Andersen AFB Airmen return home after seven-month deployment
on Monday, 12 October 2009

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by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Redente
36th Wing Public Affairs

10/12/2009 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- Fifty-eight Airmen from the 554th RED HORSE Squadron returned home Oct. 10 after a seven-month deployment in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. 

This was the squadron's first deployment outside of U.S. Pacific Command in 35 years to provide mobile civil engineering response to support contingency operations in Southwest Asia.

Among the engineers to return home was Maj. Rob Bartlow, 554th RHS director of operations, who was able to see his family for the first time since the birth of his nine-month-old son, William. 

"We have been apart for almost a year now," Major Bartlow said. "My wife was med-evaced last October. I was with her for a few weeks, and then returned back here to Guam as we prepared and deployed, so it's good to be back." 

Major Bartlow and his fellow Airmen were bussed from the airplane, which landed shortly after noon and taken to Hangar 6 where approximately 150 family members, coworkers and friends including members from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and USO greeted them. 

"It's a little surreal after being gone a little over seven months now, but it's a great feeling to see the family and all the familiar faces back in Guam," the major said. 

Among the crowd of friends and family was Rebecca Soares, wife of Senior Airmen David Soares, 554th RHS pavements and equipment engineer, who waited with their two children. 

"I'm here to finally reunite with my husband after almost eight months," she said. "Last month was our seventh wedding anniversary, so we had to miss [being together]. We have a five year-old who just started kindergarten, so [David] missed that, and we have a three year old who started preschool." 

Mrs. Soares is no rookie when it comes to her husband serving abroad. 

"This was his fourth deployment in six years," she said. "He was actually with the RED HORSE unit he is backfilling for from Montana, which is where we came from." 

The Soares left Montana and arrived on station here in October 2008. Airman Soares returned to Afghanistan for another deployment while Mrs. Soares and their children stayed in Guam. 

"At the beginning, I didn't know anyone," Mrs. Soares said. "We just arrived here in October, and he left in March. The base was supportive, and we were able to participate in the Hearts Apart and meet people. It's kind of nice meeting people who are going through the same thing you are. It's better than just talking to people who can kind of empathize but can't really relate, so that's really helpful because we have other people to talk to, and our kids can play together." 

Airman Soares was among the many Airmen who received hugs and kisses from loved ones after walking off the bus and into the hangar. 

"It's awesome to see everyone come out on a Saturday and to support us coming back, so that we can be back with our families and back with our unit," he said. "It's a really good feeling to see everyone out here. I feel awesome. I'm glad to be back home; glad to have another one down, and glad to be back with my family." 

During their deployment, the 554th RHS went to 17 different sites, and continued work from other RED HORSE squadrons as well as beginning new construction on sites, which had virtually no infrastructures. The purpose of the construction is to make locations into a base similar to Andersen Air Force Base. 

"We were all over ... , between Iraq, Afghanistan, Qatar and other places," Airman Soares said, who was assigned to a unit building up sites in Afghanistan. "We did a lot of concrete work, moving a lot of materials, dealing a lot with different buildings and building up infrastructure. It was a really good deployment, and we were able to accomplish a great deal while we were there." 

After the Airmen complete their in-processing, they will be allowed time to rest and spend time with their families. Once they return to work, the Airmen will reintegrate with their unit and continue the buildup at the Pacific Air Forces Regional Training Center.

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Last update: Monday, 12 October 2009

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