North Dakota Guard members reunited with friends, family after deploymentFARGO — Four-year-old Thea Underdahl of Fargo is her daddy’s little girl.
By: Jessica Ballou, The Dickinson Press
FARGO — Four-year-old Thea Underdahl of Fargo is her daddy’s little girl.
So she was full of anticipation Thursday morning while waiting at Hector International Airport for her father to return from a six-month deployment in Southwest Asia.
By the time Tyler Underdahl finally landed in Fargo at 10:50 a.m., 30 minutes late because of a weather delay in Minneapolis, Thea was bubbling over with excitement.
Underdahl was one of about 50 members of the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Civil Engineer Squadron returning to Hector on Thursday on three flights.
While on the deployment, the Guard members worked on construction and electrical projects. They repaired eight miles of perimeter berm, installed four shower trailers, renovated a dining facility and eight other buildings, serviced 1,400 heating ventilation and air-conditioning units, completed a $1.6 million electrical distribution/substation project and completed another 20 construction projects valued at $4 million.
Underdahl’s friends and family members — including his wife, Amber, Thea, and his 9-month-old twins, Madden and Luke — waited patiently near the terminal exit for him to arrive. When he and the other Guard members walked out, tears started flowing.
“There will be lots of playing and outside stuff to do today,” a smiling Amber Underdahl said, seeing her family reunited. “It’s been a long time.”
“It’s great to be home,” Tyler said, rarely taking his eyes off his wife and children.
He said he’s looking forward to family time the most, just “getting to know them again.”
Michelle Nicklay, a member of the Air Guard’s medical group, was one of several 119th Air Guard members who drove to the airport to greet their returning comrades. She had a long wait because her boyfriend, Jody Saatoff, was returning on an afternoon flight, the third and final one of the day.
Nicklay and friends joked that while no tears were shed yet, they would by the time the second plane landed with more friends on it and then finally the third plane, the one carrying her boyfriend on it.
“We’ve been waiting patiently,” she said about waiting with her fellow Guard members who took a bus together from Air Guard base before the first plane arrived.
“It’s been a pretty emotional day.”