Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Last Deployment Ends Just in Time; Helicopter Squadron in Transition Returns after 8 Months in Persian Gulf

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Last Deployment Ends Just in Time; Helicopter Squadron in Transition Returns after 8 Months in Persian Gulf

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Scanlan

Maddison Iwicki has been waiting 264 days to have a special date with her father, overseas on combat deployment in the Persian Gulf with Helicopter Squadron 11 from Jacksonville Naval Air Station.

Just before his Navy Seahawk helicopter and five others from the Dragonslayers touched down from their final deployment in front of the 8-year-old girl Wednesday, she reminded 5-year-old brother Gavin, year-old brother Nolan and mother Danielle what that was going to be.

"I really, really missed him," she said. "We will go eat lunch together at Taco Bell."

"We've had two previous deployments, but this has been the longest," Danielle's mother said of her husband's return. "He's been telling us how much he misses us and how excited he is to be with the kids and give me a break."

Seconds later, Maddison's "We missed you Daddy" sign and Gavin's "We waited 264 days for a hug" sign were blowing down the runway as they ran out to hug HS-11 aircrew member Mike Iwicki.

"I missed you guys so much," he said between hugs. "You got so big while I was gone. Why did you grow so big?"

Nearby, Lt. Cmdr. Brad Hoyt hugged wife, Amy, as 7-year-old son Aiden wore his pilot's helmet. With this being the Navy's last operational squadron to deploy Sikorsky SH-60 and HH-60H Seahawk helicopters, he said he'll miss them as they transition to new MH-60S Seahawk helicopters and move to Norfolk, Va.

But he missed his family much, much more.

"I am very happy to be home," said Hoyt, nickname "Rage." "It's hard to be away from the family and that makes any job tough. It is a tough job we do and being away from the family adds that extra element of hardness."

Hoyt and Iwicki were among the last members of the 58-year-old helicopter squadron to come home just in time for Thanksgiving after the eight-month deployment. …

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