Troops home from Afghanistan

REUNITED: Anita Spencer greets her partner Craig O'Keefe tonight.
REUNITED: Anita Spencer greets her partner Craig O'Keefe tonight.

New Zealand Defence Force troops returned home to their relieved loved ones tonight after a six-month deployment to Afghanistan.

Anita Spencer greeted her partner Craig O'Keefe at Christchurch International Airport withs hugs, kisses and a baby bump.

Spencer is 30 weeks pregnant and has found the six-month wait for her partner's return very hard.

"As soon as I knew he had left Aghanistan it was a huge relief," she said.

She said the pregnancy was "a surprise a week after he left".

Carly Rurehe-Blank was waiting for her partner Sgt Rodney Blank with her son Gibson, 8.

She said it had been hard without him.

"I have lost too much weight and had no sleep," she said.

"It's been really horrible. I couldn't stop thinking about it. I'm really, really proud of him. This time has been particularly hard. You just die a bit each day."

About 90 troops were greeted by their family members and chief of Army, Major General Tim Keating, when they landed tonight.

The troops were part of the 20th rotation of the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan.

The deployment was marred by tragedy when five troops were killed in August.

Lance Corporals Pralli Durrer and Rory Malone, both 26, were killed in a firefight on August 5, then a roadside bomb killed Corporal Luke Tamatea, Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker and Private Richard Harris on August 19.

The final contingent of New Zealand troops were deployed to Afghanistan in September.

The Press