The Werner Family: serving together while apart

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class David Phaff
  • 47th Flying Training Public Affairs

One of the biggest challenges that uniformed service members from any branch have to face is the separation from loved ones. We’ve all had those moments where we had to be away from friends and family for extended amounts of time. Imagine being stationed away from your loved ones, and coming back from a deployment only to see your spouse deployed only weeks after your return.

Abby Bailey wanted a challenge out of life. Something she could leave a mark on and be proud of while being a part of something that was more than just working a regular 9 to 5 job. The Air Force is a place where she can have that opportunity. Working as an air traffic controller, she finds it's both challenging and rewarding.

Airman 1st Class Abby Bailey, 47th Operations Support Squadron air traffic controller. Joined the Air Force Jan. 2, 2019.

“I wanted to be challenged, I worked at Smoothie King and at Disney World a little bit, but I wanted something that meant more than just making a smoothie.” said Airman 1st Class Abby Werner,

In May of the same year, she married now-Airman Brinnin Werner. He was inspired by his wife and made another big commitment to join the Air Force May 5, 2020. Brinnin joined the ranks of the Air Forces as a defender.  

“Joining wasn't something I really thought about until we were married and living on base,” said Airman Brinnin Werner, 47th Security Forces Squadron installation entry controller. “I saw her put on the uniform every day and most of the people I knew or met were here on base. Joining just seemed like the right choice.”

Brinnin had a dream of being a cop when he was a kid and the dream followed him into adulthood.

“Growing up, I've always thought about being a cop, so I talked to Abby about this and security forces seemed like the right choice,”  Brinnin said. “I've already been able to do some pretty exciting things since I've been in. At my training, I got to throw a grenade--how many people get to do that!” 

Being a mil-to-mil couple has its benefits. But it also has its own trials and tribulations. The Werners attribute one of the most difficult parts is the time and distance spent away from family, friends and especially each other. While both went through training relatively close to one, another it was the first hardship the couple overcame.

“We knew there would be moments where we would have a large amount of time apart from each other, and we knew that was going to be the most difficult aspect to overcome.” said Abby.

“My family isn’t that far--we are from Texas originally--but they are still outside the travel radius with the new COVID restrictions,” Abby said. “So I can't just go see them as I would like or how I was used to.”

However, she found a family on base with the people she spends most of her days with: her work family. 

“I work with only 10 people,” said Abby. We’re always in the tower together, we get to share a lot of time together and get to connect with each other.”

Brinnin has also built a support system with the people he works with. Working long shifts with a single person at a time at the gate or going through deployment training can bring you very close to the ones you work with.

“I really like to talk to people, and that's what you do when you’re posted at the gate for 12hours,” said Brinnin Werner. “You can really get to know the people you work with and get closer to your unit while becoming real friends.”

The couple is about to undergo their next challenge as a deployment will soon put the couple back into a similar position they had to experience at the start of their careers.

“We are going to have to work at it, but I know we can both get through the times we have to be apart,” said Abby. “We’ll text and FaceTime, so there are a couple of ways we plan to be able to talk to each other like we have been doing ever since we both went through tech school.”

The Werners have spent a large amount of their marriage apart, but they look at it as a growing experience. Enjoying the time they have together while doing work they are proud of and know they are a part of something bigger.

“We are very privileged today with technology that allows us to call and see each other or send a text,” said Abby Werner. “So it could be worse; some couples don't always have the opportunity to be able to talk as much as we do, but at the end of the day, that's the job we volunteered for. We like where we are in life and choose to look at the bright side.”