'Dragon Slayers' return home after 8-month deployment

Published On: Oct 31 2012 03:46:13 PM EDT   Updated On: Oct 31 2012 08:52:42 PM EDT

At NAS Jacksonville, families welcomed home fathers and servicemen deployed with the carrier USS Enterprise.


This Halloween is even more special for a group of Navy families based out of Naval Air Station Jacksonville.

There wasn't a cloud in the sky Wednesday afternoon for the return of Helicopter Squadron 11, also called "Dragon Slayers." The team arrived home in a flying V formation after nearly eight months of deployment.

They were deployed with the USS Enterprise in support of "Operation Enduring Freedom."

IMAGES: 'Dragon Slayers' return home

Seven helicopters carrying 180 people returned to their families.

"I've got my family here and it couldn't be better," said Lt. Leif Walroth, who's back from his third deployment.

Many fathers saw their children for the first time since the spring. Liam Walroth was only 5 days old when his dad deployed in March.

"I just missed my family," Leif Walroth said while crying.

"Home for the first Halloween, so that was big to make it home, not to miss another first, you know. So that's great," Nicole Walroth said of her husband's return.

The USS Enterprise is on its final mission before it's decommissioned later this year. Petty Officer First Class Brandon Lee summed up what he and the other "Dragon Slayers" are sent out to do.

"Ultimately, we're out to protect the ship from carriers, any type of enemy threats that's out there," said Lee, of Middleburg. "If we come across them and have to take them out, that's what we do."

The squadron spent most of its deployment in the north Arabian Sea, bouncing back and forth between Dubai and the Kingdom of Bahrain. The squadron's commanding officer said this was one of his longer deployments.

"You communicate pretty well. I mean, email is up usually all the time, to be honest with you," Commander Ryan Keys said. "You can actually text people through email, which is great. So the communication aspect is there, but yeah, I mean being separated for eight months is definitely hard over time."

The families have plenty of time to catch up. They're not scheduled to deploy again until January 2015.


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