128 ARW Security Forces are back to duty following deployment
By Senior Airman Ryan Kuntze, 128th Air Refueling Wing
/ Published June 23, 2009
MILWAUKEE -- Thirty-two members of the 128th Air Refueling Wing's Security Forces Squadron returned home from a seven-month deployment to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, on February 5, 2009, and have resumed their normal duties on base here.
This was the squadron's third deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and was the largest deployment the 128 ARW has supported in recent years.
Air base defense was the primary mission for the deployed security forces members, said Master Sgt. Jeff Mather, a squad leader for the 128th Security Forces Squadron.
Flyaway Security Team missions were the secondary missions for the SFS members, Mather said. FAST missions provided supplies to small, isolated bases throughout Afghanistan, and the SFS members provided security while supplies were distributed, Mather said.
Security forces members also provided flightline security during visits from former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Richard Cheney, and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, as well as visits from other dignitaries, Mather said.
Mather said one incident stood out above all the others throughout his time in Afghanistan.
"We were there for two weeks when we responded to a C-130 Hercules crash," Mather said. "We were the lead unit of the four security forces units at the crash, and our people helped save the lives of 44 people in the crash."
During their time at Bagram Air Base, members of the 128 SFS participated in the Flags for Wounded Troops program, Mather said. Military people wounded in the line of duty were given a folded United States flag and a certificate stating which FAST mission the flag had been flown on, he said.
"Supporting the Flags for Wounded Troops program was probably the toughest duty we had over there," Mather said.
128 SFS member Staff Sgt. Brian Wunder agreed.
"It's hard to see young guys who've been in for a year and are in that situation," Wunder said. "It really puts everything in perspective."
Wunder said he coordinated the Flags for Wounded Troops program, and was overwhelmed by the support the program received from businesses and private citizens stateside.
Word of the program went out to friends and family members, and spread to church newsletters and American Legion newsletters, Wunder said. Soon, word had spread throughout the nation, he said. Flags and donations came in from not only Wisconsin, but also places as distant as California, Texas and Alabama, he said.
The Flags for Wounded Troops program was only performed by volunteers, Wunder said. Even after returning home, Wunder said he is still gaining support for the program by giving presentations to local businesses and interested groups.
Being home had a different appeal to Mather.
"Just being home, having the simple things we didn't have over there, is the best part of being home."