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Historic homecoming for Dyess Mobility Airmen

Senior Airman Dan Simonsen, Senior Master Sgt. Steve Martin and Senior Airman Marcus Wright, loadmasters with the 772nd Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, perform a Low Cost, Low Altitude airdrop from the back of a C-130J in southwest Afghanistan Nov. 15. They are deployed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Tristan Hinderliter)

Senior Airman Dan Simonsen, Senior Master Sgt. Steve Martin and Senior Airman Marcus Wright, loadmasters with the 772nd Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, perform a Low Cost, Low Altitude airdrop from the back of a C-130J in southwest Afghanistan Nov. 15. They are deployed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Tristan Hinderliter)

Sixteen 317th Airlift Group C-130J Super Hercules prepare to take off for a training exercise July 2, 2012, at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. The simulated mission was an airdrop above two different drop zones. Once the final aircraft was airborne, the 317th AG made history, flying the largest C-130J formation ever. The first C-130J was delivered April 16, 2010, by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz. Dyess has since received 20 more and is scheduled to get a total of 28 Js, making it the largest C-130J unit in the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Peter Thompson/ Released)

Sixteen 317th Airlift Group C-130J Super Hercules prepare to take off for a training exercise July 2, 2012, at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. The simulated mission was an airdrop above two different drop zones. Once the final aircraft was airborne, the 317th AG made history, flying the largest C-130J formation ever. The first C-130J was delivered April 16, 2010, by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz. Dyess has since received 20 more and is scheduled to get a total of 28 Js, making it the largest C-130J unit in the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Peter Thompson/ Released)

Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS) bundles land close to the intended target during a training exercise Tuesday, April 24, at the Antelope Drop Zone at Fort Hood. JPADS is an airdrop system that uses Global Positioning Satellite, steerable parachutes and an onboard computer to steer loads to a designated point of impact on a drop zone. (Photo by Daniel Cernero, III Corps and Fort Hood Public Affairs)

Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS) bundles land close to the intended target during a training exercise Tuesday, April 24, at the Antelope Drop Zone at Fort Hood. JPADS is an airdrop system that uses Global Positioning Satellite, steerable parachutes and an onboard computer to steer loads to a designated point of impact on a drop zone. (Photo by Daniel Cernero, III Corps and Fort Hood Public Affairs)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Korey King, 40th Airlift Squadron, prepares to release a wind sonde from a C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 317th Airlift Group prior to an airdrop training mission Aug. 14, 2012, at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas.  This wind sonde device is part of Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS), and is released at high altitudes over a drop zone to measure the wind prior to an actual cargo drop.  JPADS is a cargo parachute system that incorporates an onboard global positioning system able to guide the cargo with pinpoint accuracy to a designated drop zone. JPADS also allows cargo to be dropped from higher attitudes, allowing aircraft to safely avoid enemy ground fire. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Richard P. Ebensberger/ Released)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Korey King, 40th Airlift Squadron, prepares to release a wind sonde from a C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 317th Airlift Group prior to an airdrop training mission Aug. 14, 2012, at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. This wind sonde device is part of Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS), and is released at high altitudes over a drop zone to measure the wind prior to an actual cargo drop. JPADS is a cargo parachute system that incorporates an onboard global positioning system able to guide the cargo with pinpoint accuracy to a designated drop zone. JPADS also allows cargo to be dropped from higher attitudes, allowing aircraft to safely avoid enemy ground fire. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Richard P. Ebensberger/ Released)

DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- For the first time in nearly a decade, the entire 317th Airlift Group fleet is back at their home station, as the final Airmen and aircraft returned here recently.

The 317th AG is one of the most heavily-tasked units in the Air Force and one of the several remaining active-duty C-130 units. The group's mission is to train, mobilize, and employ its aircraft worldwide, providing all phases of combat delivery, including air-land, airdrop and aeromedical evacuation.

Since Dec. 20, 2003, the 317th AG and its C-130 fleet continuously deployed in support of overseas combat operations, living up to their motto of providing "dominant air power and combat support to combatant and joint force commanders ... anytime, anywhere!"

During the constant deployments, the group was able to accomplish a complete fleet transition from the C-130 H to J-model while leading countless airdrop innovations, all while maintaining proficiencies to ensure success downrange.

"Answering the Nation's call comes with a lot of work and our Airmen have put in blood, sweat and tears, not only during the constant state of deployments, but here at home station as well," said Col. Walter H. Ward, 317th AG commander. "To be continuously deployed for nearly a decade is an extraordinary feat on its own, but to be able to accomplish a complete fleet transition, as well as our innovations in airdrop capabilities, truly reflects just how dedicated and professional our Airmen are."

The 317th AG continues to transition to the C-130J Super Hercules ─ the most technologically advanced version of the C-130. With only two more aircraft set to be delivered later this year, Dyess will have the distinction of being home to the largest C-130J fleet in the world.

The final tally for the group rests at 3,378 continuous days deployed, with more than 57,000 sorties and 95,000 hours flown during the past decade.

"This is a great day for us," said Ward. "Seeing these American flags waving and smiles on these families' faces is a sight that never gets old. It feels great to have everybody home for the first time in a very long time."

The group's homecoming follows President Obama's State of Union address, in which he announced that "over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan ... and by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over."

To date, the number of U.S. troops has already declined from a high of about 100,000 in 2010 to 66,000 now.

"When people tell you they're a 317th Airlift Group Airman, you notice them stand a little straighter, their chest bows out," Ward said. "When you look back at the end of the day we can say we did something that really mattered, whether it was inserting ground forces to secure territory or delivering hope to places seemingly out of reach. We can look back and know we held the pen in our hands that helped write the pages of history."

While this historic homecoming allows the 317th AG to recover from its decade long ops-tempo, the downtime will only last until September, when the 39th Airlift Squadron again deploys in support of overseas operations.

"It takes great teams to do great deeds," the colonel said. "As proud as I am of 317th Airlift Group Airmen, we wouldn't be celebrating 3,378 consecutive days of successful deployment without the steadfast support of our families, a faithful mission partner in the 7th Bomb Wing, and a city that embraces us as their own and proudly supports us like no other."






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