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Airmen return from desert duty while others continue in Southwest Asia

Family and friends of Airmen wave as a Minnesota Air National Guard C-130 performs a fly-by overhead at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport on May 16, 2012, returning from a deployment to Southwest Asia. USAF official photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mark Moss

Family and friends of Airmen wave as a Minnesota Air National Guard C-130 performs a fly-by overhead at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport on May 16, 2012, returning from a deployment to Southwest Asia. USAF official photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mark Moss

A Minnesota Air National Guard C-130 performs a fly-by overhead at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport on May 16, 2012, returning from a deployment to Southwest Asia. USAF official photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mark Moss

A Minnesota Air National Guard C-130 performs a fly-by overhead at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport on May 16, 2012, returning from a deployment to Southwest Asia. USAF official photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mark Moss

A Minnesota Air National Guard C-130 lands at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport on May 16, 2012, returning from a deployment to Southwest Asia. USAF official photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mark Moss

A Minnesota Air National Guard C-130 lands at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport on May 16, 2012, returning from a deployment to Southwest Asia. USAF official photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mark Moss

A Minnesota Air National Guard C-130 taxis past waiting family and friends at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport on May 16, 2012, returning from a deployment to Southwest Asia. USAF official photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mark Moss

A Minnesota Air National Guard C-130 taxis past waiting family and friends at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport on May 16, 2012, returning from a deployment to Southwest Asia. USAF official photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mark Moss

Family and friends greet 133rd Airlift Wing Airmen at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport on May 16, 2012 as they return from a deployment to Southwest Asia. USAF official photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mark Moss

Family and friends greet 133rd Airlift Wing Airmen at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport on May 16, 2012 as they return from a deployment to Southwest Asia. USAF official photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mark Moss

Family and friends greet 133rd Airlift Wing Airmen at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport on May 16, 2012 as they return from a deployment to Southwest Asia. USAF official photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mark Moss

Family and friends greet 133rd Airlift Wing Airmen at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport on May 16, 2012 as they return from a deployment to Southwest Asia. USAF official photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mark Moss

Family and friends greet 133rd Airlift Wing Airmen at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport on May 16, 2012 as they return from a deployment to Southwest Asia. USAF official photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mark Moss

Family and friends greet 133rd Airlift Wing Airmen at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport on May 16, 2012 as they return from a deployment to Southwest Asia. USAF official photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mark Moss

Family and friends greet 133rd Airlift Wing Airmen at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport on May 16, 2012 as they return from a deployment to Southwest Asia. USAF official photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mark Moss

Family and friends greet 133rd Airlift Wing Airmen at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport on May 16, 2012 as they return from a deployment to Southwest Asia. USAF official photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mark Moss

Family and friends greet 133rd Airlift Wing Airmen at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport on May 16, 2012 as they return from a deployment to Southwest Asia. USAF official photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mark Moss

Family and friends greet 133rd Airlift Wing Airmen at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport on May 16, 2012 as they return from a deployment to Southwest Asia. USAF official photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mark Moss

Family and friends greet 133rd Airlift Wing Airmen at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport on May 16, 2012 as they return from a deployment to Southwest Asia. USAF official photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mark Moss
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Family and friends greet 133rd Airlift Wing Airmen at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport on May 16, 2012 as they return from a deployment to Southwest Asia. USAF official photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mark Moss

St. Paul, Minn. -- Thirty-three Airmen from the 133rd Airlift Wing returned May 16, 2012 to Minnesota following a two-month deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

"The profound effort and sacrifices of our deployed personnel were instrumental in the successful completion of this mission," said Lt. Col. Carl Lojovich, deployed director of operations for the returning Airmen and home-station commander of the 109th Airlift Squadron.

"Our departure from Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan last week marked the closing of a significant chapter in Operation Enduring Freedom - the last Air National Guard C-130s departed, turning over the operation to our Active Duty counterparts and transitioning Air Guard operations to the Persian Gulf region," said Lojovich.

While in Afghanistan, the deployed Airmen successfully flew more than 360 missions encompassing roughly 2,100 sorties, hauling an estimated 34,000 passengers and 9,000 tons of critical cargo via airdrop and airland capabilities, said Lojovich. Several missions also provided emergency airlift of wounded service members, allowing for timely medical care.

"I am extremely proud these great Americans so successfully executed such complex missions in a dynamic and hostile environment, and I'm also very relieved to have them come home safely to their families," stated Col. Greg Haase, 133rd Airlift Wing commander.

The returning Airmen deployed to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan in early March with 70 of their fellow Airmen aboard three of the Wing's eight C-130 'Hercules' aircraft. The remaining Airmen and aircraft are now deployed to an air base in the Persian Gulf region supporting Operations New Dawn and Enduring Freedom and will return to Minnesota in mid-July.

Currently, 155 Airmen remain deployed from the 133rd Airlift Wing across the world in support of U.S. operations, including aircrew and maintenance personnel, aeromeds, logisticians, engineers, services personnel and others. Many of these men and women are serving on their fifth, sixth or even more deployments and will return throughout the remainder of the year.

The 133rd Airlift Wing's C-130 "Hercules" transport aircraft supports many military missions, including airdrop and airland delivery of critical supplies, equipment and personnel to remote airfields and to areas not easily reached by ground travel. C-130s also provide aeromedical evacuation of wounded service members, where trained medical personnel provide timely, life-saving medical care while patients are transported to a medical facility.

The Wing has deployed 452 personnel this year and since 9/11 has cumulatively deployed nearly 6,000 airmen to 36 countries in support of U.S. operations.