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Utah airmen vital to Afghanistan operations

September 20, 2009 (by Capt. Chris Seamans) - The men and women of the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings arrived in Afghanistan and made history as the first U.S. F-16s to operate out of this country.

Airmen from the 421st EFS perform a final safety inspection before F-16C block 40 #88-0422 from the 421st FS takes off for its mission on August 20th, 2009. The aircraft launched from Bagram AB to provide security to the Afghan people on their election day. The F-16's and the Airmen from the 421st EFS are deployed from Hill AFB. [USAF photo by SrA. Felicia Juenke]

The 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron's "Black Widows" landed quietly one late afternoon in July and the booming sound of the afterburner has been prevalent ever since. This may mark the foundation for future "Viper" units to operate in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and for the continued security improvements throughout this war-torn country.

Afghanistan resembles the landscape of Utah with steep mountains, hot sunny days where temperatures often exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit and cool brisk mornings that bring reminders that winter is just around the corner. The biggest difference between home and Afghanistan is the basic fundamentals of freedoms that we enjoy. The goal is to ensure that the Afghan population will someday share, without fear and retribution, the freedoms we practice daily.

The Black Widows operate F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft and deliver close air support to the ongoing international joint operations at Bagram AB. The air cover that the F-16 delivers ensures security and immediate response for ground forces to operate safely in the rugged mountainous and desert terrain. Hundreds of active duty and Reserve personnel are responsible for providing the sorties that the International Security Assistance Force ground forces require to do their mission. The busy flightline here, amidst the hustle of fixing jets and loading munitions, is evidence that this objective will be met - the aircraft will be ready for the next critical mission.

Recently, the squadron played an integral part in the historic Afghan Presidential election on Aug. 20, 2009. The dedicated efforts of the maintainers and pilots provide daily success stories of the difference our military, and in particular this Team-Hill force, is making. The war here is real and the men and women from Team Hill were not only ready for the challenge but set the standard for future units to maintain.

Courtesy of 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron

Additional images:

USAF F-16C block 40 #88-0452 from the 421st FS launches from Bagram AB on August 20th, 2009 to assure safety and security to the Afghan people on their election day. [USAF photo by SrA. Felicia Juenke]

Two USAF F-16C block 40s lead by #88-0452 from the 421st FS taxi at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan on September 10th, 2009. [USAF photo by MSgt. Jerry Morrison]
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