Utah Airmen vital in Afghanistan

Utah Airmen vital in Afghanistan

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — The men and women of the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings arrived in Afghanistan and made history as the first U.S. F-16s to operate out of this country.

The 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron's "Black Widows" landed quietly one late afternoon in July and the booming sound of the afterburner has been prevalent ever since. This may mark the foundation for future Viper units to operate in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and for the continued security improvements throughout this war-torn country.

Afghanistan resembles the landscape of Utah with steep mountains, hot sunny days where temperatures often exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and cool brisk mornings that bring reminders that winter is just around the corner. The biggest difference between home and Afghanistan is the basic fundamentals of freedoms that we enjoy. The goal is to ensure that the Afghan population will someday share, without fear and retribution, the freedoms we practice daily.

The Black Widows operate F-16 aircraft and deliver close air support to the ongoing multinational joint operations here. The air cover that the Viper delivers ensures security and immediate response for ground forces to operate safely in the rugged mountainous and desert terrain. Hundreds of active duty and Reserve personnel are responsible for providing the sorties that the International Security Assistance Force ground forces require to do their mission. The busy flight line here, amidst the hustle of fixing jets and loading munitions, is evidence that this objective will be met — the aircraft will be ready for the next critical mission.

Recently, the squadron played an integral part in the historic Afghan Presidential election on Aug. 20. The dedicated efforts of the maintainers and pilots provide daily success stories of the difference our military, and in particular this Team-Hill force, is making. The war here is real and the men and women from Team Hill were not only ready for the challenge but set the standard for future units to maintain.

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