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513th ACG reservists return home on veterans day

Senior Master Sgt. Mike Gibson, an Air Surveillance Technician assigned to the 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron, hugs his wife, Shawna. Eighty nine reservists returned Sunday night from a 6-month activation supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Sandra Hatton)

Senior Master Sgt. Mike Gibson, an Air Surveillance Technician assigned to the 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron, hugs his wife, Shawna. Eighty nine reservists returned Sunday night from a 6-month activation supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Sandra Hatton)

Master Sgt. Gabriel Richardson, an Air Surveillance Technician assigned to the 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron, holds his 6-month-old son for the first time. Richardson returned Sunday with 89 Reservists from the 513th Air Control Group after a 6-month deployment to Southwest Asia. Collin Richardson was born just a few days after Master Sgt. Richardson left on the deployment. (U.S. Air Force Photo byTech. Sgt. Sandra Hatton)

Master Sgt. Gabriel Richardson, an Air Surveillance Technician assigned to the 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron, holds his 6-month-old son for the first time. Richardson returned Sunday with 89 Reservists from the 513th Air Control Group after a 6-month deployment to Southwest Asia. Collin Richardson was born just a few days after Master Sgt. Richardson left on the deployment. (U.S. Air Force Photo byTech. Sgt. Sandra Hatton)

Master Sgt. Gabriel Richardson, an Air Surveillance Technician assigned to the 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron, embraces wife Candice and his six-month-old son for the first time. Richardson returned Sunday with 89 reservists from the 513th Air Control Group after a six-month deployment to Southwest Asia. Collin Richardson was born just a few days after Master Sgt. Richardson left on the deployment. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Capt. Jon Quinlan)

Master Sgt. Gabriel Richardson, an Air Surveillance Technician assigned to the 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron, embraces wife Candice and his six-month-old son for the first time. Richardson returned Sunday with 89 reservists from the 513th Air Control Group after a six-month deployment to Southwest Asia. Collin Richardson was born just a few days after Master Sgt. Richardson left on the deployment. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Capt. Jon Quinlan)

Master Sgt. Elliot Mackay, a Communications Technician assigned to the 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron, hugs his daughters after returning from a six month deployment. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Caleb Wanzer)

Master Sgt. Elliot Mackay, a Communications Technician assigned to the 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron, hugs his daughters after returning from a six month deployment. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Caleb Wanzer)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Eighty-nine reservists from the 513th Air Control Group returned here Sunday from a six month deployment to Southwest Asia supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Hundreds of family members, friends, coworkers, base leadership and even a high-school marching band awaited them as they cleared customs and entered an aircraft hangar.

"I've never had a welcoming like this," Staff Sgt. Nicole Singh said. This is her third deployment as an Air Surveillance Technician assigned to the 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron. "We were all shocked at how many people were out there to support us."

This is only the third time the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System unit was activated. As reservists, the transition back to civilian life after a deployment can be a little tricky according to Sergeant Singh. "We loved the chance to serve next to our active duty partners. Now we are looking forward to getting back to our families and our civilian employers."

Friends and families, some who waited hours to see their Airmen, rushed in for hugs as the reservists stepped into the hangar on Sunday night. One family held a larger-than-life photo of a returning Airman above the crowd. The high school marching band from Carl Albert High School supported the event with patriotic music.

One mother of a six-month-old baby held another sign that read, 'I've been waiting my whole life to meet you daddy.' Candice Richardson, from Ardmore, Okla., gave birth to her son five days after her husband left on the deployment.

"I could see him and I was shaking like a leaf," Mrs. Richardson said after spotting her husband, Master Sgt. Gabriel Richardson, in the line of Airmen getting off the jet.

Sergeant Richardson was able to keep in contact with his wife and newborn son through video chat while he was deployed overseas. "She sent numerous, thousands of pictures over," he said. "Skype is a beautiful thing."

The commander for the 970th Expeditionary Airborne Air Control Squadron, Lt. Col. Matthew Conrad was very pleased with the Airmen's job during their deployment.

"Everyone did a fantastic job, and we all did it together," Colonel Conrad said. The 970th EAACS, traditionally an Air Force Reserve squadron, contained a mix of active-duty and reserve Airmen.

"We know what we can do, we know what our capabilities are, and if we're ever called upon we know how to do it again," he said when asked what the unit learned during their deployment,

The reservists were a part of about 150 personnel returning to home station at Tinker. The rest of the Airmen are assigned to the 552nd Air Control Wing.

The 513th Air Control Group is an associate unit of the 552nd ACW, providing flight crews and maintenance personnel to help fly and maintain the E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft owned by the active-duty wing.

The Reservists, members of the 513th Air Control Group, were assigned to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing and supported the AWACS command and control mission as a part of OEF.