MOODY AFB — In a hangar, off of a tarmac at Moody Air Force Base, four Flying Tigers returned home safely Friday afternoon from their Afghanistan mission.
Greeted by family, tears were shed, hugs were given, hands were shook, and beers were cracked open all in celebration of their safe return.
Moody Air Force Base is the home of the Air Force's 75th Fighter Squadron, the “Flying Tigers,” which has pilots deployed around the world supporting contingency operations, and Friday afternoon, four of the Flying Tiger officers returned home to their families.
Last September, 250 Moody personnel deployed to Afghanistan to provide close air support for soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen; they were equipped with the A-10C Thunderbolt II, better known as the A-10.
Hundreds of Moody personnel returned home earlier this week.
After a month of training, and six long months of deployment, personnel traveled for 10 days from Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan to make it back to Moody, but for the final stretch of flight, they endured a grueling 10 1/2 hour flight from Lajes Field in Azores.
Upon landing Friday, the officers and their loved ones were reunited.
“After seven and a half months, it feels fantastic. It was amazing to see my family when I made it home,” said Lt. Col. Andrew “Lobo” Quinn.
“I enjoy Valdosta more than ever right now.”
When he landed, Quinn was ranked as a major, but was promoted shortly after his return to South Georgia. Lt. Col. David Rayman performed an informal promotion ceremony.
“Major Quinn was the director of operations for the 75th and he aced his DO test in combat and he's about to pin on lieutenant colonel, and there is nothing cooler than putting on the silver oak leafs in front of a jet, after being down range for six or seven months, doing our nation's work, our nation's bidding, to be a part of leading the operations. You'll read about what we did over there later, but it was pretty fantastic," Rayman said. “What a great way to honor a superb officer, and all of the actions that he did in leading the squadrons, operations, and combat.”
Noel Quinn, Lt. Col. Quinn's wife, said, “We're overjoyed that he's home, and we couldn't be happier.”
Capt. Keith Madsen was another pilot who returned to Moody. This was his first deployment, and he said, “Words can't describe how it feels to be home. It didn't actually set in until I saw my family, but it's awesome.”
His wife, Breanna, said, “It's unreal. It's almost like your wedding day again. It's very great.”
She looks forward to eating dinner together as a family, and the weekends, and Capt. Madsen said he is first and foremost excited to spend time with his family, but he also looks forward to a relaxing day off.
Weapons Officer Patrick Parrish said his deployment was a great experience where he worked long hours, but spent a lot of time away from his family; he is glad to be home with them again.
When asked about military proposals to discontinue the A-10 program, Parrish said, “I would love to keep flying the A-10. I know there's been a lot of talk, but it's still kicking right now.”
Capt. Madsen replied, “We know we're going to be taken care of. We have a job, and it's what we do. Whether it be in the A-10 or something else, we're going to do our job.”