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Airmen return home, grounded for 6 months

By Peter Samore | Posted - Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 7:54am

5 photos

SALT LAKE CITY — Happy airmen returned home to Hill Air Force Base after six months away, but they won't be flying for another six months because the federal government cannot afford it.

About 150 airmen returned Monday from a deployment to Kunsan Air Base on the Korean Peninsula. The pilots, maintainers and personnel provided F-16 air support in the region as part of a routine U.S. Pacific Command's Theater Security Package rotation.

The federal sequestration at Hill Air Force Base means the government cannot afford to fly the Fourth Fighter Squadron for six months, when the government's fiscal year ends.

But Col. Scott Long said the airmen will have other things to do.

"Flying simulators, doing ground exercises, a lot of administrative, professional military education, all kinds of things that normally - because of the high operations tempo - we don't get a chance to do," he said.

A bunch of emotions all come together and makes all of this worth it, seeing these guys.

–Tech Sgt. Justin Smith

Meanwhile, the airmen are happy to be home with their families. Tech Sgt. Justin Smith had a joyful reunion with his wife, Ashley Smith, and their children.

"A bunch of emotions all come together and makes all of this worth it, seeing these guys," he said, fighting back tears.

"It's amazing, it's been too long," Ashley Smith said.

Zack Wymer has been married for 18 months but "re-proposed" to his wife first thing.

"I was waiting for this, to see her again. She means the world to me. She's my better half," he said.

Hill had to absorb millions of dollars in spending cuts because of the federal sequestration that has furloughed other employees at the Layton base.


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