BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Nearly 100 airmen in the 403rd Wing Command returned to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi following a four month deployment in Southwest Asia.
Family and friends waited along the flight line as four C-130J's flew in carrying their loved ones Monday afternoon.
But the welcome home ceremony held extra significance for many of the airmen. That's because this marked the end of the final deployment for two of the squadrons in that wing.
Loved ones carried welcome home signs, waved American flags and eagerly watched as planes taxied in the 97 airmen of the 403rd Wing Command, who've been gone for four and a half months.
"Every time he comes home he has a great story to tell about what an impact we're making over there in that region of the world," Ronnie Blakeney said as he held a welcome home sign for a member of his church.
One airman's wife couldn't wait to share a hug and kiss with her husband in the new year.
"I'm so excited to have him come home. We've been married for about three years now. So we missed an anniversary. So we have lots to celebrate," said Jennifer Eustis.
For the Jackson Family, this was dad's first deployment.
"Just the day to day work flow was totally different and trying to get somewhere to talk to your family. You miss Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's. So it was pretty rough," said Airman Shannon Jackson.
While this was the first deployment for some airmen, it's also the final deployment for the 815th and 345th squadrons. Nearly 400 positions are going away as a result of the two tactical airlift squadrons closing.
"With forced structured changes resulting in the 815th squadron closing. The 345th squadron is an active duty unit that's attached to the 815th. They're also going to close sometime in the middle of 2014. So this is really the last time these units are going to deploy," said Colonel Frank Amodeo the Commander of 403rd Wing Command.
The squadrons are scheduled to close this summer.
The 815th squadron has been at Keesler since 1987 and the 345th squadron has been there since 2010.
Ten C-130J planes used by those squadrons to transfer supplies and personnel are also leaving. However, the ten WC-130J aircrafts used by the hurricane hunters will remain at the 403rd Wing Command. There are no firm commitments for new squadrons.