729th ACS 'Angry Warriors' happily return to home base
Approximately 170 members of the 729th Air Control Squadron returned to Hill Air Force Base on March 24 from the longest recent deployment the squadron has undergone. Of the seven Air Expeditionary Force rotations the 729th ACS has provided in Iraq since 2003, its last six and a half month deployment has been the longest.
"Usually the deployments are around four months long," said Liz Coppersmith, wife of 729th ACS Commander Lt. Col. Tom Coppersmith.
The Coppersmiths have experienced about 10 deployments together since 1997, and Liz said this last was "the longest one."
However, the support found through the Key Spouses' group helped her and other squadron families get through the half year, said Liz.
Tara Skendziel, wife of 729th ACS Director of Operations Lt. Col. Patrich Skendziel, agreed the Key Spouses' group supported her and her family during this time. Tara said it also helped to be involved in volunteer work, such as volunteering at the Airman's Attic, and substitute teaching at local elementary and junior high schools.
Robin Preston, who has experienced eight deployments with her husband Maj. (select) Royal Preston, 729th ACS Air Battle manager, said the deployments "never get easier, they are just different."
Besides the longer deployment schedule, what was different about this deployment for the Prestons?
"Nothing broke this time!" said Robin.
The families of the returning 729th ACS Airmen gathered in Hangar 37 during the late evening hours last Wednesday night, but there was not one tired eye. Energy and celebration resounded the hangar walls as kids played in bounce houses and a live band -- called Hush House and comprised mostly of nondeployed members of the 729th ACS -- filled the air with Top 40 music. When the hangar doors parted, the Patriot Guard volunteer organization flanked a makeshift aisle with flags, where the commercial airliner shortly taxied and released the returning Airmen to their cheering families.
During the six and half month deployment in Iraq, the 729th ACS "Angry Warriors" provided command and control of coalition aircraft and radar air surveillance while controlling more than 277,000 square miles of Iraqi airspace. The squadron's air battle managers, surveillance technicians, communications experts, aerospace generator specialists, heating and air conditioning technicians, vehicle maintainers and supply personnel also provided support to more than 37,000 air combat sorties including Troops in Contact, Close Air Support and Show of Force missions.