FAIRBANKS (AP) The commander of the 168th Air Refueling Wing on Eielson Air Force Base returned Sunday along with two other guardsmen after a prolonged deployment to Qatar and Bahrain.
Alaska Air National Guard Col. Tim Scott told the roughly 250 troops who were at the guard's hangar that he had no idea the three-month tour to the Middle East would turn into an eight-month ordeal.
Scott was in the Middle East to help with Operation Enduring Freedom, then with the troop buildup in the U.S. Central Command, and, eventually, with the war in Iraq.
He and the two other guardsmen followed the return of 11 members of the 168th Security Forces Squadron who arrived back in Fairbanks April 23 after a four-month deployment to Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia.
Scott had asked two others from the wing, Lt. Col. Mike Rauenhorst and Lt. Col. Scott Wenke, to help out as the air base expanded its role while getting closer to war.
Scott called the deployment one of the defining moments of my military career,'' but also said it has never been better to be back in Alaska.''
While in the Middle East, Scott commanded a wing and also had to deal with the local U.S. embassy and dignitaries who were paraded through the Al Udeid Air Force Base in Qatar.
After Scott spent the initial three months in Qatar, he was moved from the Arab country on the Arabian Peninsula to the nearby island of Bahrain, taking both Rauenhorst and Wenke with him.
There, Scott was in charge of both Air Force and Marine refueling tankers while Rauenhorst and Wenke worked opposing 12-hour shifts managing the aircraft tasking. The island has been the headquarters for the U.S. naval activity in the Persian Gulf since 1948.
While Scott was deployed, he was appointed as the head of the Alaska Air National Guard. With an upcoming promotion to brigadier general, he is due to relinquish the reins of the 168th in the future. But the toughest task he may face upon his return is getting his life back to normal.
Unwinding is not his strong point,'' his wife, Candy Scott, said, noticing her husband had a few more gray hairs. I guess he earned them.''
Rauenhorst was part of the support group that built up the unit at the base. While he was there, the headquarters for the Central Command's air operations moved from Saudi Arabia to Qatar.
He is looking forward to a couple of weeks off to spend with his wife and three children.
We've got a couple of teeth that have come and gone,'' Rauenhorst said, cupping his daughter, Kayla's chin while the 6-year-old grinned, showing her father four new teeth that were coming in. Everybody had birthdays while I was gone.''
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