Eielson welcomes home warriors

Honor Guard members wait in preparation for the posting of the colors in the Thunderdome at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska March 9 during the 354th Fighter Wing Welcome Home Ceremony. The ceremony honored more than 400 Airmen who returned from deployments over the past six months. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jonathan Snyder)

Honor Guard members wait in preparation for the posting of the colors in the Thunderdome at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska March 9 during the 354th Fighter Wing Welcome Home Ceremony. The ceremony honored more than 400 Airmen who returned from deployments over the past six months. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jonathan Snyder)

Lt. Col. Mike Fitzgerald, 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron commander, sets the squadron at ease in the Thunderdome at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska March 9. The 354th Fighter Wing held a Welcome Home Ceremony honoring more than 400 Airmen who returned from deployments over the past six months. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jonathan Snyder)

Lt. Col. Mike Fitzgerald, 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron commander, sets the squadron at ease in the Thunderdome at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska March 9. The 354th Fighter Wing held a Welcome Home Ceremony honoring more than 400 Airmen who returned from deployments over the past six months. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jonathan Snyder)

Master Sgt. Derrick Carter, 354th Mission Support Squadron, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, performs guide on duties for the Welcome Home Ceremony in the Thunderdome March 9. The ceremony honored more than 400 Airmen who returned from deployments over the past six months. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jonathan Snyder)

Master Sgt. Derrick Carter, 354th Mission Support Squadron, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, performs guide on duties for the Welcome Home Ceremony in the Thunderdome March 9. The ceremony honored more than 400 Airmen who returned from deployments over the past six months. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jonathan Snyder)

Senior Master Sgt. Dean Sprague, 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron, accepts the Soldier's Medal from 354th Fighter Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Dave Scott during a Welcome Home Ceremony for returning deployed airmen at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska March 9.  Sergeant Sprague's heroic efforts saved the lives of five Afghan civilians during his deployment.  (U.S. Air Force Photo/Staff Sgt. Tia Schroeder).

Senior Master Sgt. Dean Sprague, 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron, accepts the Soldier's Medal from 354th Fighter Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Dave Scott during a Welcome Home Ceremony for returning deployed airmen at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska March 9. Sergeant Sprague's heroic efforts saved the lives of five Afghan civilians during his deployment. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Staff Sgt. Tia Schroeder).

Senior Master Sgt. Dean Sprague, 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron, poses with 354th Fighter Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Dave Scott during a Welcome Home Ceremony for returning deployed airmen at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska March 9.  Sergeant Sprague recieved the Soldier's Medal for his heroic efforts, which saved the lives of five Afghan civilians during his deployment.  (U.S. Air Force Photo/Staff Sgt. Tia Schroeder).

Senior Master Sgt. Dean Sprague, 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron, poses with 354th Fighter Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Dave Scott during a Welcome Home Ceremony for returning deployed airmen at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska March 9. Sergeant Sprague recieved the Soldier's Medal for his heroic efforts, which saved the lives of five Afghan civilians during his deployment. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Staff Sgt. Tia Schroeder).

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- A crowd of more than 500 Icemen, family members and guests gathered to welcome Eielson Airmen home with praise and thanks at the Thunderdome hangar here March 9.

The event honored more than 400 Airmen who returned from deployments over the past six months.

"It's the hard work and dedication of these Airmen that made the recent deployments successful," said Lt. Col. Mike Fitzgerald, 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron commander, who himself recently returned from Afghanistan.

Colonel Fitzgerald also took a moment to recognize the hard work of the Airmen currently deployed.

"I'm asking everyone here to take a couple of minutes tonight to think about the men and women deployed now; to think about the people in harm's way, to think about the people who are away from their families."

Colonel Fitzgerald, whose unit was heavily tasked during the deployment, then recognized many returnees individually by describing their actions taken while deployed, voicing his appreciation to each returnee with a hearty, "Thank you for your service and welcome home!"

Brig. Gen. Dave Scott, 354th Fighter Wing Commander, summed up the pride and appreciation he felt for both his returning warriors and their ever-supportive families with two simple words: "Thank you."

"We owe every Airman, every Soldier, every Sailor, Marine and Coast Guardsman our thanks, gratitude and respect," General Scott said. "Many who deployed were separated from their families and friends and the comforts of home to serve in dangerous locations and do dangerous work, but the families left behind carried on with resolve and determination."

General Scott also praised the Iceman Team members who supported the fight at Eielson while their brothers and sisters in arms were deployed, stressing that each Air Force member, civilian and family member are vital to success in the Global War on Terror.

"Each of you are warriors and each of you performed with outstanding dedication to service during this deployment, whether overseas or on station," he said. "It's truly an honor to work with each and every one of you."

General Scott also recognized the actions of one particular Airman whose quick thinking and training helped save the lives of five Afghan civilians during his deployment. Senior Master Sgt. Dean Sprague, 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron, accepted the Soldier's Medal from the wing commander in recognition of his life-saving efforts.

During his deployment to Afghanistan, Sergeant Sprague provided direct ambulatory assistance to airplane crash victims. After a civilian aircraft crash, Sergeant Sprague immediately established a casualty collection point and controlled the medical evacuation of the critically wounded.

Following the ceremony, Airmen and families were treated to free hamburgers, hot dogs and entertainment tailored to the entire family. The 354th Services Squadron provided the food, activities and games for children and adults while neighboring Fort Wainwright's 9th Army Band Artic Rock ensemble performed for the enjoyment of all within earshot.

"Welcoming home our heroes and thanking them and their families for their service is cause for celebration," General Scott said. "The community bond at Eielson is something special."