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2019: Year in Review

Image of F-35 on the horizon

U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II’s from Hill Air Force Base returned to Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, to rejoin the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing on Nov. 16, 2019 for their second combat deployment. The F-35 is a stealth, 5th generation fighter, multirole combat aircraft designed for ground attack and air superiority missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua Williams)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah – As 2019 comes to a close, the 419th Fighter Wing is looking back on key milestones of the F-35 Lightning II program and other news that showcased how Air Force Reserve personnel assigned here are accomplishing the mission.

In January, the wing welcomed then Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, who toured various areas of the F-35 units here. The wing also sent pilots, maintainers, and support personnel to Nellis AFB, Nevada, for an advanced aerial combat training event known as Red Flag. The F-35 triumphed once again during the three-week exercise, proving itself a lethal leader among 39 other units and various aircraft from around the world.

In the spring, the 419th Medical Squadron sent Airmen to Guatemala to provide dental care to underprivileged communities. They also deployed optometry, dental, radiology, cardiology, pediatrics, pharmacy, and operating room experts to serve villagers in and around Tata, Morocco. Later, the wing would provide further humanitarian aid as reservists in the 419th Civil Engineer Squadron rebuilt a remote Alaskan village that had been destroyed by erosion.

April marked a significant milestone in F-35A history as the 419th FW sent pilots, maintainers, and support personnel to Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, as part of the first F-35A deployment to the Middle East. Working with the active duty 388th FW, they also conducted the F-35A’s first combat strike

The month of May kicked off an important F-35A deployment to Europe as part of a Theater Security Package that took the jet through several countries with a mission to maintain a combat-ready posture, deter threats, and support U.S. allies. The wing would conduct several flying exercises throughout the summer, both at Hill AFB and abroad.

When it comes to jet noise, the summer months were quiet in Northern Utah as parts of the Hill AFB runway were reconstructed. But the unit remained busy while deployed to alternate locations, including Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, which was the largest off-station F-35A operation to date.

Autumn came with yet another deployment to the Middle East, this time for Airmen across the 419th Mission Support Group, followed by a second F-35A deployment for reservists in operations and maintenance.

By December, Hill’s fighter wings received their final F-35A, having welcomed the first jets in September 2015. This brought the total number of jets to 78.