Md. Air Guardsmen are glad to be back


Chuck Bock wrapped his arms around his wife and daughter yesterday, happy to be home after two months as part of the U.S. peacekeeping force in Bosnia.

"I wanted Daddy," cried 4-year-old Jenny, with flushed cheeks and teary, red eyes as she clutched her father's right leg with both arms.

"She's so happy she cried," said her mother, Dee M. Bock, 37.

They were among about 130 members of the 175th Tactical Fighter Group of the Maryland Air National Guard and their families that crowded the ground-floor terminal at Baltimore-Washington International Airport for a happy and spirited reunion.

"While he was gone, the plumbing backed up, the kids got sick and the truck wouldn't work," said Mrs. Bock. "It's so great to have him home again. It was just nerve-wracking having him over there because we didn't know what was going on."

For Mr. Bock, 35, a machinist from Upperco who helped maintain the airplanes that patrolled Bosnia from Aviano air base in northern Italy, the tour of duty "was fantastic." But "I'm glad to be back home with my family," he said.

His unit departed Jan. 6 from Martin State Airport in Middle River, just as the Blizzard of 1996 was starting.

Yesterday, Col. Clinton D. Magsamen, acting commander of the 175th, and Brig. Gen. Bruce F. Tuxill, assistant adjutant general for air, joined mothers, fathers, spouses and children at the airport's international terminal doors to welcome their troops.

"They've been away from home and loved ones for some time," General Tuxill said, shaking hands with the troops. "For the Air National Guard, it was business as usual. But it is wonderful to have them back with folks waiting here for them, supporting us and the will of the nation."

About 120 guardsmen were sent to Aviano Sunday to replace the troops who came home yesterday.

While many were picked up at BWI after their 12-hour, 4,500-mile flight home, other guardsmen boarded a bus to take them to Martin State Airport where family members were waiting.

At least one guardsman, Paul Zurkowski, a pilot who flew missions over Bosnia, said he was preparing to head straight back to work today after a restful night's sleep, "hopefully."

"The weather was really, really bad with lots of snow," said a tired Mr. Zurkowski, 34, an aerospace engineer at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Edgewood.

"It was tough getting in country and below the weather to work with ground troops. It was pretty intense. But I really enjoyed it," Mr. Zurkowski said.

While many described the tour as "boring" and "thankfully, uneventful," George L. Boardley said he did manage to find some excitement in Italy.

"I fueled all the planes that came through the base," said Mr. Boardley, of Randallstown, "I got to fuel President Clinton's plane when he came through. It was pretty exciting.

"It sure is good to be home, though," he added, smiling, as he spotted his wife's silver-blue Mazda creeping up through airport traffic.

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