14 return from Iraq

  • Published
  • By Airman First Class Patrick Cabellon
  • 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Reservists from the 446th Civil Engineer Squadron and 446th Logistics Readiness Flight returned to their families waiting arms at SeaTac International Airport on April 10, after a six-month deployment to Iraq. 

On Sept. 11, 2007, the 14 Reservists left for Fort McCoy, Wis. to receive four weeks of combat skills training. They joined forces with the 200-member 819th Red Horse Squadron from Malmstrom AFB, Mont., and Reservists from Barksdale, La.
The combined active-duty and Reserve CE unit dispersed throughout Iraq when they arrived in country. 

Constructing buildings and facilities, as well as fixing older ones, was their task. 

"My team and I, along with some Army engineer guys, constructed a tactical operations center at Combat Outpost Salie (Iraq) within 15 days. That is pretty quick," said Senior Airman Paul Ford, 446th CES. "I also assisted in the construction of a 2,500 square-foot recreation facility in Forward Operating Base Hammer (Iraq). 

Capt. Andy Lafrazia, 446th CES, deployed officer in charge, and Senior Master Sgt. Chris Webster, 446th CES, both were sent to Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. 

While there, they aided with the construction of K-SPANs, easily constructed and sturdy buildings, for the Marines. 

Reservists gained knowledge and experience from their deployment. 

Sergeant Webster gained supervisory and managerial skills and also some insight about how we are helping the Iraqi people, he said. 

"We are helping the Iraqi common folk, and they are finally beginning to understanding that we are there to help," said Sergeant Webster. 

They also gained some appreciation for the mild climate in Washington.
The weather in Iraq fluctuated from 20 degrees to 35 degrees in the mornings, and 70 degrees to 90 degrees throughout the afternoon. 

"It actually snowed one day," said Airman Ford. "It just started snowing out of nowhere. It's something you never expect. It stuck a little, but most of it melted immediately as it landed on the ground," he said. 

Dust storms permeated the Airmen's deployment, said Sergeant Webster. There was one storm that spanned as far as the eye could see, it then descended upon them and within minutes, turning day into night, he said. 

"There were two or three days where we could not work, the dust was so thick. It actually made it hard to breath," said Airman Ford. 

"Most of the time there would be kicked up dust all around that gave everything kind of a hazy look," said Captain Lafrazia. 

The living conditions varied from base to base. Permanent bases were more likely to have quarters with more features than a base that has been recently erected. Airman Ford slept in a tent with some other Airmen, and not much else while at Combat Outpost Salie, he said. 

Captain Lafrazia and Sergeant Webster got to stay in quarters that resembled cargo containers called "cans," they both said. 

"I had air-conditioning and even Internet access," said Captain Lafrazia. 

The food was good no matter which base they were stationed at, but it got very boring very quickly, they all said. 

"It was like going to McDonald's -good food, but the menu never changed. It was the same stuff for breakfast, lunch and dinner," said Airman Ford.

Now that they're back home, these Reservists can revel in the array of food, mild weather, and their own beds.