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Joyful return from Asia of Hill AFB F-16 forces

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Rain clouds threatened, but the only water to hit the ground Tuesday at Hill Air Force Base came in the form of tears falling from the eyes of family members reuniting.

More than 130 Airmen from the 388th Fighter Wing and Air Force Reserve 419th Fighter Wing came home Tuesday afternoon after a four month deployment to Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea.

Over Easter weekend, about 70 Airmen, including 10 F-16s, also returned from the deployment.

During the deployment, pilots, maintainers and personnel provided F-16 air support in the region as part of a routine U.S. Pacific Command Theater Security Package rotation.

Col. Lance Landrum, commander of the 388th, said the deployment enabled the airmen from both the active duty and reserve fighter wings to take part in the United States' commitment to provide stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region. 

Hill officials say the movement of Air Force fighters into the Pacific has been ongoing since March 2004, in order to maintain a vigilant deterrent against threats to regional security and stability.

North Korea has become a growing concern globally, with the continued growth of its nuclear weapons and long-range missile programs and human rights abuses.

"This (deployment) is just another example of their dedication and their families' sacrifice," Landrum said. "We're eager to welcome them home."

Minutes before her husband Matthew Schaff touched down on Hill's flightline, Haley Schaff recalled the challenges she faced while her husband was away.

"It seemed like the minute he left, everything started breaking down at the house," she said. "You have to get used to doing things on your own very quickly."

Schaff said she was able to communicate with her husband nearly every day he was away, thanks to modern technology like Skype.

"I would have to get up about 4 in the morning because of the time difference, but it was worth it," she said.

Matthew Schaff said military deployments are good at helping a person remember how great they have things back home.

"It's tough, but it's a great experience," he said. "You take things for granted, like home cooked meals and things like that."

Ron Halti, along with his three young children, waited at the flight line for the return of his wife, Heather.

"(Having a spouse deploy) is definitely a transition," Halti said. "You never really get used to it, but you get pretty good at adjusting and getting used to a really busy schedule.

After four months of going it alone with his three kids and continuing to work full time as a civilian at Hill, Halti said he and his wife are both ready for some rest and relaxation.

"We really only have one plan," he said. "To relax."

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