An Ali Airman returns home


by Master Sergeant Russell Petcoff

My bedside clock read 1:27 a.m., but to my mind it was 8:27 a.m. It hadn’t adjusted to the seven-hour time difference between Ali Base, Iraq, and northern Virginia. Since I couldn’t sleep, my mind started composing a blog post on the greeting returning Airmen received the other day.

I arrived at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport the other day. I had just finished a deployment as public affairs superintendent at the 407th Air Expeditionary Group at Ali Base. A few of the returning Airmen were lucky enough to have family members waiting for them. I was one of them. My wife was eagerly waiting for me. Others didn’t have waiting family members. They faced continued air travel that day or the next. Thankfully, their return didn’t go unnoticed.

Greeting each returning Airman were members of Operation Welcome Home-Maryland. Approximately 20 grateful Americans loudly cheered every time the terminal door opened and Airmen exited pushing carts full of baggage. The greeters’ enthusiasm encouraged the tired Airmen, bringing joyful tears to some. The greeters shook hands or fist bumped the Airmen and thanked them for their service. It reminded me of the send off Pease Greeters in Portsmouth, N.H., gave deploying Airmen in January. They sent us on our deployment with well wishes, and an abundance of free phone calls, chocolates and cookies.

To the members of OWH-MD and Pease Greeters, thank you for your dedicated support to deploying and returning Airmen, Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Department of Defense civilians. It’s nice to see some Americans hadn’t forgotten the sacrifices of America’s military in operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.