02/10/05 — Cheers erupt as airmen arrive on base

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Cheers erupt as airmen arrive on base

By Turner Walston
Published in News on February 10, 2005 2:29 PM

Hundreds of family members and friends erupted in cheers as four buses carrying about 300 airmen arrived at the community center at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base on Wednesday.

The airmen of the 4th Fighter Wing arrived home shortly before noon from southwest Asia, where they had been deployed for several months in support of the war on terror and Operation Iraqi Freedom. A detachment of about a dozen F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jets that was part of the deployment was scheduled to arrive at the base today. The airmen's stay overseas had been extended to support the recent Iraqi elections.

Welcome home

Bobby Williams photo

Airman 1st Class Matthew Ayers gets a kiss from his wife, Judy, and a hug from his daughters Madison, 4, and Layla, 15 months, upon arriving at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base on Wednesday.

Col. Donald Jurewicz, the vice commander of the 4th Fighter Wing, was among the first officers to greet the returning group.

"It's all about saying 'Thank you,' " said Col. Jurewicz. "They go overseas, we tell them it's going to be 120 days, and all of a sudden it's 150. They go over there smiling, they come back smiling. They do the work our nation asks for."

"It feels great to be home," said F-15E Strike Eagle pilot 1st Lt. Lane Odom, 27. "It looks really strange after being in the desert for so long, but it feels really good." Odom said he couldn't wait to "get some fast food and relaxation, and go on a walk with my wife."

Master Sgt. Daniel Skidmore, 37, hugged his wife, Bobbie, and his 14-year-old son, Blake.

Skidmore said he wanted some time to "sit down, play with my dogs, laugh, and enjoy each other's company."

His son said that his father's return meant life could return to normal.

"It feels normal right now," he said.

Staff Sgt. Lamar Blount, 25, came home to his wife, Willatina, and daughters Brianna and Tianna.

"It feels great to be home. I don't really have any words to explain it." Blount said. "Now I want a shower and something to eat."

Master Sgt. Captain Jeremy Albright, a weapons system operator, has three children. Youngest daughter Jessica was born just a month before Albright was deployed. He held her in his arms as he spoke of seeing his children again.

"Just to be able to hold on to them and love them, and doing that in a free country is pretty awesome," he said.

Among the returnees were some pilots and weapons systems officers, maintenance crews, security force members and civil engineers.

While the Seymour Johnson will continue to provide some units for overseas duty, officials said, no large group of airmen from the base is expected to be deployed for the next several months.