120th Airlift Wing airmen return from 4-month deployment

About 100 airmen from the 120th Airlift Wing of the Montana Air National Guard returned home this week from deployment.

About 130 airmen left in June, some came back after about two months and about 100 spent four-months in Kuwait. Some were deployed for five months.

The airmen, and four C-130 aircraft, were deployed in support of Operation Spartan Shield and were assigned to the 385th Air Expeditionary Wing to provide airlift and airdrop operations throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

Airmen, aircraft operating out of Kuwait

Airmen from the 120th worked in 16 locations across 11 countries on this deployment.

The deployed airmen included pilots, navigators, loadmasters, flight engineers, maintainers, civil engineering, medical, security forces, communications and logistics.

120th airmen, aircraft deploy in support of Operation Spartan Shield

One plane and some of the airmen returned earlier this week and the bulk of the group returned Friday afternoon.


Waiting among the families on the windy afternoon was Deborah Wood with her three-month old baby girl.

Her husband, Andrew, is a crew chief and hadn’t yet met their daughter.

When he got off the plane, he went straight for his family and took his youngest daughter in his arms for the first time.

After holding her for awhile, he said “it’s amazing.”

Wood, a Great Falls area resident, and her friend Ashlyn Jones of Montana City, said this was their first experience with a deployment.

Jones’ husband works in the hydraulics shop of the wing’s maintenance group.

They said that for the most part, communication was fairly easy while their husbands were deployed, but sometimes the internet was spotty and would cut out during their calls.

They said their husbands had been with the 120th for about two years and said the unit, friends, neighbors and strangers were supportive during the deployment.

“It was the small things that helped the most,” Jones said, like coming home to find her lawn mowed or the gift card someone gave her to have dinner out.

“It helps a ton,” she said.

This scheduled rotation of aircraft and personnel was the second deployment of this type since the wing moved from fighters to transport aircraft in 2015, according to the wing.

“This has been a busy year for us,” said Col. Buel Dickson, 120th Airlift Wing Commander. “We’ve had nearly a third of our Airmen deploy in 2019. It takes a team to get them out the door and a team to support them while they’re gone. Fortunately, we have the outstanding support of families, friends and the community of Great Falls to make this possible.”

Dickson told The Electric that during this deployment, airmen from the 120th:

  • hauled 5,400 tons of cargo;
  • moved 1,800 people; and
  • flew 1,300 sorties.

Combined with the other units they combined with overseas, they flew about 2,000 sorties and 33,000 hours, Dickson said.

“Our airmen have received many accolades from commanders throughout their area of responsibility for their outstanding work. They represented the Montana Air National Guard and the state of Montana exceptionally well,” Dickson said.

Lt. Col. Pat Murphy was the aircraft commander on the second C-130 that landed Friday.

He said they flew all over the region and typically flew every other day during their deployment.

Sen. Steve Daines attended the homecoming and said a family friend had been deployed with the group as a pilot. The deployed airman’s father was a Blue Angels pilot and a good friend of the senator, Daines said. The deployed pilot grew up with Daines’ kids.

“This was at times an intense mission,” Daines told The Electric. “We’re very happy they’re back safety. It’s a happy and proud day.”