BY GLENN PUIT
ELK RAPIDS — It's going to be a very special Thanksgiving this year at Scott and Debbie Dennis' Elk Rapids home.
Scott Dennis is a brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force and serves as commander of the Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.
He will return home by Thanksgiving after a full tour of duty.
"I'm obviously very happy. It's been a long year," Debbie Dennis said.
Scott Dennis, who from Afghanistan spoke to a Record-Eagle reporter, said he's excited to return to Elk Rapids.
"Its been an honor to serve over here," Scott Dennis said. "I'm anxious to see my family."
The 451st Air Expeditionary Wing at Kandahar Airfield is a major coalition air power hub in Afghanistan. Scott Dennis is an experienced F-16 fighter pilot and flew more than 60 combat missions in the last year.
He is most proud of the work he did on one mission to help a group of special operations troops hit by an improvised explosive device. Dennis flew overhead in his F-16 and attacked the enemy with bombs and strafing runs. That effort allowed a medical evacuation chopper to retrieve the wounded troops.
"There is a lot of responsibility," Dennis said. "It's a very busy, full-time job. Seven days a week, usually 14 to 16 hours a day."
Dennis also commands more than 6,000 troops as the NATO commander at the airfield.
"It's a noble coalition," Dennis said. "All of these countries are working to give Afghans a chance at a better future. Since we've surged over here in the last couple of years the conditions have really turned around. The Afghans still have a road to go but the impact we've made over here is huge."
Dennis played on the Elk Rapids High School football team and graduated in 1980. Teamwork represents the most valuable life lesson learned from growing up in Elk Rapids.
"What we do in the Air Force and the military is really about teamwork," Dennis said. "That's what I grew up thinking about. Yes, there's discipline, but teamwork is important — the 'you are only as strong as your weakest link' philosophy."
Dennis' next assignment will be at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina.
He'll get some time, though, to enjoy being home in northern Michigan for some family time and turkey dinner.
"The families at home sacrifice more than we do," he said.