Defenders return from deployment grateful for the experience

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Michael Matkin
  • 161st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Airmen of the 161st Air Refueling Wing's security forces squadron returned this weekend from a six-month deployment to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel - the follow on mission to Enduring Freedom.

The 17-person team provided security for U.S. and coalition forces, as well as for property and resources. The unit was responsible for base defense via mobile response and patrols, fixed posts, law enforcement and entry control.

Excited family members, friends and fellow Airmen cheered as they greeted the travelers at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

"As a wing, and personally, we are very excited to have them home," said Lt. Col. Denise Sweeney, 161st SFS commander. "These Airmen served with honor and distinction; they demonstrated how exceptional all of the Airmen of the 161st are."

Airman 1st Class Madison Green, security forces apprentice, said coming home and seeing all the welcoming faces was just as exciting for the deployers as it was for them.

"Having our security forces squad at the gate when we got off [the aircraft] was an unreal experience," she added.

She said she was especially excited because she saw her best friend among the well-wishers, who had kept her updated about Green's civilian life throughout the deployment.

"She was supposed to be working today and at the last minute was able to be here," Green said. "It was the support of family and friends like her that kept me going throughout my deployment."

Senior Airman Tianna Perez, security forces journeyman, said, "Having that support system back home helped me to focus on the mission. Knowing everything was being handled at home and knowing I could count on them was really important."

For Green, the deployment was an extension to an already long time away from her civilian life. She just finished Basic Military Training and was in the middle of completing security forces technical school when she was tasked for this deployment. She said it came as a shock, but in the end the deployment was a great capstone to her training, as it taught her invaluable skills that home station would not have been able to match.

"It was a great overall experience," said Perez. "I was able to see firsthand how other units manage the same job. There are always different ways to do things. I was able learn some of those specific things and I will now be able to apply them to my job here."

Perez said the opportunities she had while deployed made her proud to serve and that she was especially proud of what she was able to accomplish there.

"There was a good reason behind what we were doing in [Southwest Asia] and we all found that," said Green.