Hill Airmen, F-35s Return from Middle East Deployment

Airmen and F-35As from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, returned home on May 7 from the aircraft type’s second combat deployment to the Middle East.

The Airmen and aircraft deployed to Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, in November 2019 for the F-35’s first “Immediate Response Force” deployment as tensions with Iran increased.

During the six-month deployment, Airmen from the Active Duty 34th Fighter Squadron and Reserve 466th Fighter Squadron, as well as Airmen with the 34th and 466th Aircraft Maintenance Units, operated from multiple bases throughout the region and flew close air support, offensive and defensive counter-air, and maritime escort missions, according to a Hill release.

“We’re extremely proud of the mission these Airmen carried out during their deployment. It’s what we train for here every day,” said Col. Steven Behmer, 388th FW commander, in the release. “We have a lot of happy families here today. It’s great to have them home and we look forward to the rest of our Airmen returning.”

Some of the wings’ Airmen and aircraft remained in the Middle East to continue conducting operations. The two squadrons replaced Hill’s 4th Fighter Squadron, the base said in a release.

Brig. Gen. David Abba, director of the F-35’s Integration Office, said in March that the deployment would not be the last for the aircraft in the region. As tensions with Iran increased, the Airmen and aircraft “were ready to respond on a moment’s notice, should the order have been given for any additional missions to be executed,” he said.

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Airmen will be quarantined for 14 days either at home or in on-base lodging.