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Keesler security forces return from Iraq

Brian Hickman proposes to his girlfriend, Senior Airman Gabriella Brewer, at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., on Aug. 6, 2009. Airman Brewer, a 403rd Security Forces Squadron reservist, returned to Keesler the same day after a six-month deployment to Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Tanya King)

Brian Hickman proposes to his girlfriend, Senior Airman Gabriella Brewer, at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., on Aug. 6, 2009. Airman Brewer, a 403rd Security Forces Squadron reservist, returned to Keesler the same day after a six-month deployment to Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Tanya King)

Jeanne Hanberry, mother of Master Sgt. Brad Hanberry of the 403rd Security Forces Squadron, anxiously awaits her son to step off an airplane Aug. 6, 2009, at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Sergeant Hanberry deployed to Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Iraq, in January along with 25 other reservists from Keesler's 403rd SFS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Tanya King)

Jeanne Hanberry, mother of Master Sgt. Brad Hanberry of the 403rd Security Forces Squadron, anxiously awaits her son to step off an airplane Aug. 6, 2009, at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Sergeant Hanberry deployed to Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Iraq, in January along with 25 other reservists from Keesler's 403rd SFS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Tanya King)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --  - The summer sun was high in the sky as a WC-130J streaked over the heads of about 75 anxious people. The "Hurricane Hunter" plane landed here just after noon Aug. 6, returning the first wave of 403rd Security Forces Squadron members to their friends and family after their deployment to Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Iraq.

As the plane touched down on the tarmac, the crowd erupted in a roar and tears began streaming down the faces of many of those awaiting the return of their loved ones.

Children waved flags and held signs for their Citizen Airmen. A few wives nervously checked their hair in pocket mirrors before seeing their husbands for the first time in months.

The family of Master Sgt. Brad Hanberry, a 403rd SFS reservist, awaited his arrival anxiously.

"As many times as he's been overseas, this is the first time we've had a homecoming like this," said Jeanne Hanberry, Sergeant Hanberry's mother.

Sergeant Hanberry, who had gone overseas three times with the Air Force and once with the Marines, said he felt like he just left for deployment.

"The deployment was quick and easy," he said. "But the flight was long."

Another 403rd SFS reservist, Senior Airman Gabriella Brewer, was greeted by her boyfriend with a diamond ring.

"Will you marry me?" asked Brian Hickman, Construction Mechanic 2nd class at the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport, Miss., as he took a knee.

"What are you doing?" thought Airman Brewer.

"I didn't understand," she later said. "As soon as he put the ring on, I understood."

"I didn't sleep at all last night," said CM2 Hickman, who had been planning to propose for nearly two months.

Twenty-six 403rd SFS reservists deployed Jan. 23 and stayed overseas for nearly six months. They were replaced by a second rotation of 403rd SFS reservists who deployed in two groups - June 23 and July 6.

Most of the duties the reservists performed while deployed involved training they acquired on drill weekends and during a 15-day spin-up training session at Patriot Defender, Fort Walters, Texas. They qualified on a variety of weapons such as the M4 carbine assault rifle and trained on entry-control point procedures, perimeter security, internal security and air base ground defense.

"At the (15-day) training session, they got to meet and train with the people they were going to be deploying with," said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Moore, 403rd SFS. "There were various sectors they were assigned to while (in the area of responsibility), where they worked with others reservists from around the country.

"They learned how to integrate with other units and with the foreign national at the base, and that is a very important concept to grasp," Chief Moore said. "When you're used to training together as one team, you have to be able to integrate multiple teams from all over."

Senior Master Sgt. Klint Krieger praised his fellow 403rd SFS reservists for their dedication and outstanding performance, especially in the austere conditions in which they have had to work and live.

"These men and women work 12-14 hours a day, wearing over 70 pounds of gear, carrying two weapons, enduring temperatures of up to 120 degrees, and sand storms that can last for days," he said.  (Air Force Reserve Command News Service)