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Air Force couples enjoy sweet reunions after stressful deployment (+photos)

Published: Sunday, July 21 2013 10:51 p.m. MDT

Sr. Airman Drew Glaister hugs his wife Shellie as 140 members of the 729th Air Control Squadron "Angry warriors" return home from a six-month deployment to Southwest Asia in Layton Sunday, July 21, 2013.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Air Force Capt. Dennis Napier stood on the Hill Air Force Base flight line holding a bouquet of brightly colored flowers anxiously waiting for his wife, Air Force Capt. Megan Ziegert.

Napier and Ziegert have spent less than three weeks together since getting married last September. A pilot stationed at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico, he went to Afghanistan shortly after their wedding. She spent the past nearly seven months in southwest Asia with the 729th Air Control Squadron, which returned Sunday.

"It's been rough, especially with overlapping deployments," Napier said before the jet carrying his wife touched down. "We both know what the other is going through, so you do whatever you can to help lift them up and keep them going."

But their reunion will be short-lived. He's headed back to his base at the end of the week. Such is the life of an active-duty military couple.

Ziegert was among 141 members — 124 men, 17 women — of the squadron known as the "Angry Warriors" that returned to the embrace of cheering family and friends.

The squadron's air battle managers, surveillance technicians, radio communications experts, aerospace generator specialists, heating and air conditioning technicians, network experts and supply staff controlled more than 255,000 square miles of Afghani airspace and provided support to 34,000 air combat sorties.

"I'm extremely proud of our returning Angry Warriors," said Lt. Col. Darin Humiston, 729th Air Control Squadron commander. "I also greatly appreciate the sacrifices of their families who make it possible for our outstanding airmen to deploy in support of our nation's efforts in Afghanistan."

Napier and Ziegert met at boot camp about 10 years ago.

"We knew getting into that it was going to keep us apart, but we try to make the most of the time we have together and we try to be there for each other through stuff like this," she said.

Ziegert and the 729th spent the past six months in coordinating airplanes with troops on the ground in Afghanistan.

"Our job is to execute the war, so we make it all happen," she said. "When things go wrong and guys are taking fire, we're the ones who bring the aircraft in, arrange for the gas and make sure everyone has the airspace and the gas they need to get the job done."

Ziegert, holding the bouquet from Napier, said it's a high pressure job, but also gratifying because "we literally save people's lives every day."

Napier wasn't the only man standing in the hangar with flowers.

Paul Webb waited with nervous excitement for the his girlfriend, Maj. Julie Sposito. The couple met online about 14 months ago. Being apart wasn't easy on either of them.

"You worry that maybe they've changed or that you've changed," Webb said. "You wonder if you're going to be OK. Are we going to be OK?"

Some conversations on Skype were awkward because Sposito couldn't reveal anything about her work and Webb didn't want to let on if he'd had a bad day.

"If she's stressed out, she's holding a lot in. You have to be strong for them. You can't be super emotional," he said.

At the same, Sposito said she always let Webb know she was definitely coming back.

Sposito, who worked as operations director for the squadron, said it does take time getting used to being home. It's liking starting over and finding out new things about him, she said.

Webb, whose father served in the military, called Sposito his hero.

"She helped me out more than I helped her out," he said. "She's the tough one, not me."

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com, Twitter: dennisromboy

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