Connecticut Air Guard's Flying Yankees return home from overseas
By Capt. Jefferson S. Heiland, 103rd Airlift Wing, Public Affairs
/ Published March 06, 2012
BRADLEY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE - East Granby, Conn. -- The last of 40 Connecticut Air National Guardsmen from the 103rd Civil Engineer Squadron who were deployed to Afghanistan returned home to Bradley Air National Guard Base Friday, March 2.
The majority of the Airmen returned February 20 to much fanfare and a welcome from Gov. Dannel Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, while others came back in smaller groups until the last returned Friday.
Governor Malloy had visited the unit last November in Afghanistan.
"The brave men of the 103rd Civil Engineer Squadron have the support and appreciation of a grateful state," Malloy said. "I had the opportunity to see first-hand the work these civil engineers did in Afghanistan--they are a courageous unit doing extraordinary things in service to the country. We are proud to welcome them back home."
Among the roughly 200 gathered to greet them was Mary Blodgett, mother of deployed brothers Senior Airman Nicholas Cangemi and Senior Airman Christopher Cangemi.
"I was devastated when I first found out they were both being sent," she said. "But now, it's like the best day of my life--having them both back home safe. I am so very proud of them."
The Flying Yankee members had been deployed to Afghanistan since July 2011 with the Expeditionary Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force (BEEF) squadron, performing light construction and facility repair operations including plumbing, interior electric, HVAC, power production and distribution, as well as other engineering tasks.
The Airmen largely worked during their deployment to improve the living conditions of their fellow military members serving in Afghanistan, from building up the life support areas with tenting systems and their wooden platforms, latrine shower systems, and water supply systems including appropriate winterization kits. They also providing oversight in providing contract design capabilities.
"They did outstanding work building key facilities to support the warfighter in remote forward operating bases," said Col. Roy V. Walton, commander, 103rd Mission Support Group. "They conducted more than 125 site surveys, built facilities to bed down more than 1,200 personnel and did 65 construction projects in excess of $16.3 Million. Their skills and expertise made them the most valuable engineering asset in the theater," he said.
The Guardsmen arrived on base after a very short bus ride from Bradley International Airport. As the bus pulled up, the feeling was like an out-of-body experience for Staff Sgt. Kevin Davis.
"It seemed surreal, it felt like a dream because I had so many dreams like that while I was away," Davis said.
Sergeant Davis, like many other of the deployed members, was able to use Skype and Face Time to maintain a connection between his wife, Senior Airman Rashonne Davis and their two children at home. But that paled in comparison to how Davis felt the day after returning home.
"Waking up this morning was the best feeling ever," Davis said. "Like you went to sleep and you woke up and you were in the place that you wanted to be when you went to sleep."