Nine New Jersey Air National Guardsmen have returned to McGuire Air Force Base as part of the first rotation of National Guard units supporting actions in Libya.
TSgt. Keith Czeczuga of Freehold, N.J., was happy to be back on U.S. soil after a month away.
"I miss my dog,"he said.
The 108th Air Refueling Wing of the NJ Air Guard sent a KC-135 tanker with two three-man crews and three support airmen to an undisclosed Mediterranean base just hours before French jets made the first strikes on Libyan forces.
"I was able to call my work and tell them at about 8:30 at night, then I was out the door and we flew out of here later that night," boom operator TSgt. Don Smith, a Brick police officer, told NBC New York.
A day or so later, he said, his crew was flying one of the first missions of any tankers there.
The Pentagon has revealed few details about the U.S. commitment to the now NATO-led effort.
But Brigadier Gen. Mike Cuniff said roughly two dozen Guard, Air Reserve and active Air Force tankers are staging out of the undisclosed Mediterranean air base.
And while the 108th has just one tanker in the rotation, Cuniff said four Air Reserve or active duty KC-10s from across the base at McGuire have also been deployed there.
These tankers, sometimes nicknamed flying gas stations, have been doing more than just topping off the tanks of U.S. fighter bombers.
They have been filling up the fighters of other coalition nations as well, and TSgt. Smith, the boom operator who is a cop in his other life, said his job was easier because they "all spoke English."
"They were all real safe," Smith said.
His job is to maneuver the boom that sticks out of the tail of his tanker into a refueling port in the smaller jet fighters just yards away.
All of the airmen on this first mission were volunteers, Cuniff said.
"If it's happening around the world we want to be involved and there's no shortage of volunteers in the 108th," he added.
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