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Daughter Helps Dad Wrap Up 28-Year Career

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Approximately 100,000 military service members are currently deployed and fighting the war against terrorism. Most of whom, will not see their families for at least six months. However, there is the rare occasion where family members have the opportunity to serve side by side.

Senior Master Sgt. Timothy Lindell, a 763rd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron RC-135 Rivet Joint systems engineer, and father of Staff Sgt. Kimberly Haithcoat, Air Forces Central Command knowledge operations manager, was one of the lucky few. He and his daughter were both deployed at the same time to Southwest Asia and able to spend the last four months of his service in the Air Force together. 

His final flight in service to his country occurred Oct. 10 aboard the same RC-135 aircraft that started his operational flying career nearly 20 years ago during Operation Provide Promise out of Bosnia. 

"Once I knew the jet was here, we were able to work with maintenance to ensure it was scheduled on that day," Lindell said. 

Not only was the day made special by the aircraft tail number, but also because his daughter was able to share it with him.

"I was concerned that if she wasn't able to make it to my retirement, I wanted to do something with her," said Lindell. "Additionally, I flew my very first sortie on an operational mission over the Adriatic Sea supporting operations in former Yugoslavia, so I wanted to finish my flying career on an operational sortie." 

Even though their schedules were polar opposite for the past four months, and Lindell is now on his way home, they both still appreciate the blessing.

"I worked a mid-shift with an unpredictable flying schedule, whereas she was on a day shift," said Lindell, who switched from active duty to guard in 2011 and is deployed from, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. "So, we tried to get together whenever we can."

His daughter echoed his sentiment.

"We tried to meet once a week for breakfast," said Haithcoat, deployed from Minot Air Force Base, N.D.

The pair said they never imagined this opportunity in their future. 

Lindell, native of Milbank, S.D., said serving in the military was a family tradition for him, but wasn't sure it would be passed onto his daughters.

"My dad was a Marine who served in Vietnam and my grandfathers were in the Army," he said. "I chose the Air Force because I wanted to be different, but my little brother ended up joining after me."

Lindell, who enlisted in 1985, said Haithcoat swore she would never join. "I was rebellious," she said.

However, she said she still always had an appreciation for the military lifestyle, and as she grew older, decided to follow in her father's footsteps. 

"I was used to the military way of life," said Haithcoat, who was born in the Philippines and later lived in Louisiana, England, Okinawa and eventually settled in Bellevue, Neb., before joining the Air Force. "You are able to travel and see a lot of things, whereas a lot of people never even leave their state or area they are from." 

Lindell said his daughter worked in the private sector for a while and it made her realize maybe the military was a good career option. Haithcoat joined at 21 and has now served for more than seven years. Another of Lindell's three daughters also enlisted and works at the National Security Agency on Ft. Meade, Md.

"I was really happy and proud that she decided to join," Lindell said. "I went with both of my daughters to the recruiters and we talked about the different career field options."

Although they have taken completely different career paths within the Air Force, Haithcoat said she often went to her father during the first few years for advice.

"Early on she used to ask me questions pretty frequently," Lindell said. "But she is tough and has a strong personality, so it didn't take her long to find her own way." 

With his retirement looming at the beginning of December, this was the last chance he had to deploy with a family member, and he is very appreciative of the opportunity.

"It's important to have family support," Lindell said. "We've both been here separately and it's literally night and day the difference in quality of life when you have somebody here as opposed to not."

Haithcoat agreed and as a single mom understands the hardships of being away from her four-year-old daughter. Fortunately, she has had her dad to lean on.

"He's always been there for me," she said. "Any big events that happen in my life, when I need some advice, I always call him, so it's nice to actually talk to him in person."

Both father and daughter have found great joy in having each other to lean on, especially when so many others won't see their families for months to come. 

"As a parent who spent a lot of time separated from my kids, and now watching my daughter as a mom having to do deal with the same thing, it is good to be able to offer advice on how to deal with it," said Lindell.

Having her father here in person to provide that advice made a world of difference for both of them, but also, for the first time Haithcoat was able to see her father's work. 

It was really comforting to have him here, but also really cool to see him in action," Haithcoat said. "As an adult, I was able to come out and see exactly what he does and understand his mission." 

The flight was a very fitting and memorable way to complete his 28 years in service, and while Haithcoat hopes to return home in time for his Dec. 12 retirement, she is thankful to have been part of his final flight.

"I was really excited that I was able to be here and to see that," she said. "I think fini flights are a big milestone in any career, but to be there for your Dad's in a deployed location ... I was really proud and happy I could experience that with him." 

(1st Lt. Susan Harrington contributed to this story)

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