Fighter pilots return to Lemoore after 8 months at sea

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The pilots who make up VFA Two-5 or First of the Fleet put on a show before touching down in Lemoore. (KFSN)

After eight months aboard the USS Harry S. Truman Aircraft Carrier hundreds of sailors are returning home-- their mission complete. That includes about a dozen fighter jet pilots who returned to Naval Air Station Lemoore Tuesday afternoon.

The pilots who make up VFA Two-5 or First of the Fleet put on a show before touching down in Lemoore.

They're back on solid American soil after eight months at sea. They helped support Operation Inherent Resolve, where the mission was to degrade and defeat ISIS.

By all accounts they were successful, taking back large portions of territory in Iraq and Syria.

Lt. Charles Wickware was one of the fighter jet pilots who landed in Lemoore on Tuesday.

Wingnut, as he's called, was featured on ABC's This Week earlier this year. But now he has officially finished his last deployment, and his girlfriend Becca Davenport, couldn't be more excited. She said the first few months without him were the hardest.

"And then you get to a point where you're just counting down the days and checking them off the calendar, and you get really excited because the end is coming closer. So, that's today."

Wickware had previously completed two tours in Afghanistan, but he said this mission was by far the most unique.

"A, we have a different enemy that we're fighting and also the lack of friendly forces and US troops on the ground made it a different mission set as well. For us, for instance, the carrier and the air wing set a record for ordnance released."
That means deploying weapons, or dropping bombs.

The missions were full of challenges, like refueling mid-air over enemy territory, or landing safely on the carrier under cover of darkness. But Wickware said he drew on his training and experience to pull through tense midair moments.

"You're so focused on making sure that you're doing everything right, because it's absolutely critical that when we do employ a weapon, it goes exactly where we need it to go," Wickware said.

"There's always an element of danger when you're flying fighter jets, but I think you're aware of it and you just have to not think about it at length, or it'll drive you crazy," said Davenport.

He's home and he's safe, but Wickware is not done flying. His next stop is a getaway with his girlfriend. In his own private plane.

Let's also not forget about the 200 or so other sailors who are coming back from this mission, because they also helped make it successful.

They'll be returning on planes over the next couple of days.

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