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Reunited in the desert: Marine, Airmen couple brought together by deployment

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jacob B. Wrightsman
  • 378th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Over 7,000 miles away from their South Carolina home, a U.S. Marine husband and a U.S. Air Force wife reunite while both separately deployed.

Capt. Thomas Phillips, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115 weapon systems officer, and 1st Lt. Alyson Phillips, 378th Expeditionary Contracting Squadron infrastructure flight commander, were each tasked to deploy by their respective branches, little did they know that their paths would lead them both to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“My unit jokes and says I’m the first guy to get a good deal out of deploying to the region,” Thomas said. “It’s been pretty special.”

As a military couple married for just over a year, the Phillips’ are no strangers to dealing with long distance.

First meeting in 2018 while stationed at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, the couple maintained a long distance relationship during various moves until their marriage in September of 2020 and subsequent move to South Carolina in June of 2021.

“Luckily we don’t do long distance anymore but it’s still distance,” Thomas said.
“She works in Charleston and I work in Beaufort, South Carolina. We have a house but I only live there maybe four nights a week.”

While the hour and a half distance between Beaufort and Charleston is an improvement from previous assignments, it’s nothing compared to the distance of South Carolina to Saudi Arabia.

After finally being able to settle down in the same state and the same home, Alyson was quickly tasked to deploy in late October.

“Obviously there’s nothing we can do about being tasked to deploy,” Alyson said. “With us both being in the military we understand when things are out of our control and we kind of understand how that feels.”

However, shortly after Alyson left, Thomas’ unit was also given orders to deploy.

“My unit is on Dynamic Force Employment status, which pretty much means we have the ability to deploy anywhere in the world with a 10 days notice,” Thomas said. “We heard some rumors that we might be coming to this region and this was one of the potential bases we could go to.”

Although his unit was set to deploy, the location of the deployment was up in the air for some time.

Of all the possible locations for Thomas’ unit to be sent, one particular location caught the attention of the young couple, Prince Sultan Air Base, the same location as Alyson.

“There were a bunch of bases that were on the table and there was a lot of back and forth of whether he’d come out here or not,” Alyson said. “It got to the point where I said I won’t believe it until he’s actually here.”

As fate would have it, the answer to the unknown became realized when the final order came down and Thomas and his unit were tasked to deploy to PSAB.

“I was so excited,” Alyson said. “It’s weird to not see your husband for a while and then not see them at home but see them here.”

The reunion was finally made certain when one-by-one the F/A-18 Hornets of Thomas’ unit landed at PSAB.

Waiting patiently on the flight line was Alyson and members of her unit to witness the long-awaited reunion.

“It was kind of hard to believe it was actually happening,” Thomas said. “I was the last jet in my cell to land and one of the guys came over the radio and told me that she was here. I was fighting back some tears, it was pretty special.”

Through the distance, deployments and time apart, the young couple won’t soon forget their reunion in the desert.