Monday, October 6, 2008

Hill airmen return from Iraq mission

More than 300 airmen from Hill Air Force Base's 34th Fighter Squadron returned home Sunday from a May deployment to Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

Hill Air Force Base officials said the F-16 Fighting Falcons pilots, maintenance and support personnel helped maintain security and stability in the region by flying some 1,700 combat missions, performing overwatch and air support for coalition ground forces.

This homecoming marks the close of 400-straight days at Joint Base Balad for the members of the active duty 388th Fighter Wing and reserve 419th Fighter Wing. From August 2007 to October 2008, the wings' fighter squadrons were deployed back-to-back, flying over 5,000 combat missions and 20,000 hours. During the round-the-clock operations in Iraq, they responded to over 3,000 requests for air support and provided precision-guided, air-to-ground weapons in over 200 engagements.

The troops were reunited with family members and friends at Hill unexpectedly early on Sunday, with their transport flight arriving about 8:30 a.m., nearly four hours ahead of schedule.

(The Deseret News, published: Monday, Oct. 6, 2008 12:50 a.m. MDT)