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219th RED HORSE Squadron returns home

Family members and friends wait in a hangar at Holman Aviation at the Great Falls International Airport for the arrival of the airliner carrying members of the 219th RED HORSE Squadron home from a Southwest Asia deployment May 7, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

Family members and friends wait in a hangar at Holman Aviation at the Great Falls International Airport for the arrival of the airliner carrying members of the 219th RED HORSE Squadron home from a Southwest Asia deployment May 7, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

Montana Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Matthew Quinn greets 219th RED HORSE Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Rusty Vaira as he steps off of the airliner that carried him and members of the 219th RHS home from their deployment to Southwest Asia, May 7, 2016. A reception of family members and friends gathered in a hangar at Holman Aviation at the Great Falls International Airport to greet the returning Airmen. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

Montana Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Matthew Quinn greets 219th RED HORSE Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Rusty Vaira as he steps off of the airliner that carried him and members of the 219th RHS home from their deployment to Southwest Asia, May 7, 2016. A reception of family members and friends gathered in a hangar at Holman Aviation at the Great Falls International Airport to greet the returning Airmen. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

219th RED HORSE Squadron member Chief Master Sgt. Scott Fink greets a family member upon his return from his deployment to Southwest Asia. The returning Airmen were met by a reception of family members and friends in a hangar at Holman Aviation at the Great Falls International Airport May 7, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior
Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

219th RED HORSE Squadron member Chief Master Sgt. Scott Fink greets a family member upon his return from his deployment to Southwest Asia. The returning Airmen were met by a reception of family members and friends in a hangar at Holman Aviation at the Great Falls International Airport May 7, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

120th Airlift Wing Senior Master Sgt. Heather Kelley is welcomed home from her deployment to Southwest Asia by family members (left to right) son, Jacob, husband Chief Master Sgt. Randy Kelley, and son Luke. The returning Airmen were met by a reception of family members and friends in a hangar at Holman Aviation at the Great Falls International Airport May 7, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

120th Airlift Wing Senior Master Sgt. Heather Kelley is welcomed home from her deployment to Southwest Asia by family members (left to right) son, Jacob, husband Chief Master Sgt. Randy Kelley, and son Luke. The returning Airmen were met by a reception of family members and friends in a hangar at Holman Aviation at the Great Falls International Airport May 7, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- Eighty members of the 219th RED HORSE Squadron of the Montana Air National Guard returned after completing a seven month deployment to Southwest Asia May 7.

MTANG leadership joined a large group of family members and friends gathered together in a Holman Aviation hangar to welcome the returning Airmen back home to Montana.

The late evening arrival of a chartered 747 aircraft marked the end of a 28 hour trip home for the 219th RHS personnel. The aircraft had made one stop in New York to deliver another military unit home.

Loud cheers erupted from members in the reception party as the aircraft wheels touched down on the runway at Great Falls International Airport.

"When our plane landed the whole group (of Airmen) broke out into applause, it was nice to be home," said 219th RED HORSE Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Rusty Vaira. "It was just a feeling of excitement, kind of a load off our shoulders to be home finally."

Vaira led a combined group of three RED HORSE organizations during the deployment. He said many members faced personal challenges during the long separation from their family and civilian employment.

"Our unit from the Montana Air National Guard combined with units from New Mexico and Guam to form a full team," Vaira said. "By putting those teams together there were dynamics and cultural differences and expectations in bringing those together, and to see how they dealt with families as well was very interesting."

Vaira said the deployed heavy construction unit worked on projects at 10 locations in seven different countries located throughout the area of operations. The construction specialists completed a variety of jobs that included runway and airfield apron parking repairs to building roads and full-sized facilities.

"We encapsulate everything that has to do with construction," Vaira said. "We were essentially the theatre of operations engineering force of choice to get work done while we were deployed."

219th RHS member Tech. Sgt. Jason White participated in four deployments during his time as a member of the unit. He said the most memorable experience of his recent trip was being able to make new friends and watch Airmen from the three deployed units show pride in ownership of the projects they completed.      

"It was amazing, they're great people and they work hard," White said. "It was just a great experience and I'd love to go do it again."

White said now that he has returned home he is looking forward to spending quality time with his wife and daughter.

"We have a tradition to go camping every Father's Day," White said.

"Our first camper we bought was the day before Father's Day, so just being able to get out in the middle of nowhere and enjoy free time with them."

Vaira said he appreciated the support that families and civilian employers provided to the guardsmen during their long deployment.

"I have the best job in the Air Force, being able to command such an outstanding organization," Vaira said. "We did great work, we supported the whole battle effort, and we were able to do it safely, effectively, efficiently and brought everyone home without any serious incidents."
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