an Aircraft Mechanics Supervisor with the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, Wis., holds his wife Sara and daughter Leah after returning home from a two month deployment to Iraq Nov. 12, 2009. The unit deployed approximately 200 members as part of its scheduled Air Expeditionary Force rotation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Dan Richardson)

Senior Master Sgt. Jarrett Calhoun, an Aircraft Mechanics Supervisor with the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, Wis., holds his wife Sara and daughter Leah after returning home from a two month deployment to Iraq Nov. 12, 2009. The unit deployed approximately 200 members as part of its scheduled Air Expeditionary Force rotation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Dan Richardson)

Madison, Wis., -- Members of the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 115th Fighter Wing returned to Madison
Thursday, Nov. 12 following a two-month deployment to Iraq.

A steady stream of smiling faces exited the plane and shook hands with Gov. Jim Doyle, Col. Joe Brandemuehl, commander of the 115th Fighter Wing, Brig. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin, and Brig. Gen. John McCoy, deputy adjutant general for Air.  Most echoed the sentiment uttered by Tech. Sgt. Todd Cottrill.

"It went great," he said moments after exiting the plane. "We did really well -- better than expected."

Lt. Col. Erik Peterson, deployment commander, agreed.

"The mission was 100 percent successful," he said.

The unit deployed approximately 200 members and launched 12 F-16 fighter jets in September as part of its scheduled Air Expeditionary Force rotation. The unit supported ground forces in Iraq with non-traditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions -- essentially helping look for insurgents and roadside bombs -- as well as convoy and troop support.

Peterson thanked each member of the 115th as they left the plane "for their good attitude and great work during the entire deployment."

According to Lt. Col. Chris Rodel, public affairs officer for the 115th Fighter Wing, the deployed aviation package flew 417 missions and tallied 1,625 flying hours during what he termed as a safe, uneventful deployment with no significant actions reported. He noted that the unit's aircraft maintainers kept the fighter jets at a higher rate of readiness than the average in Iraq.

Peterson recently met with Col. Steven Bensend, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 32nd Brigade Combat Team, during their Iraq deployment.

"They're looking forward to coming home, too," he told Gov. Doyle.

Approximately 20 members of the 115th volunteered to stay in Iraq and assist the 132nd Fighter Wing, Iowa Air National Guard, who have taken over the mission. The fighter jets are expected to return sometime in December.

Most of the 115th Fighter Wing maintained day-to-day operations at its Truax Field base in Madison.
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