Chattanooga Airmen reunite with families following Iraq deployment

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Brittany Crocker
  • 241st Engineering Installation Squadron

Thirteen Airmen from the Chattanooga-based 241st Engineering Installation Squadron returned home from Iraq to McGhee Tyson Airport in Alcoa, Saturday.

The group is the first round of deployed Airmen in the Squadron returning to Tennessee. Three more cycles are scheduled to return home in the coming weeks.

“These Airmen represented the Tennessee National Guard and the 241st Engineering and Installation Squadron with the upmost distinction,” said Lt. Col. Brandon Thompson, acting commander. “They made us very proud because they were top-notch in what they did. We are very excited to welcome them home.”

Families and friends gathered with balloons and welcome home signs, and they were eager to reunite with their Airmen.

“I’m so happy he’s coming home,” said Ari, 9, of his dad Tech. Sgt. Rickey Montagne. “It’s been about seven months and I really miss him.”

Montagne’s wife, two sons, mother and sister all came to greet him, bringing his new, 4-month-old nephew so they could meet for the first time.

During their deployment, the 241st worked on 92 projects, providing five bases with surveying, planning, design, engineering and installation support. Their impact adds up to over 34 miles of cable, conduit and trenched line installations: 4,900 feet of fiber optic cable, 82,000 feet of copper cable, 30,000 feet of conduit and 18,300 feet of trenched line.

Just before 2:30 p.m., families gathered at the front of the airport greeting area, awaiting their loved ones. Matthew Plaas was one of the first through the revolving door. His 3-year-old son, Harrison, was already jumping with anticipation, behind a sign nearly equal to his height that read: ‘Move it or lose it, our Daddy is home!’

Eyes wide, he cast it aside as soon as he saw Plaas and charged forward, jumping into his dad’s arms.

“I missed you buddy,” Plaas said as he caught him.

The scenes of happy reunion continued as each Airman emerged from the revolving door.

“This is by far the best day,” said Col. Lee Hartley, 134th Air Refueling Wing commander. The 134th ARW, which provides support to the geographically separated unit, will help the Chattanooga-based Airmen and their families with post-deployment administrative and support services.

“Our Guardsmen give up so much and oftentimes the bigger brunt of their sacrifice falls on the families. This is probably the best day in the past year for a lot of these families, and we love to see them reunited.”