MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
After nearly seven months of watching Afghanistan’s skies, the 79 homecoming Marines of a Yuma-based air control squadron spent the morning of Oct. 15, 2010, with their focus closer to the ground, scanning the anxious crowd of family and friends for a familiar face.
Arriving shortly after sunrise, the members of Marine Air Control Squadron 1 reunited with loved ones waiting on the air station. Any signs of jet lag from the long flight or grogginess from waking up a 3 a.m. to welcome someone home were erased, exchanged for teary embraces or laughter. Often both.
“They served well. Their families are happy for them to be home,” said Maj. Richard Callahan, the squadron’s executive officer.
Increased operations in southern Afghanistan kept the Marines busy, directing air support for approximately 800 priority missions to assist ground troops in combat with enemy fighters.
And those were just a handful of the approximately 50,000 flights the MACS-1 Marines managed in just seven months, said Gunnery Sgt. Tim Clark, the senior air director for the squadron's tactical air operations center.
“It’s definitely the busiest deployment I’ve been on,” said Clark.
Operating from Camp Leatherneck and three forward operating bases, the Marines kept an eye on everything in the surrounding skies, including the separation of military and civilian air traffic in the region.
Before departing Afghanistan for home, the Marines passed their duties to another batch of approximately 100 MACS-1 troops who deployed in late September, said Callahan.
Not all the faces welcoming the Marines home were familiar. Clark’s son, Ethan, was born in June. Until Friday, he’d only seen photos of his son.
“I was anxious to see what he looked like in person,” said Clark, who also has a 4-year-old daughter, Payton, with his wife, Jaime. The couple are natives of Birmingham, Ala.
"It's very good to finally meet this little guy," he added.