Strength, sacrifice, resiliency; the Gamblers return

F-16CM Fighting Falcon pilots assigned to the 77th Fighter Squadron, also known as the Gamblers, return home to Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., May 4, 2018.

F-16CM Fighting Falcon pilots assigned to the 77th Fighter Squadron, also known as the Gamblers, return home to Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., May 4, 2018. During the deployment, the Gamblers were part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class BrieAnna Stillman)

An F-16CM Fighting Falcon pilot assigned to the 77th Fighter Squadron, also known as the Gamblers, packs up a flag from his deployment in Afghanistan before exiting his jet at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., May 4, 2018.

An F-16CM Fighting Falcon pilot assigned to the 77th Fighter Squadron, also known as the Gamblers, packs up a flag from his deployment in Afghanistan before exiting his jet at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., May 4, 2018. After landing, the Gamblers greeted their families for the first time in six months. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class BrieAnna Stillman)

Upon landing, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. James Buessing, 77th Fighter Squadron commander, gathered his things to greet his family for the first time in six months at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., May 4, 2018.

Upon landing, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. James Buessing, 77th Fighter Squadron commander, gathered his things to greet his family for the first time in six months at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., May 4, 2018. The Gamblers supported the Afghan government by training and advising their military while assisting counter-insurgency operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class BrieAnna Stillman)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. James Buessing, 77th Fighter Squadron (FS) commander, greets his daughter with a hug upon his return to Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. James Buessing, 77th Fighter Squadron (FS) commander, greets his daughter with a hug upon his return to Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. The 77th FS Gamblers returned home from Afghanistan, May 4, 2018 after supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class BrieAnna Stillman)

An F-16CM Fighting Falcon pilot assigned to the 77th Fighter Squadron, greets his wife upon returning home from Afghanistan to Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., May 4, 2018.

An F-16CM Fighting Falcon pilot assigned to the 77th Fighter Squadron, greets his wife upon returning home from Afghanistan to Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., May 4, 2018. The Gamblers left their families for six months to protect and serve the United States. (U.S. Air Force phot by Airman 1st Class BrieAnna Stillman)

U.S. Airmen return home from a six-month deployment to Afghanistan at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., May 6, 2018.

U.S. Airmen return home from a six-month deployment to Afghanistan at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., May 6, 2018. Team Shaw members were welcomed home by their leadership while walking to greet their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class BrieAnna Stillman)

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Larry Tate, 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant superintendent, embraces his daughter upon return from a six-month deployment at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., May 6, 2018.

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Larry Tate, 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant superintendent, embraces his daughter upon return from a six-month deployment at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., May 6, 2018. Tate said he was filled with emotions of excitement and happiness when he first saw his family. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class BrieAnna Stillman)

A U.S. Airman places his sunglasses on his son at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., May 6, 2018 after returning from a six-month deployment to Afghanistan.

A U.S. Airman places his sunglasses on his son at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., May 6, 2018 after returning from a six-month deployment to Afghanistan. Many Team Shaw members sacrificed watching their children grow and spending time with their families to support the deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class BrieAnna Stillman)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- After kissing loved ones, embracing their children and saying goodbye for six months to serve the United States in a country more than 7,000 miles away, Airmen from the 77th Fighter Squadron, also known as the Gamblers, set off for their journey to Afghanistan October, 2017.

In the weeks leading up to their departure, the Gamblers mentally prepared themselves for Operation Freedom's Sentinel, which supports the Afghan government by training and advising their military while assisting counter-insurgency operations.

Throughout the deployment, Airmen had to adjust to their new way of life.

"I was already used to transforming my mind and preparing for mortar or rocket attacks because you never know where they are going to land and that could be your last time," said Senior Master Sgt. Larry Tate, 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant superintendent. "You have to prepare yourself in being right within yourself and being right with other people."

Many were deployed for the first time and had to work together to overcome bumps in the road.

"Being that this was my first time deploying, in the beginning it was hard to adjust, but once you get the feel of where everything is and how the work day is supposed to go it becomes normal," said Senior Airman Illian Milligan, 20th AMXS weapons load crew member.

As the six-month deployment came to an end, just as they mentally prepared themselves for the deployment, they had to bring themselves back to the reality of being home.

“Honestly, when I landed it was mixed emotions because I was like 'oh finally we are home, but then I realized I also had to go back to doing (regular) life now,” said Milligan.

Both Milligan and Tate agreed deploying can be a life-changing experience that teaches the beauty in the little things in life, creates growth in oneself and helps one better appreciate family and friends.

The Gamblers were welcomed home to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina by leadership, spouses, children and friends, May 2018 and to enjoy well-deserved rest and relaxation before returning back to work to support the country once more.