Posted : Monday Jul 12, 2010
As reunions go, it only lasted a few minutes. But Jeff and Christine McLean were thrilled nonetheless to see each other, even though they couldn’t hug, let alone kiss.
Married in May 2009, the couple has spent most of their first year of marriage apart.
Lt. Jeff McLean flies an F/A-18 Super Hornet. Air Force Capt. Christine McLean pilots a KC-135 Stratotanker refueling plane.
After Christine McLean was deployed from England to southwest Asia in May for refueling missions in the skies over Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries, she hoped she might hook up — literally — with her husband, who had been flying combat and support missions from the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower since January.
But it wasn’t until late June, on Jeff McLean’s final flight of his deployment, when he rendezvoused with air refuelers over Pakistan that he saw his wife’s plane.
Jeff McLean wrote in an e-mail to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper that he and his wife had tried to coordinate their flight schedules, but with more than 50 KC-135s taking off daily to refuel both Navy and Air Force planes, it was too difficult to connect in the air.
On his last combat flight, Jeff McLean knew his wife would be flying in the same area at the same time, but because they had never been able to meet on previous flights, he was merely hoping to hear his wife’s voice on the radio.
“After I was done with my last mission in Afghanistan, the sun was just setting, and I changed frequencies to check in with my tanker, and it was Christine!” Jeff McLean wrote.
Although it was dark and turbulent — difficult conditions for aerial refueling — Jeff McLean said it was one of the highlights of the deployment.
“After she gave me about 10,000 pounds of fuel, I flew right up next to her cockpit. She turned on the lights and waved, and I could see her, but it’s pretty dark in my jet, so I’m not sure that she ever saw me waving. ... We were able to fly together all the way out of country and back over the Arabian Sea at 500 knots, then I had to head back and land on the ship and she headed back to her base. As we broke apart, I lit my afterburner, which hopefully looked pretty cool in the dark. It was an absolutely perfect flight.”