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Hill Airmen return from Afghanistan

Tech. Sgt. Cliff Calhoun, a reservist in the 419th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, embraces his wife and daughter upon returning from deployment to Afghanistan. About 300 Airmen from the active duty 388th Fighter Wing and Reserve 419th Fighter Wing returned to Hill Air Force Base on May 10. While deployed, the Airmen supported F-16 operations in the region as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO’s Resolute Support Mission. Most of the Airmen were deployed for six months. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bryan Magaña)

Tech. Sgt. Cliff Calhoun, a reservist in the 419th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, embraces his wife and daughter upon returning from deployment to Afghanistan. About 300 Airmen from the active duty 388th Fighter Wing and Reserve 419th Fighter Wing returned to Hill Air Force Base on May 10. While deployed, the Airmen supported F-16 operations in the region as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO’s Resolute Support Mission. Most of the Airmen were deployed for six months. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bryan Magaña)

Airmen from the active duty 388th Fighter Wing and Reserve 419th Fighter Wing return to Hill Air Force Base on May 10 after a six-month deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO’s Resolute Support Mission. While deployed, pilots and maintainers generated more than 2,800 sorties and the aircraft spent more than 10,000 hours in the skies, dropping more than 100 guided bombs in support of coalition troops on the ground. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

Airmen from the active duty 388th Fighter Wing and Reserve 419th Fighter Wing return to Hill Air Force Base on May 10 after a six-month deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO’s Resolute Support Mission. While deployed, pilots and maintainers generated more than 2,800 sorties and the aircraft spent more than 10,000 hours in the skies, dropping more than 100 guided bombs in support of coalition troops on the ground. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah --  

Nearly 300 active duty and Reserve Airmen assigned to the 421st Fighter Squadron, known as the Black Widows, returned here Tuesday following a nearly eight-month deployment to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

 

The 421st FS spent more than 10,000 hours in the skies, flying 2,800 sorties and dropping more than 100 guided bombs in support of coalition troops on the ground as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO’s Resolute Support mission, according to Lt. Col. Mike Meyer, commander of the 421st FS.

 

“As the only dedicated fighter unit in Afghanistan, we provided 24/7 close air support across the entire country,” Meyer said. “There are still quite a few Americans on the ground there, so we liked to think of ourselves as their guardian angels.”

 

This likely marks the final F-16 deployment from Hill as the base’s fighter wings transition to the F-35, the Air Force’s newest fighter aircraft. The 388th and 419th Fighter Wings were the first active duty and Reserve units to begin flying operational F-16 missions in 1979 and 1983, respectively.

 

Hundreds of family members and community supporters lined up outside a maintenance hangar, clapping and cheering as they greeted the returning Airmen.

 

“These families are the real heroes,” Meyer said. “You can't even say how good it makes you feel to see the support from the base and local community.”

 

As Tech. Sgt. Cliff Calhoun embraced his four-year-old daughter, the 419th FW reservist and avionics mechanic said it was great to have another successful deployment behind him.

 

Calhoun took a military leave of absence from his civilian career for the deployment and has deployed to Afghanistan twice previously.

 

“There’s nothing better than coming home,” he said.