More than 100 members of the Air Force Reserve’s 934th Airlift Wing returned to Minneapolis on Sunday evening from their 120-day deployment in Southwest Asia.
For one of them, Lt. Alicia Makoutz, this tour of duty brought with it a stamp of distinction — being the only female pilot in the Minnesota Air Force Reserves to fly the giant C-130 cargo planes.
On her first tour, Makoutz was a senior airman working on the ground and tracking crew members’ flight hours. This time, however, she was up in the air fulfilling her childhood dream.
“I used to think ‘Top Gun’ was her favorite movie because of Tom Cruise, but it’s because she wanted to fly,” her father, Jim Perry, said as he awaited her arrival Sunday.
During her time away, Makoutz, 28, was able to Skype with her family in southeastern Minnesota.
Her husband, Chris, looked forward to their daily chats, even with the nine-hour time difference.
“It always made waking up at weird hours worth it,” he said.
This was Makoutz’s second deployment, but the anticipation of her return was no different.
Her parents, husband and other family members patiently waited to get their chance to hug her.
“It’s such a great feeling,” Perry said. “She’s home.”
Coming down from a whirlwind of emotions, Makoutz couldn’t stop smiling.
It was the first time in four months she was able to hold her family: “It just feels so good to be home,” she said repeatedly.
Inside the main hangar, children waved bright “Welcome Home” signs, spouses held balloons, and parents took photos.
For many of the members returning home, this was not their first deployment — but they hope it will be the last.
“As soon as you see the planes in the air, what a great feeling,” Perry said. “They are home and you hope they don’t have to go again, at least not for awhile.”