April 19, 2011 (by Andrea Houck) - A dozen F-16s, their pilots and 36 maintainers returned home Friday after a nearly seven month deployment to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.
Capt. Paul Doughty, a pilot with the 4th FS, displays an American flag while taxiing F-16C block 40 #88-0467 from the 4th FS at Hill AFB on April 15th, 2011. Six of the unit's jets returned to the base after a six-month deployment to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.
Families gathered on the flightline to greet their loved ones from the 4th Fighter Squadron and 4th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, who have been gone since September to maintain security and stability in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. This was the 388th's third successful OEF deployment since 2009.
Col. Scott Long, 388th Fighter Wing Commander, worked with the 4th Fighter Squadron in Afghanistan as the deployed 455th Expeditionary Operations Group Commander at Bagram Airfield.
Colonel Long said he feels fortunate to already be familiar with a large group of personnel who now work for him.
"I'm so glad to see our Airmen return home safely, and I'm proud of all their hard work," Colonel Long said.
The unit's primary mission was to maintain security and stability in the region by providing close air support for coalition ground troops, and the maintainer's mission was to provide vital safe, reliable, and combat ready aircraft support.
Although some Airmen returned Friday, the 388th and 419th FWs have about 250 more people expected to return later this week. This large group of airmen also supported coalition objectives while in Afghanistan.
Because of the support the deployed Airmen received back home, they were able to focus and accomplish their mission, said Lt. Col. William Bailey, 4th Fighter Squadron Commander.
"Until you've actually been there, you just don't realize what a huge sacrifice people make," Colonel Bailey said. "These deployments, once they get longer, it's just very difficult for the families."
At home, Monica, Colonel Bailey's wife, said the Airmen were gone long enough to miss holidays, anniversaries and almost an entire school year.
"We're just happy they're all home safely," Mrs. Bailey said.