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Air Force reservists welcomed home

Families greet 50 from 914th unit with hugs, kisses, home-baked cookies

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Charles Lewis/Buffalo News
Staff Sgt. Maurice Shivers of Grand Island greets his son, Alexander, 1, as he returns from service in the Middle East.


NIAGARA FALLS - While Senior Airman Daniel K. Scott was flying home from the Middle East on Wednesday, his mother, Abby, of Castile in Wyoming County, was up at 4 a.m. baking chocolate chip cookies.

The cookies were in the car when she and her husband, Paul, arrived at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station before noon to welcome their son. Scott's girlfriend, Kristin Nesbitt, 29, of Buffalo, was also there to greet him.

"It feels good to be home," said Scott, 26, after piling off a C-130 Hercules transport plane and hugging his parents and girlfriend.

Scott, a crew chief with the 914th Airlift Wing, was one of 50 Air Force reservists who returned to the base from the Middle East, ending the largest and longest deployment in the unit's history.

Barbara Freitas, a Canadian who lives in St. Catharines, Ont., was waiting for her husband, Master Sgt. Thomas Freitas, an American who maintains the avionics equipment on the C-130 Hercules aircraft, the workhorse of the 914th.

The airman was coming home after a four-month tour of duty, and his wife waited in a hangar with her daughter, Alexandra, 11, as the torrential remains of a lightning storm poured down outside.

"We're pretty anxious," she said. "I didn't get much sleep last night."

Her anxiety mounted when her husband wasn't on the C-130 that landed at about 1 p.m. She reached for her cell phone and was trying to call her husband when an air base support person told her he would be on a plane coming in later. Major Charles R. Anderson, 43, of Albany, was on the C-130. He was the pilot. His wife, Karen, and their three children, Zachary, 12, Hannah, 9, and Aidan, 6, rushed into his arms when he stepped onto the tarmac.

Staff Sgt. Maurice Shivers, 33, of Grand Island, a loadmaster with the 914th, was welcomed home by his wife, Christina, and their children, Alexia, 7, Alicia, 2, and Alex, 1, and his parents, Maurice Sr. and Georgia.

"It's such a relief to be back with my family," he said.

Master Sgt. Douglas Kalota, 33, of North Tonawanda, got a surprise welcome from his mother, Dorothy, who drove up from Albany in a blinding rainstorm. Kalota's wife, Shannon; father, Bob; several other relatives; and Kalota's brother, Vince, a technical sergeant with the 107th Air Refueling Wing who did a tour of duty in 2003, were also there to greet him.

"The airplanes are coming home, but the Wing is still committed to supporting the country overseas," said Col. James B. Roberts, commander of the air base and the 914th Airlift Wing.

The 914th, which shares the air base with the 107th, was the first unit to be deployed after the start of the Iraq War in 2003.

Up to 500 airmen and women were deployed on a rotation basis during the height of the Iraq War, said Neil E. Nolf, the public affairs officer.

The rotating tours of duty have ranged from six weeks to six months for the hundreds of civilian airmen and women who train at the Niagara air base.
e-mail: bmichelmore@buffnews.com