published Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Chattanooga families welcome home part of Tennessee Air National Guard unit

Macie Bates, Kaiden Reed and Ashlynn Warren, from left, watch as the plane carrying the 241st Engineering Installation Squadron taxis in Tuesday afternoon at the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport.
Macie Bates, Kaiden Reed and Ashlynn Warren, from left, watch as the plane carrying the 241st Engineering Installation Squadron taxis in Tuesday afternoon at the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport.
Photo by Angela Lewis.
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  • Tennessee Air National Guard members come home
    Seventeen members of the Tennessee Air National Guard's 241st Engineering Installation Squadron returned home to the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport on Tuesday. The soldiers were deployed across parts of the Middle East and Southwest Asia for six months.
  • photo
    Staff Sgt. Caleb Hargraves kisses wife Brittany Hargraves after returning with the 241st Engineering Installation Squadron Tuesday afternoon to the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport.
    Photo by Angela Lewis /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

  • photo
    Five-year-old Savannah Forbes holds a sign as she waits for her father, Capt. Jeremy Forbes, to return with the 241st Engineering Installation Squadron Tuesday afternoon to the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport.
    Photo by Angela Lewis /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Savannah Forbes circled the carpeted floor of the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport on Tuesday in a homemade camouflage dress and a yellow ribbon sash.

The 5-year-old girl held a simple homemade sign as she wove around nearly 60 other people waiting outside the security checkpoint.

It read, "Welcome Home Daddy, we're so proud of you."

After nearly eight months away, Capt. Jeremy Forbes swept his little girl up for a hug.

Forbes and 16 other airmen with the Tennessee Air National Guard's 241st Engineering Installation Squadron returned home from deployments across the Middle East and Southwest Asia.

Maj. Gen. Max Haston, head of both Tennessee Air and Army National Guard forces, awaited their return.

"It's tough to see them go," Haston said. "But it's always great to see them come home, particularly when they all get to come home."

President Barack Obama's recent announcement that U.S. troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year may or may not affect Tennessee Guard deployments, Haston said.

Units from the guard are in Kuwait, the Horn of Africa, Kosovo and other areas, he said. About 1,200 Tennessee Guard soldiers and airmen now are deployed in the Middle East.

Maj. Marty Malone said the 241st is finishing its six-month rotation and will be out of the deployment cycle for the next two years when the rest of the unit returns next month.

During this deployment families back home relied on email, Skype video chatting and day-to-day life to keep them busy.

"It's very trying. The women take over and do things we don't normally have to do," said Rhonda Dunn, wife of 1st Sgt. Phillip Dunn.

The way in which Air Guard units deploy, often in groups as small as three- to seven-person teams, means their tours often don't grab a lot of attention.

Dunn said she hoped to see more public awareness of units that deploy that way.

"We started thinking, even if two go, it's just as important as if 300 go," she said.

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about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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