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Mom, son fight war on terrorism together

OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM (AFPN) -- The Schnichels family has done a great job of sticking together.

Not only are three of them bearing the same last name stationed together at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., but two are fighting the war on terrorism at the same forward-deployed location in the Arabian Gulf region.

Master Sgt. Carol Schnichels, a food service supervisor for the 379th Expeditionary Services Squadron, and her son, Airman 1st Class Casey Schnichels, a crew chief for the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, arrived here within three weeks of each other.

"It happened totally by chance," Carol said.

Her son, Casey, was originally going to deploy to another forward location, but was instead sent here. Fate was with them, he said.

"We knew within a couple of days that he was going to be coming here," she said. "I'm not sure if he was excited about it, but I know probably half of the camp knew after I found out."

The 379th Air Expeditionary Wing here is one of the largest units in the region, supported by KC-10 Extenders and KC-135 Stratotankers. The wing has delivered more than 250 million pounds of fuel in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

"I didn't really mind being deployed with her," 20-year-old Casey said. "We're stationed together back at Grand Forks, so it wasn't too big of a deal."

The family seems to be inseparable. Casey's father, David, is a master sergeant and aircraft maintenance superintendent at Grand Forks. Casey is a crew chief in the same squadron.

Togetherness is a concept the Schnichels embrace, according to Casey, who said that his family has always been close and he enjoys his parents' company.

"I've never had a problem with my family," he said. "I like being with them."

Unfortunately, Carol and Casey do not get to see each other here as much as they would like. They work different shifts and usually have different days off. They consider the moments they have seen each other as quality time.

"When he first arrived, we had coffee and chatted," Carol said. "That's when I really realized, 'Wow, he's really here with me.'"

Having a family member deployed at the same location could be considered a dream come true for many warfighters. Some only have contact with their family through a phone call, letter or e-mail. Carol is lucky enough to experience a family member in the same tent city.

"It's great. It makes the time here so much easier because I know I'm not alone," she said.

Carol said she will not have the opportunity to deploy with her husband, as this is her last trip before she retires soon at Grand Forks. He deployed in March and will probably deploy again sometime soon, she said.

But being with her son is a perfect way to close a 21-year Air Force career, she said.

"You can't get enough of your children," she said. "If I could, I would have brought all three with me."

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