Welcome back: Record-breaking F-16 squadron returns
SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Hundreds of families reunited with Airmen assigned to the 480th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron during the squadron’s return to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Oct. 12, 2016.
Approximately 300 of the Airmen, who serve in flight, maintenance or support roles for the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, completed a six-month deployment to Southwest Asia by providing close air support and dynamic targeting operations as part of the squadron’s first deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
“It feels amazing for everybody to be back here,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Murphy, 480th EFS commander. “We’re obviously flying in some really hostile territory and to bring all the pilots back safe and sound and here is an amazing thing, and the whole team being back together is a great thing that we wanted to do.”
During the deployment, coalition forces regained 10,000 square-kilometers and liberated up to five cities including a supply center that Da'esh terrorists captured during their campaign within Iraq and Syria, Murphy said.
He also said the maintenance team generated more sorties than any previous F-16 squadron, resulting in more support, weapons and effects for ground forces.
“It is an incredible testimony to the quality of our daily Air Force training that they were able to step in and execute at such a high level for six months,” Murphy said. “Seeing this group have such success demonstrates the tradition of excellence that defines our Air Force."
The squadron, aided by the 332nd Expeditionary Maintenance Group, also broke an Air Force record Sept. 16, 2016, when they dropped their 1,900th precision-guided munition, thus exceeding the most amount ever delivered by an F-16 unit within a six-month period.
“A huge amount of the bombs that made up that record and the progress we made on the ground is really due to those guys being willing to put in those extra hours and those extra extensions and everything that goes behind it,” Murphy said. “We couldn’t have done it without the team we had.”
Having said goodbye April 7, 2016, families gathered again at Hangar One to greet the returning Airmen with open arms, uniquely designed posters and even new family members born during the deployment.
Murphy concluded by highlighting the legacy of Airman 1st Class Nathaniel McDavitt, an F-16 tactical aircraft maintainer, who was killed in a weather-related incident April 15, 2016, during the deployment.
“It’s a tough thing for all of us,” Murphy said. “But all of the accomplishments I just talked about, they honored his memory in the absolute best way they possibly could. I know he’s unbelievably proud of what they did and what the team did. Again, we’re happy to be back but we’re never going to forget him and the effort he put into it as well.”
Operation Inherent Resolve aims to eliminate the Da’esh terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria and the wider international community. The destruction of Da’esh targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the group's ability to project terror and conduct operations.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft assigned to the 480th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron lands on the flightline during the squadron’s return to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Oct. 6, 2016. Approximately 300 of the Airmen, who serve in flight, maintenance or support roles for the F-16, completed a six-month deployment to Southwest Asia by providing close air support and dynamic targeting operations as part of the squadron’s first deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Operation Inherent Resolve aims to eliminate the Da'esh terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria and the wider international community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden)