Michigan Air Guard returns from Iraq deployment

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Approximately 250 members of the Michigan Air National Guard returned home in March after supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom at Balad Air Base, Iraq.

About 40 of the Airmen and 12 F-16 Fighting Falcons returned home March 2, while the rest of the group returned here March 5 to frigid temperatures at the base just north of Detroit.

The Airmen of the 107th Operations Group, 107th Fighter Squadron and the 127th Maintenance Group return from Air Expeditionary Force 5 and 6 where they served about 45 days with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Iraq's largest and busiest air base 40 miles north of Baghdad.

The 332nd AEW has ancestral lineage to the former 332nd Fighter Group's Tuskegee Airmen of World War II who received gunnery training at Selfridge Air National Guard Base.

"We are proud of the 90 years of military aviation heritage that hails from Selfridge and we are honored to be able to include ourselves in the rich history that continues today under the 332nd designation while we served in Iraq," said Brig. Gen. Michael Peplinski, the 127th Wing commander.

While deployed, the 107th FS aircrews flew combat missions including close-air support to coalition ground forces in the decisive battle of An Najaf Jan.28 that contributed to the more than 200 enemy insurgents killed and 100 gunmen captured.

Friends and family members anxiously awaited the return of the Airmen in the base's Joint Dining Facility.

The 127th Wing Airmen will attend return and reintegration briefings sponsored by the unit's Family Readiness Group. These briefings serve to outprocess them from the deployment and give information and resources to aid in the adjustment back to civilian life.

"I am also proud of the service and support our Airmen provided to U.S. and Iraqi ground forces during their tour of duty," General Peplinski said. "They were able to focus on the tasked combat operations despite the numerous challenges presented by the impending (Base Realignment and Closure)-directed conversion to the A-10 (Thunderbolt II) and mission."

According to the 2005 BRAC decisions, the 127th Wing will retire its F-16s and convert to the A-10 sometime in the next few years. Even with this large group returning to Michigan, the 127th Wing continues to have about 100 Airmen deployed in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom and about 20 Airmen supporting Operation Jump Start in the Southwest United States.