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Chief Master Sgt. Brett Allison gives his daughter, 2nd Lt. Sherry Mattson, a hug last month on his surprise visit to Mattson on her deployment to the Middle East.
Chief Master Sgt. Brett Allison gives his daughter, 2nd Lt. Sherry Mattson, a hug last month on his surprise visit to Mattson on her deployment to the Middle East. (Courtesy of Brett Allison)

Second Lt. Sherry Mattson thought she was on baggage detail for a couple of distinguished visitors. Little did she expect the surprise she was in for Jan. 19, less than a month into her first Air Force deployment at Al Udeid, Qatar.

The visitors were real, but the baggage duty was a ploy: Into the DV lounge walked Mattson’s dad, Chief Master Sgt. Brett Allison, who’s deployed from Misawa Air Base, Japan, to Camp Patriot, Kuwait, where he’s the camp’s senior enlisted adviser.

“My jaw just dropped,” said Mattson, a contracting specialist at Yokota Air Base, Japan, by phone from Qatar on Tuesday. “I just started crying. I just ran up and gave him a hug. They completely blindsided me — I wasn’t expecting it at all.”

Meeting his daughter in the desert happened by chance, Allison said.

A lieutenant colonel from the Pentagon, deploying into the 586th Expeditionary Mission Support Group — the parent unit of Allison’s detachment in Kuwait — needed an M-4 and arranged to get one from Al Udeid. When some “opportune airlift” became available, Allison volunteered his services.

“I was trying to find a legitimate excuse to go down there and luckily one popped up,” Allison said.

The visit was another chapter in a father’s and daughter’s unique and shared military experiences: In May of 2004, Allison commissioned his daughter into the Air Force, and later that same year, Mattson administered her father’s re-enlistment oath at Misawa.

Mattson said seeing her dad is the highlight so far of her deployment. She’s enjoying the challenge of work and life in the desert but it’s difficult being away from her family — husband Nick and sons Dylan, 5, and Tyler, 7 months — for 120-plus days.

“Being that my dad’s been in the military now for 28 years, he knows what it’s like” missing family, Mattson said. His advice: “‘Just be as supportive as you can,’” she said. “They’re very supportive of us, but they need [us] just as much.”

Allison’s visit was less than two days, but it was well worth it, he said.

“When I walked through the door, just seeing the look on her face, that was a Kodak moment,” he said. “I always feel so proud of her, what she’s doing and what’s she’s accomplished, and just knowing that she’s over here at the same time I am.”

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