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Making sacrifices, sticking together

Married pilots embrace each other after a flight.

Capt. Maggie Nicklas, 35th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, and Capt. Thomas Nicklas, 80th FS F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, embrace each other after their final flights at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 2, 2020. The duo commemorated their last flights together at Kunsan, before departing to Spangdahlem AB, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mya M. Crosby)

A pilot hops out of an F-16.

Capt. Maggie Nicklas, 35th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, hops out of a cockpit after her final flight at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 2, 2020. Nicklas and her husband, Capt. Tom Nicklas, 80th FS F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, celebrated their last flights together at Kunsan, before departing for Spangdahlem AB, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mya M. Crosby)

Married pilots pose for a photo together.

Capt. Maggie Nicklas, 35th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, and her husband, Capt. Tom Nicklas, 80th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, pose for a photo together after their final flights at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 2, 2020. The married couple is now assigned to Spangdahlem AB, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mya M. Crosby)

Pilots speaking to each other.

Capt. Tom Nicklas, 80th FS F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, speaks to another pilot before his wife arrives from her final flight at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 2, 2020. Nicklas and his wife, Capt. Maggie Nicklas, 35th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, were assigned to Kunsan’s two fighter squadrons. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mya M. Crosby)

A group of pilots pose for a photo.

F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots from the 35th and 80th Fighter Squadrons pose for a group photo at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 2, 2020. The pilots celebrated Capt. Tom Nicklas, 80th FS pilot, and his wife, Capt. Maggie Nicklas, 35th FS pilot, who flew their final flights at Kunsan after serving a short tour together. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mya M. Crosby)

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --

When a family consists of more than one service member, life can be challenging.

For Capts. Maggie and Tom Nicklas, former 35th and 80th Fighter Squadron pilots, their short-tour at Kunsan AB meant they would finally live together.

According to Maggie, the two married F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots met four years ago, but spent more time apart than together over the years, due to offset training schedules.

“We have ended up at the same bases, but not on the same timeline,” Tom said. “I would always end up leaving a few months after she arrived. I extended here six months to align our timelines so we were able to spend a whole year together.”

The married couple was assigned to each of the 8th Fighter Wing’s only fighter squadrons – the 35th FS “Pantons” and the 80th FS “Juvats” – which share a fierce yet friendly rivalry on base.

“We always joke that there are family rivalries between sports teams and what not, but we have agreed that we may have the most serious one,” Maggie said. “Flying here has been great. It has challenged us and afforded us opportunities that we are incredibly grateful for.”

Despite the distance and differing timelines the military life brings, the Nicklas family has adjusted to the ‘on-the-go’ lifestyle and remained appreciative since day one of their Air Force careers.

The Air Force Academy graduates met at a Christmas party during pilot training at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, four years ago. Now they are fully-skilled aviators, soaring through the skies and getting the mission done as a dynamic fighter pilot duo.

“It has been an amazing experience being F-16 pilots,” Maggie said. “It’s been challenging but very rewarding throughout our very young career so far.”

While their time at Kunsan has come to a close, the Nicklas family will continue their Air Force journey at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

“We both absolutely love our jobs,” Maggie said. “It’s what both of us wanted to do and our number one pick. We feel incredibly lucky to be F-16 pilots, and being able to enjoy this career with someone you love is even more special.”