ARLINGTON (CBS 11 NEWS) – U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard Altobello is on his latest mission. He’s come to Miller Elementary School in Arlington to surprise his 9-year-old daughter Ashlyn.

“Ten seconds in the hallway before I walk in, my stomach will be doing somersaults,” he said anxiously.

Just days ago, Lt. Col. Altobello returned from a six-month tour in Afghanistan. He hasn’t seen Ashlyn in seven months — the longest period he’s been apart from his daughter.

The 15 year veteran F-16 pilot, who’s based in Virginia as part of the Air Combat Command, knows the reunion may force their emotions to soar to a high altitude.

“I’m going to do my best to look cool, since we’re on-camera but I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to hold up to that.”

Inside the 4th grade classroom, Ashlyn Altobello doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about — she knew her mom would be there today. And then, she realized… the moment her father walked into the room. She ran up to him shouting, “Daddy!” They told each other how much they loved and missed each other.

Mission accomplished.

Ashlyn said it was, “Very surprising.” Her father couldn’t agree more.  “Seeing a range of emotions on her face go from surprise, to happy, to crying in a third of a second was priceless.  It’ll be something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.  It’s a moment I’ll treasure.”

Ashlyn told reporters and her classmates, “I was just so happy.”

It seems there wasn’t a dry eye in the room – well maybe just one.

Lt. Col. Altobello said, “I told you, I had to keep cool.” He is here in North Texas as part of his two weeks of R&R.

Ashlyn’s mother, Holli Altobello says it will be difficult for her daughter to say goodbye to her dad. “This time, it will be even more emotional because she hasn’t seen him in so long.  It’s a teary mess when he has to get in the car and pull away.”

But Lt. Col. Altobello and Ashlyn have plans to go to Disney World this March.

Ashlyn may be just nine years old, but she’s old enough to understand her father’s job.  “I know it’s important, very important to the USA.”