Black Knights return to Herk Nation

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Maria Umanzor Guzman
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Team Little Rock experienced a joyful day as members from the 19th Airlift Wing returned from a deployment in U.S. Central Command and were warmly welcomed by friends and family at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, March 5, 2024.

Airmen from across the 19th AW, including the 61st Airlift Squadron, 19th Operations Group, 19th Maintenance Group, 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 19th Maintenance Squadron, 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron and 19th Operations Support Squadron, conducted C-130J Super Hercules operations within the unified combatant command’s area of responsibility.

Throughout the deployment, members of the 19th AW played a crucial role in supporting contingency operations by delivering tactical combat airlift to remote and challenging environments in contested areas.

After returning to the home of Herk Nation, Airmen from various units reflected on their time during deployment.

“It was a long six months, but I made good friends along the way to help me enjoy and make the time go by faster,” said Airman 1st Class Koal Kawelu, 19th Maintenance Squadron aircraft fuel system maintenance. “It was a new experience, and I was able to learn new things in my professional life as a maintainer and in my personal life.”

The Black Knights focused on their core mission of delivering TacAir Anywhere and had to learn to adapt to a higher operations tempo to execute the mission, explained Airman 1st Class Jaden Taronji, 61st Airlift Squadron loadmaster.

“When it was time to get our wheels out from our deployed location, it felt like a dream,” said Taronji. “Once we landed at Little Rock AFB, I was just in shock because of how fast the time passed by. I’ve done a lot and learned a lot and now I’m glad to be back.”

Now that the Black Knights have finally returned to home, they continue to reflect on the moment they were reunited with their loved ones.

“Leaving a place you were at for six months and then coming back home was bittersweet,” said Kawelu. “Once I saw my friends waiting for me on the flightline, I was just happy to be back home. It was also nice meeting other people’s friends and families.”

One of the main takeaways Airmen had during their deployment was appreciation towards challenges and experiences.

“It’s hard being away from family and your loved ones but you also have to enjoy the challenges you go through when you’re out there,” said Taronji. “Once you come back, those are the memories and experiences you are going to be able to share with others.”