Missouri Air Guard engineers return from Guantanamo
By Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith , 139th Airlift Wing
/ Published July 13, 2012
ST JOSEPH, MO. -- Although an afternoon storm at Rosecrans Air National Guard Base hampered their homecoming ceremony, more than 100 family, friends and service members were still able to welcome their Airmen home from a long deployment.
The 139th Airlift Wing, Missouri Air National Guard welcomed home more than 30 Airmen from the Civil Engineer Squadron here Thursday, July 12 from a six-month deployment to Guantanamo.
"We're thrilled ... we send people out all the time, to not the best places in the world, but we are really thrilled when we bring everybody back," said Brig. Gen. Stephen Cotter, assistant adjutant general - Air, Missouri National Guard. "I am so proud of the families and the job you have done."
The gathering stood outside near the flight line as the civil engineers arrived on two C-130 aircraft flown by the Puerto Rico National Guard. Then a bulldozer of lightning, thunder and heavy winds formed out of the blue and pushed everyone to seek shelter.
"It's so great to be home," said Tech. Sgt. Scott Simpson, who was later met by his family and friends at the Base's dining facility. He said he and his wife plan to take a vacation and relax together.
Since their departure in January, the squadron built a long list of accomplishments as the Prime Base Engineering Emergency Force, (Prime BEEF), 474th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron.
The squadron's primary mission included facilities maintenance, repair and construction related to Joint Task Force Guantanamo's Expeditionary Legal Complex and Camp Justice.
Col. Michael Pankau, Wing commander also expressed his gratitude to the Airmen and their families for enduring the separation.
"While we have 31 members back this evening, we still have [many more] deployed," said Pankau. "So keep them in your minds."
There are more than 70 Prime BEEF squadrons in the Air National Guard, which deploy worldwide for overseas contingency operations. When not deployed, members are responsible for facility management on their home bases.
Prior to their deployment, the Wing's civil engineers partnered with federal, state and local officials as part of the Wing's response to the Missouri River flooding in St. Joseph, Mo.