Mirage returns home

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- After performing 41 concerts in six countries for nearly 10,000 people and traveling thousands of miles, Academy musicians are grateful to be home! 

When Mirage returned from a two month deployment to the Colorado Springs Airport June 4, they were greeted by family members, friends, and members of the Academy Band. 

Senior Master Sgt. Michael Woods, percussionist and superintendent of the group, said he was, "excited and relieved to be home. Coming off the plane and seeing my wife and two daughters was tremendous. I've been in the Band for 19 years, and seeing all the band members was like coming home to family." 

Group leader and clarinetist Master Sgt. Heike Gazetti said, "My legs were trembling just like my daughters were when I held her. There were lights, music, cameras; it was such an amazing, warm reception." 

"It was great to see our families," Vocalist for the octet, and mother of five, Tech. Sgt. Nancy Poffenbarger said. 

Two additional groups from the Academy Band have deployed in recent years. 

Wild Blue Country, the country band, deployed in 2006, and Blue Steel, a rock band, was deployed in 2008. Deployed bands perform for troops, as well as in communities at schools, embassies, community centers and orphanages breaking down previously high walls between host countries and Americans. 

Before Mirage arrived, members of the Academy Band gathered in the lobby with their instruments. As they've done for other returning groups, they were poised to play the Air Force Song as Mirage members entered the lobby. 

Master Sgt. Janusz Masztalerz, who had previously deployed, said he was happy to be there and support his colleagues. "First of all it was exciting because it is a great tradition ... playing the Air Force song, it creates a nice feeling that we have a band family. Also, I remember for me it was really important that people came to greet me, and hearing the Air Force song coming down the walkway it reminds why we went there, why we made the sacrifices we did in separating from our families, and how important our mission is." 

Between the eight Mirage musicians who'd deployed, there were 14 children left behind. They range in age from 19 months to more than 20 years old. The children were there to greet their parents, some had balloons, and others flowers. All had enormous smiles. The spouses were equally as excited, and relieved their loved ones would soon be in sight. The families were allowed to go to the gate to meet their loved ones.
Others waited in the lobby. 

As the octet emerged, Drum Major Master Sgt. Karl Bradley counted off "One, Two" and the band performed the Air Force Song. 

Mirage members returning looked sleep deprived, dazed, and happy. However they mustered enough energy to gather their luggage and go home with smiles on their faces and loved ones under their arms.