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7th BW returns from largest B-1 deployment in last decade

Family and friends greet Dyess servicemembers July 25, 2012, after returning from a six-month deployment to Southwest Asia. More than 400 Airmen deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The deployment marked the largest B-1 Bomber deployment of aircraft and personnel in the last 10 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Damon Kasberg/Released)

Family and friends greet Dyess servicemembers July 25, 2012, after returning from a six-month deployment to Southwest Asia. More than 400 Airmen deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The deployment marked the largest B-1 Bomber deployment of aircraft and personnel in the last 10 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Damon Kasberg/Released)

Airmen are greeted by Dyess leadership July 25, 2012, after returning from a six-month deployment to Southwest Asia. More than 400 Airmen deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The deployment marked the largest B-1 Bomber deployment of aircraft and personnel in the last 10 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Robert Hicks/Released)

Airmen are greeted by Dyess leadership July 25, 2012, after returning from a six-month deployment to Southwest Asia. More than 400 Airmen deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The deployment marked the largest B-1 Bomber deployment of aircraft and personnel in the last 10 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Robert Hicks/Released)

DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- More than 400 Airmen returned from Southwest Asia July 25 and 26 to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, after being deployed six months in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The deployment marked the largest B-1 Bomber deployment of aircraft and personnel in the last 10 years.

Families and friends waited holding signs and banners, while others waived and screamed as Airmen deboarded the aircraft.

"I'm very proud of my husband," said Allison Gutierrez the spouse of a deployed Airman. "He's such a non-selfish person who fights for his country and does what he believes is right."

Her husband, Senior Airman Demetrio Gutierrez, 7th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, worked on the deployed B-1 Bombers.

"It's a great and amazing feeling to be back with my family and friends," Gutierrez said. "I was deployed with a great group of guys who went out and grabbed the bull by the horns and accomplished the mission."

The Airmen of the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron and 9th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit provided more than 25 percent of the total fixed-wing close-air support coverage for coalition ground forces in Afghanistan every day by launching the most B-1 sorties executed on a single deployment in more than 10 years of sustained conflict.

Over the course of the six-plus month deployment, the squadron flew more than 770 combat sorties, encompassing over 9,500 hours, to provide 24 hours of coverage every day.

They also responded to more than 500 troops-in-contact situations, with the enemy as close as 300 meters from friendly forces, and another 700 priority air requests, delivering more than 400 weapons on target.

"We were able to achieve these great stats through pure hard work," said Lt. Col. Matthew Brooks, 9th Bomb Squadron commander. "Our squadron flew 130 more sorties than any B-1 squadron had flown in any other six month deployment. You don't accomplish this by luck. It's pure hard work and dedication from the aircraft maintainers, weapon builders and load crews, B-1 aviators, and the rest of the 7th Bomb Wing who deployed with us."

The 9th EBS and 9th EAMU completed a complex B-1 sustainment block upgrade in the midst of combat operations, while avoiding any degradation in support to ongoing missions. The upgrade, completed to all nine aircraft in only six days, fulfilled an Air Forces Central Urgent Operational Needs request to fully integrate the sniper targeting pod onto the B-1, thereby providing machine-to-machine interface between the targeting pod and weapons, and reducing the targeting timeline by 33 percent.

The modification also ensured full operational capability for the B-1 to employ the GBU-54 Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition, providing Combined Forces Air Component Commander with the first-ever B-1 capability to engage and destroy moving targets.

"There wasn't a single moment during our deployment that we did not have a B-1 in the air over Afghanistan," Brooks said. "It's really hard to put it in words how proud I am of these Airmen. Despite extremely difficult conditions both on the flightline and in the air, they gave everything they had to support the mission. I'm honored to have served with them."

The 400 plus Airmen will receive two weeks of well deserved rest and recuperation before assuming their duties again here.

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