Airmen return home on Veterans Day

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TINKER AIR FORCE BASE - About 150 airmen from the 552nd Air Control Wing and 513th Air Control Group returned to Tinker Air Force base Sunday night.

The airmen had been on a six-month deployment to Southwest Asia in support of ongoing operations in Afghanistan.

"Left actually on Mother's Day morning so a lot of crying that day but a lot of happy faces and a lot of happy kids inside tonight so they're very excited," Col. Jeffrey J. McGalliard said, Commander of the 513th Air Control Group.

Because about half the airmen returning are reservists, the deployment was a big deal to their families because they're not used to being deployed.

The Carl Albert high school band welcomed them home with food and a bounce house out for the kids while they waited for mom or dad or uncle or other loved ones.

One baby in the crowd had literally been waiting his whole life to meet his daddy.

"He was born May 18 and Gabe was deployed five days before he was born," Candice Richardson said.

Little Collin waited to meet his dad in his own little custom-made air suit with patches matching his dad's.

"It's been pretty tough," Richardson said. "The nights are the worst of course with baby not sleeping but we made it work. I have a really good support system at home."

Dad had seen him on the computer but it just didn't compare to the real thing.

When Gabe Richardson saw his son for the first time, he hugged him tight.

"It is incredible," Gabe said. "I've been waiting for this day for six months."

Little Collin cooed and smiled at his dad, seeming to know exactly who he was.

Gabe said he plans to make up for lost time.

"Watch him sleep and just kind of hang out with him," he said.

Both units returning home operate the E-3 "Sentry" Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft and provide all-weather surveillance and communications needed by commanders of U.S. and NATO air defense forces.

The 513th ACG is an Air Force Reserve unit associated with the ACW. 

This deployment marks only their third activation since the 513th ACG was formed in 1996.

Nearly 90 reservists were activated for this deployment.