Air Force News

Liberty Wing celebrates homecoming

Released: 7 Jul 1999

by Tech. Sgt. Ann Bennett
Air Force Print News

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- Amid a festive atmosphere on the flightline here of people cheering and waving miniature American flags, balloons swaying and patriotic music blaring, the Liberty Wing celebrated a homecoming.

Family and friends joined co-workers, supervisors, first sergeants and other senior base leaders in welcoming home members of the 48th Fighter Wing who were deployed to Aviano and Cervia air bases in Italy, and to Turkey in support of Operation Allied Force.

With the decision to start redeploying U.S. forces, about 500 people and 44 F-15 aircraft arrived here July 1 to 4, and included about 60 members of the 48th Medical Group who were deployed to Turkey.

According to base officials, most of the wing's deployed population will return home during the next two weeks, which will make this the first time since November that almost everyone will be home.

During the last few months, the Liberty Wing members accomplished several firsts. The first time a wing conducted combat operations simultaneously from three locations (home, Aviano and Cervia). The first combat use ever of AGM-130 (first used by the wing in Operation Northern Watch and then multiple uses in Operation Allied Force), and first use of the GBU-28, 5,000 pound "bunker-buster" bomb (both munitions can only be employed by the F-15E). Also, the wing's F-15C's scored the first shootdown of the operation, for a total of four MiG kills.

Despite the historical firsts while separated, Chief Master Sgt. Floyd Madrid, wing command chief master sergeant, said it's good to have them home. He said, "we're happy they're coming home because now we get our leading edge team back" and they could continue their mission from one location.

In welcoming the members back home, base leaders expressed the importance of everyone's contribution to the Operation Allied Force victory -- a victory of good over evil.

And part of that good over evil, said Col. Carl Van Pelt, 48th FW commander, is the great sacrifices of loved ones that stayed behind here.

He called for everyone to take the time to recognize the family members for their tremendous sacrifice.

"They truly, by their support of the military members, have enabled this great victory today that we celebrate of good over evil. We thank you," he said.

To the members as he welcomed them back, Van Pelt said, "the days and hours you've missed with your loved ones won't ever be recaptured, and (so) we need to remember the glorious moments of reunions are great things."

Qiana Gardner, wife of Senior Airman Bradford Gardner, said she's relieved and overjoyed that her husband is back. The mother of a 16-month-old baby said it was tough while he was gone, because not only did the car break down, but she also had to put together a lawnmower, since they didn't have one, to mow the lawn. She said what was even more upsetting, though, was that their baby started walking and "he wasn't here to see it."

Another wife who was happy to have her husband back was Dana Ferry who said that even though she was worried about her husband, she felt deep down that he would be safe because of the training he's been through.

Her husband, Lt. Col. Ebby Ferry of the 494th Fighter Squadron, echoed other returnees' comments when he said that it's great to be home. He was gone for about 40 days this time, which was his second deployment to Aviano.

As for their mission there, Ferry said, "I don't think that's something any of us wanted to do, but I think we all believed in the cause. If it wasn't for what we did, those people would not be returning home today."

He also thanked God for taking care of his family while he was gone.


* F-15E Strike Eagle
* Aviano Air Base, Italy
* Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England