MOODY AIR FORCE BASE -- More than a week after the 824th Security Forces Squadron returned from a four-month deployment to Kirkuk Airbase in Iraq, husbands, wives and friends enjoy long-awaited reunions, making the most of the airmen's month of leave, a period of rest and relaxation.

Airmen spent the deployed months fulfilling defense protection at the airbase, which is located about 150 miles north of Baghdad on the west side of the city of Kirkuk.

The 824th rotates with two other Moody squadrons, the 822nd and 823rd, to provide year-round base defense for the soldiers and airmen deployed to Kirkuk.

Moody's 820th Security Forces Group houses the three squadrons and prepares airmen for activity outside the protected boundary.

Maj. Michael Ross, deputy group commander for the 820th group, said men and women receive training in sniper tactics, radio systems, hand-to-hand fighting and maneuver drills to ready them for Iraq duties.

"We get tasked to do the missions that require our extra training. Our entire home-station mission is to prepare for combat," Ross said.

Though the squadrons rotate on a four-month cycle, extended stays and early calls can tax the squadron at home, causing them to fill in the gaps and be the physical bodies for two squadrons.

Ideally, Ross said, the newly returned squadron receives one month of down time followed by three months of rigorous training to reacquaint them with "on-call" status.

Airmen also endure a strenuous fitness regimen while at home.

"We need our airmen fit so they can finish the fight," Ross said.

Around 170 airmen in the 824th squadron helped provide security at Kirkuk, including persons from the administrative and intelligence sections in addition to a civil engineer and supply and vehicle maintenance, communication personnel, and medics.

"The squadrons in the 820th are very self-sufficient," Ross said.

Airmen from the 824th squadron controlled entry to Kirkuk Airbase by searching vehicles and using new X-ray and sensor technologies to enhance force protection efforts.

"We also took the fight to the insurgents, patrolling outside the wire, covering a more than 60-square-mile area in coordination with the U.S. Army," Ross said. "This denied the enemy freedom of movement and decreased the number of attacks from our battle space."

The 820th group spends much time educating airmen about potentially dangerous situations.

"We focus heavily on realistic training scenarios and offensive types of maneuvers, as the mission takes us outside the wire," Ross said.

Ross said the airmen voluntarily accepted the position and are largely motivated to complete the mission.

"It can be extremely tough on the families, especially in the four-month-cycle, where the squadrons miss the same chunk of time each year, the holidays, summer, birthdays, anniversaries, football season, the important stuff," Ross said.

The 823rd squadron is currently deployed to Iraq, leaving the others to take care of duties at home.

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