Airmen return to Hill Air Force Base following 3-month deployment in Germany

Family members, friends and pets greet airmen from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings who returned to Hill Air Force Base on Monday from a three-month deployment to Spandgahlem Air Base in Germany. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Thomas Barley

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah, May 10, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — Pilots and support personnel from the active-duty 388th and reserve 419th Fighter Wings returned to Hill Air Force Base on Monday after deploying the F-35A Lightning II to Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany.

The 34th Fighter and 34th Fighter Generation Squadrons deployed to Spangdahlem in February to bolster readiness, enhance NATO’s collective defensive posture and increase air integration capabilities with allies and partner nations during the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, according to a news release from Hill Air Force Base.

“We deployed rapidly and provided cutting-edge air power to defend NATO’s eastern flank,” Col. Craig Andrle, commander of the 388th Fighter Wing, said in the release. “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 and Bulgaria during the three-month deployment, including air patrol missions along NATO borders with Ukraine, according to the news release.

“There’s nothing better than seeing our airmen return home after a successful deployment, especially one as important as this,” Col. Matthew Fritz, commander of the 419th Fighter Wing, said in the news release. “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.”

Hundreds of family members filled a large aircraft hangar at the base Monday, anxiously waiting to see their moms, dads, husbands, wives and children.

“We talk a lot about the capabilities and strength of our military members,” Andrle said. “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 Air Force Base is home to 78 F-35A Lightning II aircraft. The F-35 is the country’s most advanced multi-role fighter, combining stealth, sensor fusion and unprecedented situational awareness, the news release states.

The 388th Fighter Wing is the Air Force’s first active-duty, combat-capable F-35A Lighting II unit. The wing flies and maintains the jet alongside the 419th Fighter Wing, Utah’s only Air Force Reserve wing, according to the news release.


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