552nd ACW Airmen return from deployment Published Oct. 1, 2012 By Darren D. Heusel Tinker Public Affairs TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- A 16-hour delay due to a commercial aircraft mechanical failure did little Monday to dampen the spirits of friends, family and co-workers who turned out en masse to Bldg. 289, or the "Wash Rack," to welcome home approximately 50 Airmen from the 552nd Air Control Wing from a six-month deployment to the Middle East. Anxiety, anticipation and perhaps even some mild frustration over the delay soon gave way to hugs, kisses and the repeated sound of "welcome home" wishes by those who turned out in the early morning hours to greet the Airmen upon their arrival. The Airmen, who were originally scheduled to arrive on Sunday before mechanical problems on the aircraft in which they were flying forced them to spend an extra night in Bangor, Maine, were returning from a deployment to Al Dhafra, United Arab Emirates, in support of ongoing operations in Afghanistan. "I am extremely proud of what the members of the 552nd Maintenance Group were able to accomplish while deployed to Southwest Asia during the hottest time of the year," said Col. Stella Smith, 552nd MXG commander. "I received constant feedback from deployed leadership that their professionalism and attitudes were outstanding throughout the deployment and the results spoke for themselves." Colonel Smith said the maintainers won many individual awards and met the Air tasking order despite tough aircraft and parts availability challenges. "The feedback I received about their excellent performance came from both the deployed maintenance group commander and the deployed operations group commander," she said. The 552nd ACW has had a continuing presence in the region since 1980, logging more than 14,000 sorties and some 130,000 flying hours up until 2003. At that time, members of the Wing returned home for a well-deserved break. The time away from the area allowed the Airmen to recharge, refresh and regenerate, however, the break didn't last long. In early 2007, members of the 552nd ACW returned to the region to reestablish its presence and has continued to have an impact on the mission ever since. "I am thrilled to have these folks back and, after they get reintegrated into the families and get some well-earned relaxation, we will be excited to have them back at work with us," Colonel Smith said.