by Master Sgt. Andrew Biscoe
439th AW Public Affairs
9/19/2012 - WESTOVER AIR RESERVE BASE, Mass. -- For Staff Sgt. Noah Menard, there was a little more than the usual bout with anxiety to get home.
The 58th aerial porter's boots on American soil Sept. 19 included dropping to one knee to propose to his girlfriend.
And for Ashley Judge, the thrill of the return of the 58th Aerial Port Squadron member meant not only a reunion, but a complete surprise. After some hugs and kisses and photos with the family, down he went to the ground, as the crowd went silent. Family members smiled.
"Yes, yes, absolutely," Judge said through tears.
"Welcome to the family!" shouted Master Sgt. Donna Miranda, 58th APS air reserve technician and administrative NCOIC, above the cheers.
"I'm overwhelmed," Judge said, with a gaggle of news cameras surrounding her. Judge told a reporter she was shocked to have him propose. "It was enough to have him come home. This just added to the moment."
The deployers' trip home -- through Alaska to Michigan and pulling to a stop at Connecticut's Bradley International Airport -- took six days. The bus ride's half-hour trip back to the base, escorted by Connecticut and Massachusetts State Police, closed out the journey.
Some 50 family and friends waited at Westover.
SSgt. Menard and his wingmen pulled into a parking lot, and stepped off to cheers and "Welcome Home" signs and handshakes. SSgt. Menard was among about two dozen returning aerial porters from Westover's 439th Airlift Wing, which, besides regularly sending its giant C-5s to far-flung worldwide destinations, has deployed its "port dawgs" to Afghanistan and Iraq for more than 10 years.
Master Sgt. Michael Lankarge finished up his fifth deployment, recalling his long trip back home. "It was a lot of time zones," he said. "It's great to be back home - I'm just tired."
He and his fellow Airmen spent six months in the mountainous terrain at Bagram Air Base, working 12-hour shifts, six days a week, at a minimum.
The aerial porters logged impressive statistics while serving at Bagram, one of the largest U.S. overseas bases in the world. The reservists processed 325,883 passengers, 141,332 tons of cargo, and 2,536 tons of mail, said 1st Lt. Alan Fairey of the 58th APS.
"While we're happy they're home, we know the nation is still at war," 1st Lt. Fairey said. The mission continues at Bagram. Reservists with the 58th's sister squadron, the 42nd APS, replaced their Westover counterparts at Westover. They headed to Bagram in early September as part of a swap-out of Westover's deep pool of skilled reservists.
More than 50 42nd APS reservists have taken over the handling of the massive daily cargo movements involving a constant armada of military and civilian transports and airliners.
Editor's note: Lt. Col. James Bishop, 439th AW Chief of Public Affairs, contributed to this story.