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Tech. Sgt. Adam Jensen, a joint terminal attack controller assigned to the 1st Air Support Operations Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, gazes into the eyes of his 7-month-old son, Cayden, after returning home Saturday from a six-month deployment to Baghdad, Iraq. Jensen is surrounded by his wife, Aljona, foreground, his mother Darlene, center, and his mother-in-law Katerina, right.
Tech. Sgt. Adam Jensen, a joint terminal attack controller assigned to the 1st Air Support Operations Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, gazes into the eyes of his 7-month-old son, Cayden, after returning home Saturday from a six-month deployment to Baghdad, Iraq. Jensen is surrounded by his wife, Aljona, foreground, his mother Darlene, center, and his mother-in-law Katerina, right. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

RAMSTEIN, Germany — Eight Air Force joint terminal attack controllers returned to Ramstein Air Base early Saturday after six months in Iraq.

But the members of the 1st and 2nd Air Support Operations Squadrons who are stationed around Germany could have easily been mistaken for soldiers because of what they were wearing.

The airmen, who worked hand-in-hand with Army units to arrange air support, were clad in the muted digi-camouflage of the Army Combat Uniform. Their name tapes, however, were stitched in blue, with one of them identifying the servicemembers’ branch as the “U.S. Air Force,” and their Air Force ranks were visible on their chests.

Air Force Maj. Michael Dodson, 1st Air Support Operations Squadron, Detachment 3 commander, said he normally got two questions from airmen and soldiers on his uniform while downrange.

The first question both ask is if Dodson is wearing the new Air Force uniform. (The answer is no). The second question from airmen is if he’s allowed to wear ACUs. (The answer is yes because of the nature of the squadron’s mission). The second question from soldiers is how can they go about joining the Air Force.

Uniform questions aside, the eight airmen worked side by side with Army units in Iraq from as far west as Ramadi to as far east as the Iranian border. Within a few minutes of U.S. troops making enemy contact, the airmen could have air power overhead to provide surveillance, firepower or low sweeps in a show of force.

Dodson likened the job to being a fireman.

“We’re there on call,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen, but we’re always ready.”

Upon exiting the Ramstein passenger terminal Saturday, Tech. Sgt. Adam Jensen hugged his family and then spent minutes gazing into the eyes of his 7-month-old son without saying much. When Jensen deployed, Cayden was just a month old. Now the child has grown considerably.

When asked how it felt to be home, Jensen had only a few words.

“Nice,” he said. “Great. It’s hard to explain.”

Clearly, the specific emotion was hard to express in words, yet easily recognizable to anyone observing Jensen while he held his son and smiled.

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