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139th Air Terminal Operations members return

St. Joseph, Mo. -- Thirteen Airmen of the 139th Air Terminal Operations returned home in November after being deployed to Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
As part of its mission, the 139th ATO processed cargo, equipment and personnel for airlift throughout the area of responsibility as well as filled in with the functions of the air terminal operation center.

They packed and transported equipment from various service branches -- Army, Marines, and Navy. The cargo ranged from a helicopter for a medical evacuation unit to a Stryker, a light armored vehicle, to be transported from Iraq to Afghanistan.

Tech. Sgt. Dane E. Weber, who works in special planning with the 139th ATO, said anyone working the ATO could sense the shift in mission.

"It was different working with the Marines on day-to-day operations," Weber said. "They have different rules and regulations that we had to marry up with. We had to find a common middle."

Their lifestyles were different but there was no question on supporting the mission, he added.
Service members had to contend with extreme weather conditions from sandstorms that effected visibility to extreme heat in addition to coping with fatigue and dehydration.
To keep morale up, members did what they could.

Facebook was a favorite method to keep in touch with family and friends back home although there were restrictions.

It was easier to mass communicate with one message to everyone, said Weber.
While deployed, Weber's team helped return the remains of Navy Capt. Scott Speicher, a Kansas City native and the first American lost in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. He was shot down over west-central Iraq on Jan. 17, 1991, but his remains were not found for 18 years.