October 3, 2022

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Delighting home maniacs

Airmen with 148th Fighter Wing return home from deployment – Duluth News Tribune

Airmen with 148th Fighter Wing return home from deployment – Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — Cheers and applause filled the space just outside of a hangar on the Minnesota Air National Guard’s 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth on Wednesday as approximately 175 airmen made their way down the steps of a plane, finally home after a four-month deployment.

People gather to wait for service members

Family members and friends gather at Duluth Air National Guard Base on Wednesday to welcome back approximately 175 service members with the 148th Fighter Wing.

Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

Family members gathered on the airstrip to greet their loved ones right as they disembarked from the plane.

“We’ve been waiting for this day for the last four months to get all of these folks back,” said Wing Commander Col. Chris Blomquist. “And we’re happy that our first wave has made it back safely and successfully and on time after doing great work over in the Middle East.”

People gather to welcome home service members

Family and friends gather and reunite with service members of the Duluth-based 148th Fighter Wing on Wednesday at Duluth Air National Guard Base. Approximately 175 service members returned home after a nearly four-month deployment to Saudi Arabia.

Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

Three people stand on the tarmac as an airplane approaches

A plane containing service members with the 148th Fighter Wing returning home from deployment approaches a stop on the tarmac of Duluth Air National Guard Base on Wednesday.

Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

Those returning were deployed to the 378th Air Expeditionary Wing at the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. There airmen flew a combined total of 4,400 flight hours in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, a combined task force with regional partners to combat the Islamic State group. A small team of F-16s also traveled to Thumrait Air Base in Oman to train with the Royal Air Force of Oman and alongside the Egyptian Air Force in Cairo.

Around 500 airmen, nearly half of base personnel, from the 148th were deployed to 10 countries this year. Deployments ranged from four to six months and all are expected to return in the next week or two.

“Today is one of the best days, having everyone on base and to see them reunited with their family members,” Blomquist said. “They’ve earned leave for the next few weeks, so a lot of them will go back now to their jobs, their families and to college. We’re happy to have them back.”

Family of service member poses and smiles

Family of Tech Sgt. Rob Lucas smile while wearing personalized T-shirts at Duluth Air National Guard Base on Wednesday. From left: parents, Jerry and Glenda Lucas, of Long Prairie, Minn., and his wife, Melissa Lucas, and children, Zander Lucas, 14, and Zoe Lucas, 11, all of Knife River.

Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

Before the airplane arrived, Melissa Lucas waited in matching tie-dyed T-shirts with her mother and father-in-laws and her two children for her husband Rob to return. Rob has served for 27 years with the National Guard and returned from his first deployment.

“We wanted to honor him and make sure we show him that we’re so proud of him,” Melissa said.
She held up a sign that read: “Here are your Waldos!”

Family holds up sign to welcome home service member

David Haugen, left, Holly Haugen, center, and their daughter, Ana Haugen, 14, all of Duluth, hold a sign for Senior Airman Sebastian Haugen ahead of his return from deployment Wednesday with the 148th Fighter Wing at Duluth Air National Guard Base.

Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

“Because I figured for him, looking out into this crowd would be like looking into a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ picture,” she said.

While Rob had been away for four months, Melissa said they’ve been able to talk via Facetime often, but she was “excited to see him in person.”

David Haugen was also excited to see his son, Sebastian, in person after talking through WhatsApp for the past several months while he was deployed to Saudi Arabia.

“We had a couple of video calls, but with the nine-hour time difference, you know, he was asleep while we were awake, so it was tricky getting that organized,” Haugen said.

Service member hugs her mother

Staff Sgt. Mikayla Newman, right, of Calumet, Michigan, hugs her mother, Joy Newman, at Duluth Air National Guard Base on Wednesday after returning home with approximately 175 service members of the 148th Fighter Wing.

Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

Haugen also served in the military where he was deployed twice. “So I kind of know what he went through the last few months,” he said. “You get into a routine with the people you’re with, so it’s a little bit of a transition coming back to normal life, but I’m sure he’s going to be pretty glad to be home with family and friends.”

Service member hugs his wife

Tech Sgt. Logan Shiflett smiles while receiving a hug from his wife, Ashley Shiflett, after returning home with members of the 148th Fighter Wing on Wednesday after a nearly four-month deployment to Saudi Arabia. The Shifletts are from Cromwell.

Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

Veda Witt was also excited to see her boyfriend, Ryan Connor, who has been serving with the National Guard for six and a half years.

“I don’t know how I’m going to contain myself when I see him,” Witt said. “I’m looking forward to all the date nights we have planned. We have a list of what we want to do now that he’s back.”

Heather Albiston also had plans for her son, Jacob Albiston, when he returned. She brought the family dog, Finn, a 6-month-old puppy, to meet him at the base.

“Finn was just 8 weeks old when we dropped Jacob off for deployment,” Heather said. “We got a picture of them together and he’s just this tiny thing. Now he’s so much bigger, so we had to bring him along to meet Jacob again.”

After the reunion, the Albiston family was planning on going to get pizza together at Sammy’s, something they always did when he returned from a long time away.