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Icemen return from deployment

After more than 36 hours on a chartered flight, Staff Sgt. Thomas Badgero is greeted by wife, Rose, and son, Hunter, Jan. 23 at the Joint Mobility Complex at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Sergeant Badgero is assigned to the 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Aaron Bonifazi)

After more than 36 hours on a chartered flight, Staff Sgt. Thomas Badgero is greeted by wife, Rose, and son, Hunter, Jan. 23 at the Joint Mobility Complex at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Sergeant Badgero is assigned to the 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Aaron Bonifazi)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Blurry eyes brightened as each Iceman walked trough the doors of the joint mobility complex here at 1 a.m. Tuesday morning to the welcoming applause of awaiting friends, family and coworkers.

Tired from the long 36-hour flight trek home to Alaska, the midnight arrival ended the Icemen's months-long Air Expeditionary Force rotation in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

More than 400 Icemen deployed during the recent rotation. The deployment consisted of Airmen ranging from maintainers to air traffic controllers to services personnel.

However, more than half the Airmen returning to Eielson are members of the 354th Logistic Readiness Squadron and the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron.

No matter what duties the Airmen performed during their deployment, the awaiting family members were eager to get back to their normal routines.

"It has been a long four months and I'm just ready to get back to our normal life," said Jackie Madson, wife of Tech. Sgt. Brian Madson, 354th LRS petroleum, oil and lubrication flight.

The 354th Fighter Wing commander not only praised the returning heroes, but also pointed out that deployment is a sacrifice made by more than just the Airman.

"They were separated from the comforts of home to perform the mission America needed them to perform in the Global War on Terrorism," said Brig. Gen. Dave Scott, 354th FW commander.

General Scott said whether it's spouses and children left behind here at Eielson or an Airman's parents in Georgia or Oregon, deployments are never easy for those left behind waiting for the safe return of their loved ones.

"We owe each of these returning Airmen our gratitude and respect," General Scott said, "and we owe their families our deepest thanks. Our exceptional servicemen and women are able to perform at such a high level due in no small part to the outstanding level of support that their families provide year round - they're truly invaluable."