REUNITED: Henry Mooney with his nine-month-old son Jessee. Jessee was just 6 days old when Henry left for Afghanistan.
REUNITED: Henry Mooney with his nine-month-old son Jessee. Jessee was just 6 days old when Henry left for Afghanistan. Sarah Harvey

Hugs and kisses as our RAAF boys come home

RAAF Fight Lieutenant Adrian Rogers is used to being sent overseas to hostile territory.

The 38-year-old has been assigned to war zones like Afghanistan and Iraq seven times.

But it never gets easier for the father of two to leave his wife and daughters for months on end.

Flt Lt Rogers was among the 65 Air Force personnel who were welcomed home yesterday from a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan.

The troops made up a contingent called Security Force One.

Its job was to protect aircraft, base infrastructure and personnel against enemy attack.

The detachment was stationed at Multi National Base Tarin Kot, to replace the Slovak guard force in November 2012.

At a welcome home parade at RAAF Base Amberley, Flt Lt Rogers said he was glad to be back to relax and spend time with his family.

The Springfield airman said the 198-day mission had had its share of challenges.

He said about 70% of the detachment had never been deployed anywhere, so it had been an effort to get the group ready to essentially go to war.

"We took over the Slovakian platoon, so that was difficult, too, as most of those guys didn't speak English," he said.

"With that language barrier we had to do a handover-takeover, review their procedures, improve and develop our own, and carry on with the task for seven months.

"And while you are there, not only do you have to combat the environmental challenges, you're constantly exposed to that risk of the enemy as well."

The welcome home parade coincided with the first presentation of the Air Force Ground Combat Badge.

The newly created military decoration is issued to personnel who regularly operate beyond the relative safety of the base; serving "outside the wire" in a combat role.

All members of Security Force One were presented the medal for their duty in Afghanistan by the Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Geoff Brown.

At the ceremony, Air Marshal Brown said the 65 personnel in Security Force One had undertaken one of the biggest challenges of their careers.

"No doubt, our personnel have grown from the experience, and come home with a greater understanding of their role in an operational environment and the importance of our mission in Afghanistan," he said.

"Our personnel encountered the challenges only confronted by those who have deployed and dealt with the separation from families and friends."

Flt Lt Rogers, who served as Security Force One commander, said it was an honour and a privilege to be among the first recipients of the medal.

Security Force One returned home in July after transferring authority to the Security Force Two detachment.

Security Force Two is due to return mid-December when the base in Tarin Kot closes.