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148th Members Home After Weeks of NATO Training

Updated: 06/20/2014 6:40 PM
Created: 06/20/2014 5:09 PM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
tdill@wdio.com

It was a dreary day to fly into Duluth, but members of the 148th Fighter Wing are savoring their homecoming despite the weather. They landed Friday afternoon after a 5-week training exercise with NATO partners in Europe.

“It was a long flight, 9 and a half hours, and we almost missed it because of the weather,” Master Sgt. Jason Swor said.

Fog hung on the runway and a chill lingered in the breeze as he embraced his three daughters on the tarmac. He said he was ready for a Sammy's pizza with his daughters and all the emotion that comes with it.

“Joy,” Swor said. “Fantastic, good to see the girls, and I'm going to go surprise my wife at Maurices. She doesn't know I'm home.”

The airmen worked with NATO Air Force partners in Bulgaria and Estonia according to Lt. Col. Nathan Aysta.

“Our maintenance people and our jets were located on the same flight line, as you see here, next to the Bulgarians so there was interaction every day amongst our two countries' military members,” Aysta said.

He said the military units have to be prepared to work together in an emergency and the training comes in handy when you're coordinating jets. The 148th brough F-16s with them for the exercise while their Bulgarian counterparts flew MiG-29s.

Aysta said some members did get a chance to experience Europe in their downtime.

“Then out in Estonia, a lot of the members went up to Tallinn and Helsinki so really got to experience the local culture and community,” Aysta said.

He said flying home into fog wasn't tough after the weather abroad.

“We even saw a little bit of sleet and snow on one of the last days there so coming back to Duluth it wasn't that big of a difference from Estonia,” Aysta said.

He called the exercise a success and said the Airmen are now better prepared to protect us and our allies abroad.

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