October 26, 2020 (by Micah Garbarino) - Hundreds of Airmen from the expeditionary 421st Fighter Squadron returned here today following a six-month deployment to Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.
Pilots and F-35A Lightning IIs assigned to the 421st FS return to Hill AFB following a six-month deployment to Al Dhafra AB on October 23rd, 2020. The deployment included Airmen from the active duty 388th and Reserve 419th FWs. While deployed, the 421st FS employed the F-35A in close air support missions, performed offensive and defensive counter-air and enable regional deterrence by participating in joint exercises with national partners in the Middle East. [USAF photo by R. Nial Bradshaw]
The deployment, in support of the United States Air Force Central Command mission, included both Airmen from the active duty 388th and Reserve 419th Fighter Wings.
“We’re all proud of the job that the 421st FS
has done and we’re excited to have them back home,” said Col. Steven Behmer, 388th Fighter Wing commander. “They picked up right where our previously deployed squadrons left off. We’ll continue to train here and remain focused on providing F-35A combat capability.”
During the deployment, the 421st FS employed the F-35A on close air support missions, performed offensive and defensive counter-air, and enabled regional deterrence by participating in joint exercises with national partners in the Middle East.
“Our Airmen provided a blanket of security for our nation and our allies while putting our adversaries on notice,” said Command Chief Master Sgt. Liz Cloyd. “There is no doubt they were ready and prepared to meet the needs laid out in our National Defense Strategy. Now, we welcome them home for a well-deserved rest and reconstitution.”
The deployment was the third time in 16 months that F-35As from Hill AFB
were called upon to support a combat mission, demonstrating the readiness of the wings’ Airmen and the capabilities of the F-35A Lightning II.
The returning Airmen will quarantine for 14 days to prevent any potential spread of the coronavirus.
“We’re extremely happy to welcome everyone home in time for the holiday season and look forward to seeing our folks reunited with their loved ones,” said Col. Matthew Fritz, 419th FW commander. “Deployments are always a challenge and each of our return deployers and their families deserve a pat on the back for a job well done.”
The F-35A, the conventional takeoff and landing variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, provides greater operational capability by combining advanced stealth capabilities with the latest weapons technology.
The 388th and 419th are the Air Force's first combat-capable F-35A units. The first operational F-35As arrived at Hill AFB in 2015. The active-duty 388th FW and Air Force Reserve 419th FW fly and maintain the jet in a total force partnership, which capitalizes on the strength of both components. Hill AFB is home to 78 F-35s.