Reunion celebrates 419th Fighter Wing’s 60 years of service

Reunion celebrates 419th Fighter Wing’s 60 years of service

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Reservists from Hill Air Force Base’s 419th Fighter Wing often use words like “brotherhood” or “family” to describe the bonds formed while fighting alongside their fellow citizen airmen.

For the De Los Reyes family, those descriptions have literal meaning.

The Idaho-based family has four men serving in the wing. Brothers Brandon and Cody De Los Reyes, a senior master sergeant and master sergeant, respectively, have each been with the fighter wing for more than a decade. They were followed by two brothers-in-law, 1st Lt. Sterling Broadhead and Senior Airman Nathan Broadhead.

And the family’s ties to the wing don’t end there. Years ago, Brandon and Cody’s father, Jose De Los Reyes, also served with the 419th.

“It’s interesting that we’ve all ended up there,” Brandon said. “My father definitely had a huge influence on us (joining the Air Force reserves), but I think we all had our own individual reasons as well.”

For both Brandon and Cody, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were a major motivating factor.

“After 9/11, it kind of seemed like a logical choice,” Brandon said. “There was a desire from our side and there was a need from the Air Force’s side, so that’s what we did.”

The brothers have each deployed overseas four times since joining the wing in the early 2000s, including deployments they served together to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Having your brother there helps immensely,” Cody said of fighting overseas. “But by the end, those people you deploy with become your family as well.”

For 60 years, reservists like those from the De Los Reyes family have been making similar contributions to the 419th and the Air Force reserve. Last weekend, active reservists welcomed hundreds of alumni who served in the wing as far back as 1955, celebrating a legacy six decades long.

According to the 419th’s Public Affairs office, reservists from the wing have served in every major U.S. conflict — from the Vietnam War to Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the follow-up to the initial combat operations in Afghanistan.

Since 9/11, 419th Airmen have filled more than 4,000 combat deployments. Members of the wing also have participated in humanitarian relief efforts in the Caribbean, Africa, Central America and stateside.

Since its beginning, the wing has flown and maintained nine aircraft, including trainers, cargo planes and, of course, fighter jets.

Hill reservists initially took to the skies in the first-generation F-80 Shooting Star — the Air Force’s debut fighter aircraft. Until the 1980s, the wing flew the F-84 Thunderjet and the F-105 Thunderchief fighters, along with numerous other cargo aircraft.

In 1983, the 419th became the first Air Force reserve unit to fly the F-16. The “firsts” with the F-16 continued; the wing was the first Fighting Falcon unit to conduct air strikes in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks and the first F-16 unit to fly combat missions into Iraq.

Along with the active-duty 388th Fighter Wing, members of the 419th will fly and maintain the fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II fighter jet.

“We’ve had a pretty incredible history,” 419th commander Col. Bryan Radliff said. “You look back at the past 60 years, and you see some very significant contributions from the men and women of this wing.”

Radliff says there are 1,100 members in the 419th today, most of whom have full-time jobs apart from their Air Force duties. He said the airmen “live locally, but serve globally.”

Although combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have halted, Radliff said his group continues to head overseas. About 20 percent of the wing will be deployed this winter to support operations in the U.S. Central Command region.

But before that, they celebrated 60 years with the men and women who came before them.

Reunion activities included a 5K run, golf tournament, motorcycle rally, banquet and tours. Kari Tilton, spokeswoman for the wing, said funds from the events will support the Air Force Association’s Wounded Airmen Program, the Hill Reserve Alumni Charitable Association, and the George E. Wahlen Ogden Veterans Home.

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