The return of “V Corps’ Airmen” from deployment in Iraq Dec. 15 marked milestones for both the corps and the 4th Air Support Operations Group: the end of the corps’ second yearlong mission supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the first time in nearly two years that the 4th has not had any of its members deployed to a combat zone.
The contingent of approximately 20 Airmen from the group’s 4th Air Support Operations Squadron came home in time for the holidays to a small but enthusiastic welcome at Mannheim’s Sullivan Barracks at the same time the remaining V Corps members to redeploy from Iraq were getting an equally warm reception in Heidelberg.
The Airmen of both the ASOG and ASOS serve in a non-traditional way, wearing Air Force uniforms that bear the V Corps patch to designate their status as a full-time element of the Army’s “Victory Corps.”
Lt. Col. Jeff Webber, V Corps’ air logistics officer and the 4th ASOG commander, said the Airmen serve as the corps’ air support “eyes and ears,” and serve as the link that allows the corps to command and control close air support for coalition forces on the battlefield.
Colonel Webber said that the Dec. 15 homecoming has added significance for the 4th, because it means that for the first time in 23 months no element of the unit is deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. More importantly, the return brought all the 4th’s deployed members home safely. The organization has suffered no casualties in its two years of combat deployments.
The official return ceremony was only seconds long, taking just enough time for the 4th’s Lt. Col. Wayne Canipe to say welcome home, thanks, and the one word the group waited anxiously to hear: dismissed.
The order sent excited families and friends rushing across the floor to greet their redeploying Airmen with hugs and kisses, handshakes and flowers and excitedly make plans for the weeks of reunion ahead. Danielle Laatsch, wife of returning Air Force Capt. Jonathan Laatsch, said her family had travel in mind.
“We are going to England for the holidays, since he was stationed there and he was deployed as soon as we arrived in Mannheim,” she said.
Zyvonne Langan said her family was looking forward to just being together.
“We’re going to spend the holidays all together as a family and just stay in Germany,” said Mrs. Langan.