151st ARW Airmen return home from Turkey

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Lillian Chatwin
  • 151 ARW/PA
More than 100 Airmen from the 151st Air Refueling Wing, Utah Air National Guard, returned to Utah May 2 to 4 after being deployed to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. 

The deployed Airmen provided critical air refueling operations to U.S. cargo aircraft in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. 

"The mission there was really about supplying the airlifters with enough fuel so they could fly into theater and not have to tank up on the ground," said Col. Darwin L. Craig, commander of the 151st Operations Group. "Expediency was necessary in getting the jets and cargo in and out of theater because less time on the ground meant less exposure to enemy threats. It also kept the risk from overland transportation low so truck convoys wouldn't have to bring in as much fuel. This also meant less convoys were getting blown up by roadside bombs." 

The 151st ARW initially deployed over 150 members to Turkey during the last week of February, later swapping personnel out on a standard rotation schedule. The unit deployed a total of more than 260 personnel and three KC-135 air refueling tanker aircraft during the 60-day period. With all this activity, wing members experienced a very high operations tempo. 

"It was busier than a normal deployment." said Capt. Kelly K. Harrison, a returning pilot with the 191st Air Refueling Squadron "We flew more sorties than normal in support of the cargo ops downrange." 

Tech. Sgt. Keith J. Campbell, a returning boom operator with the 191st ARS, agreed and said, "The optempo was such that we had no free time. We'd land and stay on the ground just long enough for crew rest, and then take right back off again." 

The commander explained their typical daily schedule, which included a lot of working hours. 

"We typically flew eight to 12 sorties a day," said Colonel Craig. "Deployed personnel would work up to 16 hours a day."

Although the operations tempo was high, Colonel Craig expressed pride in the group's overall attitude. 

"Attitudes were great," he explained. The morale was high because people were busy and they took a lot of pride in what they were doing. Everybody worked hard and I thought we did great." This was the first deployment for several wing members, and overall, it appeared to be an educational experience. 

"It was a good experience to meet new people on the base and to work with active duty Air Force and other people we don't normally work with," said Tech. Sgt. Melinda D. Hilber, a network infrastructure systems technician with the 151st Communications Flight. 

Airman 1st Class Nichole M. Cornell, a maintenance technician with the 151st Maintenance Squadron, also returned from her first deployment. She was greeted on the flightline by her boyfriend Jason M. Camilleri, her mother Master Sgt. Joanie A. Cornell, the administrative assistant to the wing commander, and her five-year-old son Aiden who held a sign that read, "Welcome home Mommy. We missed your guts." 

"It was difficult being away from my boys," she said after hugging her family. "We kept busy though, and time went by pretty fast. It was worth it." 

Her boyfriend Camilleri explained that during Airman Cornell's 30-day deployment he shared in the responsibility of caring for Aiden along with Aiden's grandmother, Sergeant Cornell. He said he spent a lot of man hours together with Aiden, and that it's been rough without her. 

Sergeant Cornell said she was excited her daughter got to be included in the deployment. 

"I think it is a good experience for her as an individual and as a military member," she said. "A lot of people don't get the opportunity to go overseas and experience different cultures, so it's great that she got to do it."