Welcome Home ceremony Saturday Feb. 5 for 27 Airmen from Delaware Air Guard's civil engineer squadron after six months' duty in four nations in Southwest Asia

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Delaware National Guard and 166th Airlift Wing leadership will host a Welcome Home ceremony Saturday afternoon for 27 Airmen of the Delaware Air National Guard's 166th Civil Engineer Squadron, and their families, to recognize the Airmen after they completed a six-month-long mission to Southwest Asia.

The Welcome Home ceremony is 2:00 p.m. Saturday Feb. 5. Several dozen family members and friends, plus civilian dignitaries and other invited guests will attend, but the event is not open to the public. News media are invited, but are asked to call ahead, and to arrive no later than 1:30 p.m. The event will be held inside the new aircraft maintenance hangar on base, 2600 Spruance Drive, New Castle, DE 19720. Media should enter the base from Commons Boulevard and follow the signs for "Delaware Air National Guard."

The Delaware Air Guard Airmen worked inside Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, and supported Operations New Dawn and Enduring Freedom. They helped make up numerous work sections of four different expeditionary civil engineer squadrons at four bases in Southwest Asia combat zones. Sixteen unit Airmen worked in Kuwait, three Airmen worked in Afghanistan, and other nine Airmen worked inside Iraq and at an air base in another nation in Southwest Asia.

The 27 returning Airmen are residents of Del. (21 Airmen), Pa. (five Airmen), and Md. (one Airman).

Individual hometowns of the returning Airmen, by state and city:

UPSTATE DELAWARE (15 total): Newark, 19701 (two); Newark, 19702 (two); Middletown, 19709 (three); New Castle, 19720; Townsend, 19734; Wilmington, 19804; Wilmington, 19804 (two); Wilmington, 19805; Wilmington, 19808; Wilmington, 19810.

DOWNSTATE DELAWARE (six total): Dover, 19904; Hartly, 19953; Millsboro, 19966 (two); Smyrna, 19977 (two)
MARYLAND (one total): Elkton, 21921

PENNSYLVANIA (five total): Dover, 17315; Palmerton, 18071; Hatboro, 19040; Philadelphia, 19142; West Chester, 19382.

Five Airmen are unable to attend, one each from the hometowns of Smyrna, Del.; Millsboro, Del.; Hartley, Del.; Hatboro, Pa.; and Palmerton, Pa.

An additional four civil engineer Airman who departed Delaware later in 2010 are still serving overseas, and will return home in a few months after completing their missions. Those four Airmen reside in Middletown, Del., West Grove, Pa., Sewell, N.J., and Annapolis, Md.

These 27 Airmen completed the largest and longest deployment of civil engineers in the history of the Delaware ANG's 166th Civil Engineer Squadron in peacetime or in wartime. A cycle of several deployments began in June for the squadron, with the last group of Airmen leaving New Castle, Delaware the later part of July.

A dozen Airmen returned home the second half of December. The remainder returned home in January, the last Airman coming home late last week. All Airmen arrived home coming through Baltimore-Washington Airport.

The Airmen worked in various civil engineer jobs as they witnessed the end of the coalition combat mission in Iraq as Operation Iraqi Freedom transitioned to Operation New Dawn on Sept. 1, 2010, with a few Airmen remaining in Iraq as others were moved to other air bases in the region.

"Our deployed civil engineers have completed their most demanding assignment since Operation Enduring Freedom began in 2001. They have operated for six months in four nations and applied their professional skills to a wide range of required construction, maintenance and other mission support tasks," said 166th Airlift Wing Commander Col. Jonathan H. Groff. "All-in-all they had a great deployment, but of course are happy to be home again with their loved ones."

The Delaware Airmen performed skilled trades work as electricians, plumbers, HVAC specialists, heavy equipment operators, engineer assistants, and specialists in structures, emergency management, fire protection, explosive ordnance disposal and force protection. Some Airmen were required to perform a different job than their primary Air Force job.

This is the third time the 166th Civil Engineer Squadron has been deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, but only the first time the unit has been federally mobilized. On the two previous deployments, unit members served on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, then inside Kuwait.

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