HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — A group of F-35A maintainers from the 419th Fighter Wing returned home last month after a three-month deployment to Al Dhafra Air Base the United Arab Emirates, where they participated in ongoing operations throughout U.S. Air Forces Central Command.
The team deployed alongside active duty counterparts from the 388th FW and supported the launch of two jets that conducted the first-ever F-35A combat air strike in Iraq as part of Operation Inherent Resolve on April 30.
This was the first deployment for Senior Airman Tyson Kimber, 419th Maintenance Squadron, who works as a diesel mechanic in his civilian job.
“The deployment was a little rough with a youngster back at home,” Kimber said. “But I had a good time and a great team out there — the best team.”
While deployed, Kimber was assigned to the precision-guided missile shop.
“Until this deployment I had always worked with bombs, never missiles,” Kimber said. “So I got a lot of experience learning a new weapons system.”
The Reserve Citizen Airmen will now return to their civilian careers in the local community and their families. Kimber left behind wife, Lauren, and four-year-old daughter, Marley. The family kept in touch via social media two or three times per week.
“He’s a really good dad, very involved, so it was hard for him to be away from his daughter,” Lauren said. “But the work kept him busy and he was always in good spirits. It’s been a long three months and we’re really glad he’s home.”
Marley agrees: “I get my daddy back today. He’s been gone like a hundred years.”
A group of 419th personnel are still deployed in the region with the 388th FW and F-35A aircraft. Additional Airmen from the 419th are also currently deployed to Europe as part of a Theater Security Package.
Hill’s fighter wings are the Air Force’s only combat-capable F-35 units, maintaining the jets in a Total Force partnership that utilizes the strengths of both components. Hill AFB is slated to be home to 78 aircraft by the end of 2019.