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MADISON, Wis. — More than 250 Airmen from the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 115th Fighter Wing returned home April 19 from their deployment to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.

"Welcome home and thank you for your service," Col. Jeffrey Wiegand, 115th Fighter Wing commander, told the returning Airmen in Hangar 406 on base. "It is great to have you back. As I said when you left, it's an honor to be on this stage looking at this group of impressive Airmen, families and friends supporting our Airmen, and the community serving and supporting our Airmen."

Several key leaders on stage, including Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, addressed the Airmen during their welcome home ceremony.

"It was humbling to be the first person to shake the hands of Airmen who have given so much, shown so much bravery, courage in the face of inexplicable challenges and say what so many have all been wanting to say for so long — 'Welcome home, 115th, welcome home,'" Kleefisch said.

Prior to the ceremony, Kleefisch met with several family members. She shared this experience during her address.

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"We are so glad for all these stories of wander and return, these stories of fulfilling the great mission of the United States, making Wisconsin so incredibly proud and making your families' hearts swell as you walked down those stairs into their open arms." Kleefisch said. "Know that Wisconsin has open arms for you as well."

Wiegand said this deployment gave the 115th Fighter Wing a chance to test its abilities.

"This was a challenging deployment, but what defines an organization and its individuals is how we overcome adversity and challenges, and we will continue to overcome challenges as we focus our efforts, and focus on the future," Wiegand said.

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This was the first time an Air National Guard fighter wing was tasked with a 12-ship deployment — a full aviation package — to go overseas

without support from other Air National Guard fighter wings, he said.

"We've proven ourselves to be an operational force," Wiegand said. "While they were gone, we had to continue to execute our alert mission in support of homeland defense. Not only did we meet our combatant commander requirements at the deployed location, but we continued executing our numerous state and federal missions and maintained our readiness. For that, I am very proud.

"The MVP of the fighter wing is our family, our friends and our community," he continued. "We would not have our success without their support."