(Courtesy photo)
(Courtesy photo)

By Staff Sgt. Eboni Reams, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

All over the world there are military units involved in the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and protecting the central middle-eastern region. The 389th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron is one of the most forward-operating units in this campaign. The squadron, comprised of highly-trained aviators, had a unique opportunity of hosting a husband and wife team who helped mission execution.

“For a military family, a six-month military deployment is always a family affair as it involves service and sacrifice from all involved,” said Lt. Col. Gary Marlowe, 389th EFS commander.  “Usually, that means leaving someone on the home front to manage affairs outside of the deployed area. It is a rare instance when the family gets to deploy together. We are very fortunate to have some mil-mil couples within our flying community; and even more fortunate when they are able to align assignments and deploy together.”

Lt. Col. Michael ‘Havoc’ Landers, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing inspector general and Maj. Staci ‘Rio’ Landers, 389th Expeditionary Operations Group executive officer, deployed from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho for a combat tour in Southwest Asia. Both brought different capabilities to the fight and were valuable members of the 389th EFS team.

Havoc, one of the most experienced aviators in the F-15E Strike Eagle, has 3,400 hours in the aircraft with over 1,400 hours of combat time. Rio is a weapons system officer and instructor preparing to be the director of operations for the 366th Fighter Squadron following the combat tour. As experienced officers, the Landers duo set a high standard for the deployed fighter squadron.

“The Landers provide an awesome example to our young aircrew for how to be good officers and aviators,” said Lt. Col. James Blanton, 389th Expeditionary Operations Group deputy commander. “They’ll take a lot of experience and leadership with them when they leave, but the EFS is better for having had them here.”

The couple has flown more than 100 sorties in the area of responsibility throughout their tour and will fulfill new leadership opportunities back at Mountain Home.  Continuing a legacy of excellence that members of their deployed unit will not forget.

“They brought flight leadership and instruction that has helped a young squadron perform at a very high level,” Marlowe said.

The fight against terrorism is won by using the best of the best and the shared benefit of having not one, but two top players providing combat airpower left a lasting impression.

“It didn’t seem possible to pull two key field grade officers from 366th Fighter Wing leadership positions back home,” said Marlowe. “But, as the deployment approached, the wing was very willing to support – not only in words but also by sending people in key positions forward. It was a huge win for us to bring not only one, but two Landers on the deployment.”