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Airmen, jets return to Hill following European deployment

  • Published
  • By Micah Garbarino
  • 388th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah – Pilots, maintainers, and support personnel from the active duty 388th and Reserve 419th Fighter Wings returned here May 9 after deploying the F-35A Lightning II to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

The 34th Fighter Squadron, and 34th Fighter Generation Squadron, deployed to Spangdahlem in February to bolster readiness, enhance NATO's collective defense posture, and further increase air integration capabilities with Allied and Partner nations during the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

“We deployed rapidly and provided cutting-edge air power to defend NATO’s eastern flank,” said Col. Craig Andrle, 388th FW commander. “We’re proud of the work everyone put in to support that mission, and we’re glad to have them back home. Now, they’ll all get some much deserved time off.”

The squadron flew in Germany, Lithuania, Romania, Estonia, Bulgaria, including air patrol missions along NATO borders with Ukraine. The Vermont Air National Guard’s 158th FW, which also flies the F-35A, arrived at Spangdahlem recently to carry on that mission. 

“There’s nothing better than seeing our Airmen return home after a successful deployment, especially one as important as this,” said Col. Matthew Fritz, 419th FW commander. “Hill’s team of active duty and Reserve personnel did a fantastic job alongside our NATO allies and partners. Now we’ll continue to do what we do best – train day in and day out to ensure the F-35A and our people are ready to respond to the next fight, wherever and whenever.”

On Monday, hundreds of family members filled a large aircraft hangar here, waiting anxiously to see their moms, dads, husbands, wives, and children. In a way, every family member serves on any deployment, said Andrle.

“We talk a lot about the capabilities and strength of our military members,” said Andrle. “Our family members back at home have to be just as strong in a lot of ways. We could not do this without them.”

Hill AFB is home to 78 F-35A Lightning IIs. The F-35 is America’s most advanced multirole fighter, which combines stealth, sensor fusion, and unprecedented situational awareness. The 388th FW is the Air Force’s first active duty combat-capable F-35A Lighting II unit. It flies and maintains the jet alongside the 419th FW, Utah’s only Air Force Reserve wing.