September 18, 2007

203rd Red Horse celebrates successful deployment, family day

By Lt. Col. Deb Magaldi
Virginia Air Guard Public Affairs

A sign welcomes home members of the 203rd Red Horse Squadron May 13 at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – On July 14, the 203rd Red Horse Squadron, dignitaries, family members and friends celebrated the successful deployment and return home of the more than 125 unit members that had been serving at locations across Southwest Asia. Unit members deployed in October 2006 and returned May 13, 2007 (Mother’s Day) after serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, and Qatar in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The day kicked off with a welcome home ceremony, attended by Virginia National Guard leadership, local and Commonwealth representatives and a large number of family members and former unit members – all eager to formally welcome the unit home and congratulate its members on a “job well done.”

Addressing his unit, distinguished guests and the many family members, 203rd commander, Lt. Col. Paul Julian, said, “We are gathered today to welcome home and recognize our Airmen that have recently returned from service in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. ...these outstanding Airmen contributed to the Global War on Terror by constructing buildings, roadways, and utilities; they established bare base camps; paved airfields; installed barriers; and shipped more than 1.3 million pounds of material and equipment. I would like to express my sincere appreciation and thanks for their service and a job well done.”

“These Airmen could not have accomplished their tasks,” he continued, “if things on the home front were not stable. I would also like to express my utmost appreciation to the families and friends that supported these Airmen during this deployment.”

An Airman with the 203rd Red Horse Squadron returns home May 13 after the unit's deployment to Southwest Asia. They Airman served at several locations across Southwest Asia in direct support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“Since 1607, Virginians have answered the call to defend and protect the Commonwealth and the Nation. As noted in a popular country song by Toby Keith: Freedom is not free. I applaud each Airman for taking a stand as so many before you have done to defend our Nation. … Each of you should be proud that you now belong to that elite fraternity of patriots who have born the price of defending this great Nation.”

Maj. Gen. Robert Newman, the Adjutant General of Virginia, added to the accolades, saying, “Thank you for the gift of service you have given to Virginia and our Nation. Take pride in your accomplishments; you are among the more than 7,500 Soldiers and Airmen in the Virginia National Guard that have served …during the Global War on Terror. You have my very best wishes from a grateful National Guard and Nation.”

Brig. Gen. William Busby, Virginia’s Assistant Adjutant General for Air, commended the HORSEMEN for the great job they did, and for the backing and encouragement provided by family members, noting, “Our men and women couldn’t do their jobs without the support of their families. You are awesome!”

“… The work the 203d did with international and coalition forces – and your nation building efforts – will last long into the future,” he continued.

“I encourage you to keep training on all that you learned leading up to and during this deployment. With the deployment behind you, it is easy to let training slip. But now is the time to reinvigorate your training to keep that knowledge and those skills fresh. Pass what you’ve learned on to your newest members. It is easy to lose it much of that after coming home. But now is the best time to start preparing for the future.”

Delegate John A. Cosgrove, representative for Virginia’s 78th District and a former Navy officer commended the service, commitment and accomplishments of the 203rd. “What you do is so critically important. Without the logistics you so capably provide, we couldn’t do what we do.”

A member of the 203rd Red Horse Squadron is welcomed by family and friends May 13 after his unit's deployment to Southwest Asia.

On behalf of Virginia Beach, Mayor Meyera Oberndorf thanked the unit for all of its efforts – at home and abroad. She described the unit – and its home at the State Military Reservation – as one of the most valuable neighborhoods in the city. “The training and work that goes on here, and the sacrifices that you make – allow us to live the lives we enjoy.”

Senior Air Force Association representatives then took to the stage to present a certificate of appreciation to the unit, and the AFA Noncommissioned Officer of the Year award to the 203d’s Staff Sgt. Terence Sheridan. Then to Oberndorf, they presented a certificate of appreciation and an AFA coin for her continued support of the military.

Representing the many unit members who will receive commendations for their outstanding work during the deployment, one officer and one enlisted member were recognized during the ceremony.  Representing the enlisted force, Senior Airman Forrest Leach was called front-and-center to receive the Air Force Commendation Medal for his outstanding achievements while assigned to the 557th Expeditionary Red Horse Squadron.

Representing the officer corps, Lt. Col. Peter Garner received the Bronze Star for meritorious achievement as detachment commander of the 557th Expeditionary Red Horse Squadron.

After the ceremony unit members, guests and family members headed toward the beach and an afternoon of food, festivities and fun in the sun.

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