Thursday was a happy day for some 140 members of the 445th Airlift Wing and their families.
Arriving home in a quartet of C-17 Globemaster cargo planes, the Airmen returned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base from more than two months of deployment at an undisclosed location.
At Wright-Patt, families and friends congregated at the Major LeRoy W. Homer, Jr. operations center to welcome them home.
The last time Columbus-area resident Denis Cesarz saw his son — also named Denis Cesarz — was late October, when the younger Cezarz deployed.
The time apart was difficult.
“You’re always worried about it,” the older Cesarz said. “You felt safe. They were at a big base. You felt safe when they were on the base, but they had some interesting missions to fly.”
Master Sgt. Keric Johnson, a 445th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron member who deployed, was all too happy to be home.
“It was a great experience,” Johnson said. “It was the first time we deployed so many people with … four jets.”
445th Airlift Wing representatives declined to say where the members deployed and what their precise work was. But it’s no secret that with a fleet of nine C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, the 445th specializes in the transport of people and equipment.
And the wing has publicly acknowledged that one of its C-17 Globemaster IIIs transported supplies destined for Gaza in late November.
Readers may recall that Hamas militants launched a massive attack against Israel on Oct. 7, sparking a new war. In late October, the 445th, an Air Force Reserve unit, prepared and deployed about 140 people in under 63 hours.
The U.S. Agency for International Development has relied on Air Force airlift capabilities to transport humanitarian aid across the Middle East, the wing has also said.
In his first two weeks on deployment, Johnson said he worked 14-hour to 17-hour days. He estimated that he had perhaps four days off in two months.
Asked what it was like to be back, Johnson had one word: “Cold.”
“We rocked it,” he said. “We had a bunch of DVs (distinguished visitors) that we hauled around, and a lot of missions that we did. We had a lot of missions, a lot of cargo that we hauled out. All of our guys meshed well. No problems whatsoever. It was really a great experience.”
The wing has been one of the most active Air Force Reserve Command C-17 wings, flying more missions in fiscal year 2022 than any other Air Force Reserve Command unit equipped with C-17s, the wing said last year.
The 89th Airlift Squadron flew 1,340 sorties for a total of approximately 4,400 flying hours, consisting of 172 missions in fiscal 2022. The wing also transported 6,883 passengers and delivered more than 19.9 million pounds of cargo in that time, the organization has said.
The 445th was activated at Wright-Patterson in 1994 when two former units combined: the 906th Fighter Group from Wright-Patterson and the 907th Tactical Airlift Group from Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, which were deactivated Sept. 30, 1994.
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