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Twenty-six security forces Airman from the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing, Madison, Wis., were welcomed home from a deployment to United Arab Emirates March 2 by Gov. Scott Walker, state military leadership and their families.

“We are appreciative of what they have done,” Walker said. “The National Guard is vitally important and we are thankful for your service and the support of your families.”

The Airmen deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. Two 13-person squads provided base security during the six-month deployment.

“These Airmen have executed the mission very well,” said Col. Jeffrey Wiegand, 115th Fighter Wing commander. “We are ready to support our community, our state and our country because of our citizen Airmen.”

While deployed, the Security Forces Airmen oversaw 35,000 vehicles searches, conducted 78,000 personnel searches and protected a 16-mile perimeter.

“The National Guard is always ready and always there,” said Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, the adjutant general of Wisconsin. “You and your families should be proud of all you have accomplished.”

“[Our families] are the reason why we worked so hard over there,” said Master Sgt. Jim Larsen, noncommissioned officer in charge of deployed Airmen.

Staff Sgt. Justin Padley, 115th FW Security Forces Squadron fire team member, has been planning a surprise engagement since November, Padley said.

Waiting at the Dane County Regional Airport was Padley’s future fiancÈe, Wendy Anderson from Sun Prairie, Wis.

“I was shocked everyone else knew this was going to happen but me,” said Anderson about her engagement. “It was tough having him deployed but we talked every day and it was worth it in the end.”

Padley summed up his thoughts after a long deployment while standing next to his fiancÈ.

“I am so thankful for all the support we have received,” said Padley, “and I’m glad to be home.”