Kentucky Air Guard welcomes home troops from the Persian Gulf

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A member of the 123rd Airlift Wing gets a welcome-home hug from loved ones Nov. 10, 2012, at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. The Airman was one of 58 Kentucky Guardsmen returning from a four-month deployment to the Persian Gulf. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Story by Maj. Dale Greer, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The 123rd Airlift Wing welcomed home 72 of its members this weekend from a four-month deployment to the Persian Gulf, where the unit supported Operation Enduring Freedom and military missions in Iraq.

Fifty-eight of the Airmen arrived at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base aboard a Kentucky Air Guard C-130 aircraft on Saturday, Nov. 10, while 14 more came home Sunday, Nov. 11.

To see more photos from the homecoming, click here.

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Fellow Airmen welcome home 58 members of the 123rd Airlift Wing on the flight line of the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Nov. 10, 2012. The Guardsmen were returning from a four-month deployment to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

The 123rd has been operating from an undisclosed air base in the Persian Gulf region since early July, flying troops and cargo across the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility, which includes Iraq, Afghanistan and parts of Northern Africa. The returning Airmen mark the second rotation of Kentucky Guardsmen to support the mission this year. An earlier rotation of 21 Kentucky Airmen returned home from the Persian Gulf in September. Some of the Airmen served on two-month tours, while others were deployed for the entire four-month tasking.

The mission was the Kentucky Air Guard’s seventh major deployment to CENTCOM since 2003. Previous deployments sent hundreds of Kentucky Air Guard forces to multiple locations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. In 2007, for example, more than 210 wing members deployed to Afghanistan to airdrop thousands of tons of vital equipment and supplies to forward-deployed troops who were in direct contact with the enemy, navigating some of the most rugged, high-altitude terrain anywhere in the world.

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Maj. Jennifer Helton, a navigator for the 165th Airlift Squadron, fights back tears Nov. 10, 2012, as she hugs her son, Kaiden Helton, next to the flight line of the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. Helton was one of 58 Kentucky Air Guardsmen returning from a four-month deployment to the Persian Gulf region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Nearly 300 Kentucky Air Guardsmen returned to Afghanistan in 2009 for the same mission, transporting 20,000 troops and 6,000 tons of cargo across the theater of operations. Most recently, about 160 Kentucky Airmen broke airlift records when they airdropped or transported an unprecedented amount of cargo and personnel in support of Operation Enduring Freedom while deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, from October 2010 to January 2011.

Since 9/11, more than 15,000 Kentucky National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have mobilized in support of the Global War on Terror.

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