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Airmen return to Utah after six-month deployment

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HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah – Hundreds of Airmen from the expeditionary 421st Fighter Squadron returned here Sunday following a six-month deployment to Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.

The deployment, in support of the United States Air Force Central Command mission, included Airmen from the active duty 388th Fighter Wing and Air Force Reserve 419th Fighter Wing.

“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.”

During the deployment, the wings 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.

“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 FW 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.”

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 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 returning Airmen will quarantine for 14 days to prevent any potential spread of the coronavirus.

The 388th and 419th are the Air Force's first combat-capable F-35A units, flying and maintaining 78 jets in a total force partnership, which capitalizes on the strength of both the active duty and Reserve components.