Thursday, Jane Aplin had tears in her eyes as the massive C-130, carrying 20 airmen, flew in and taxied down the runway at Maxwell Air Force Base, bringing them home a from a five- month deployment to Afghanistan.
Aplin was holding a sign, imprinted with hands, that read, "These are the hands that prayed you home." Her son, Staff Sgt. Luke Aplin, with the 908th Airlift Wing out of Maxwell was coming home.
"I'm so excited I can't stand it!" Aplin said. "I just want to touch him and smell him."
Aplin was scared for her son after she heard the news of a recent C-130 crash in the Middle East that killed the crew and several passengers. It was confirmed the plane was not one of the 908th's, but she still gets worried.
"I did not want him to join, because I was scared of this, of Luke going to places ... he's my baby, he's my family," Aplin said.
Aplin's son was among a group of C-130 maintainers who were deployed in early June to Kabul, Afghanistan, to train the Afghan Air Force on how to maintain their aircraft.
The whole Aplin family, sister, father, fiance and others, came from Millbrook and stood on the runway ready to welcome Luke home from his first deployment. As soon as he got off the plane, he was surrounded and given tight hugs by everyone.
"It means absolutely everything to be back," Luke Aplin said. "My family is everything to me. Thank God for technology, because if we couldn't FaceTime of text, that would make the separation that much harder. Coming home and being home is awesome."
All he wants now is a vacation to the beach and a nice steak dinner.
Aplin taught the Afghan Air Force avionics and his father, Fred Aplin, is very proud that his son is following in his footsteps and serving in the military. He's glad to have his son home.
"It's a whole different ball game now. I was overseas in the Army, but when it's your son, when it's your child, that's extra special when they come home safe and sound," Aplin said.
This was the first time the 908th had been deployed for this type of training mission to help establish the Afghan Air Force, according to training manager Senior Master Sgt. William Mayfield, who was also the head electrician during the deployment.
"Our main mission was to train, advise and assist," Mayfield said. "We were flying in rural areas, so they knew the consequences if they didn't do something to learn their mission and if their plane didn't fly right, then it could lead them to not be successful and their country won't prosper."
"They were fighting for their future and we were eager to teach them," Mayfield added.