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Re-deployment processing completed in record time

Personnel from the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., return home to a hero???s welcome after a four-month Air Expeditionary Force deployment at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Aug. 22, 2012. Swamp Fox F-16???s, pilots, and support personnel began their AEF deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in early April to take over flying missions for the air tasking order and provide close air support for troops on the ground in Afghanistan.  (National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson / Released)

Personnel from the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., return home to a hero's welcome after a four-month Air Expeditionary Force deployment at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Aug. 22, 2012. (National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson / Released)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, South Carolina --      300 Airmen. 700 bags. Almost endless paperwork. The challenge for McEntire Joint National Guard Base was to in-process all the returning Swamp Foxes from their largest deployment since Operation Desert Storm as rapidly and as safely as possible. During the last week in August, it was mission accomplished thanks to a lot of planning and hard work. "This was the fastest, most conscientious homecoming I've ever been part of," said Col. Mike Hudson, 169th Fighter Wing commander.

     As soon as McEntire deployed to their AEF rotation in Afghanistan last April, representatives from the Logistics Readiness Squadron, the Medical Group, the Force Support Squadron (FSS), the Maintenance Group and Family Readiness started meeting weekly. In order to pull off such a major event, all the players involved with the Swamp Foxes return mapped out the entire process from start to finish as well as wargamed several "what-if" scenarios, just in case. The group built upon some lessons learned from the personnel swap out that occurred in June and then set up goals, identified process improvement areas and efficiencies, and formulated the timeline needed to execute the nearly flawless re-deployment, said Capt. Mike Adams, the 169th Fighter Wing Installation Deployment Officer. "I'm kinda like the [football] offensive coordinator and it's up to everyone else to execute the plan. Everyone stepped up for this return," Adams said. There were numerous parts working simultaneously during the return. Then, of course, there are events beyond our control, like plane delays, that still had to be planned for Adams explained.

     The main objective was to in-process everyone quickly yet thoroughly so that no one would have to return to McEntire for post-deployment requirements while they were on leave. Once the main body landed, they cleared customs while still on board the aircraft and then were bused to the Aerospace Dining Facility or the 245th Air Traffic Control Squadron building where FSS and medical personnel were waiting for them. In the interests of time and efficiency, those two groups were further divided into two more groups so that while one group received personnel briefings, the other could go through the medical line. Consolidating the briefings and sending some handouts downrange ahead of time saved precious minutes during in-processing. While one group received information about leave, pay, TRICARE and awards, the other group went through 10 medical stations that were set up in order to draw blood for a mandatory post deployment HIV screening. Thanks to critical augmentation support from the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw AFB, the American Red Cross and the South Carolina Army National Guard, all the Airmen were medically processed in record time. "It was the best I've ever seen. I was really impressed," said Col. Theresa Prince, the 169th Medical Group commander. In addition, the clinic had doctors available for Airman who needed to discuss any medical problems or Line of Duty type issues that occurred during their deployment. While all this was going on, what the Airmen didn't see were numerous cargo deployment function personnel unloading and separating over 700 bags and lining up all the deployer's personal bags right outside the hangar.

     Once all the in-processing was complete, the Airmen boarded buses which took them to the flight line to meet their families and friends. Before "kickoff" the goal was to finish all the in-processing tasks within three hours. Adams said everything was accomplished in just over two.

     The Family Readiness Group, headed by Terry DeLille, and the Key Volunteer Group, headed by Ann Plantin and Tina Foster also played a key role in the success of the re-deployment effort. They took care of everything from keeping the family members informed of the constantly changing arrival times to making sure everyone was comfortable in the hangar while they waited for their loved ones.