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C-17 squadron returns from record-setting deployment

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- More than 100 Airmen from the 7th Airlift Squadron returned home July 11 after completing a 140-day deployment in U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility. 

While deployed as the 817th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, the 7th AS Airmen managed more than 6,500 missions, 16,000 flight hours, the movement of more than 121,000 passengers and 91,000 tons of cargo. The 7th AS also broke an airdrop record by delivering 32,000 pounds of humanitarian aid to four locations in a 40-minute time span in central and eastern Afghanistan in March. 

“We’re very proud of what the 7th AS accomplished during their deployment,” said Col. Shane Hershman, 62nd Airlift Wing vice commander. “These Airmen were at the leading edge of C-17 operations in the war zone. They performed flawlessly despite a very demanding operations tempo and we’re thrilled to have them home.” 

The 7th AS was originally scheduled to return mid-June but the squadron’s deployment was extended to facilitate the transition to a new C-17 deployment operations system. 

The new system will place more aircrews in theatre and reduce the number of flights from McChord directly to the AOR. The system will also allow more stable training routines for aircrews. 

For Maj. Stephan Polomsky, 7th AS assistant director of operations, completing the transition of the new EAS system without stopping operations was his squadron’s finest moment. 

“Missions kept flowing the whole time,” he said. “It took smart people working on it. We made it happen.” 

Even with being a part of the squadron’s accomplishments in the AOR, Major Polomsky said he is excited to be back at home. Now, he’s adjusting to the rhythms of life with his wife and two children again. 

“You try to catch up with what you can,” Major Polomsky said. “A chaplain said, ‘Reunion is a moment and reintegration is a process.’” 

As the Airmen from the 7th AS returned, more than 100 Airmen from the 10th Airlift Squadron left on July 5 to assume responsibility of the 817th EAS. 

Lt. Col. Smokey Robinson, 10th AS commander, said his main goals are for everyone in his squadron to return home safely and to enable the troops on the ground to carry out their duties. 

“We are pumped, motivated and ready,” he said. 

Senior Master Sgt. Steve Tkach, 10th AS superintendent, said he is excited about the deployment and looks forward to bonding with the Airmen in the squadron. 

“There is probably no other greater opportunity to build unit cohesion,” he said. “Simply being on the same side of the globe is unique for us, let alone the same air base. 

These deployments build lifelong friends and some funny stories. Long after we return home, we will be reminiscing about our exploits, achievements, struggles and fun.”