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Families, friends welcome Airmen home

A family greets its 115th Fighter Wing Airman upon arrival in Hangar 406 in Madison, Wis., April 19, 2015. More than 250 Airmen were welcomed home by family, friends and the community. The Airmen were deployed for four months to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, in support of the Pacific Command Theater Security Package. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Andrea F. Rhode)

A family greets its 115th Fighter Wing Airman upon arrival in Hangar 406 in Madison, Wis., April 19, 2015. More than 250 Airmen were welcomed home by family, friends and the community. The Airmen were deployed for four months to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, in support of the Pacific Command Theater Security Package. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Andrea F. Rhode)

MADISON, Wis. -- Airmen from the 115th Fighter Wing returned home from their deployment to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan yesterday.

More than 250 Airmen were welcomed home during the ceremony in Hangar 406 on base.

"Welcome home and thank you for your service," said Col. Jeffrey Wiegand, 115 FW commander. "It is great to have you back. As I said when you left, it's an honor to be on this stage looking at this group of impressive Airmen, families and friends supporting our Airmen, and the community serving and supporting our Airmen."

There were several key leaders on stage who addressed the Airmen during their welcome-home ceremony. Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, lieutenant governor of the state of Wisconsin, was one of them.

It was humbling to be the first person to shake the hands of Airmen who have given so much, shown so much bravery, courage in the face of inexplicable challenges and say what so many have all been wanting to say for so long, 'welcome home, 115th, welcome home,' Kleefisch said.

She took an opportunity prior to the ceremony to meet and greet several family members in attendance, learning all about their personal experiences and excitement for their loved ones to come home. During a portion of the ceremony, she addressed the Airmen.

"We are so glad for all these stories of wander and return, these stories of fulfilling the great mission of the United States, making Wisconsin so incredibly proud and making your families' hearts swell as you walked down those stairs into their open arms." Kleefisch said. "Know that Wisconsin has open arms for you as well."

According to Wiegand, this deployment gave the 115 FW a chance to test its abilities.

"This was a challenging deployment, but what defines an organization and its individuals is how we overcome adversity and challenges, and we will continue to overcome challenges as we focus our efforts, and focus on the future," Wiegand said.

This was the first time an Air National Guard fighter wing was tasked with a 12-ship deployment, a full aviation package to go overseas without support from other ANG fighter wings, he said.

"We've proven ourselves to be an operational force," Wiegand said. "While they were gone, we had to continue to execute our alert mission in support of homeland defense. Not only did we meet our combatant commander requirements at the deployed location, but we continued executing our numerous state and federal missions and maintained our readiness. For that, I am very proud."

Wiegand concluded his speech by pointing out the most valuable players.

"The MVP of the fighter wing is our family, our friends and our community," he said. "We would not have our success without their support."
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