HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Iraq and Afghanistan have been the focal point for military operations during much of the past decade, but during those years, troops have toiled in other parts of the world, too. Friday at Hill Air Force Base was a reminder of that, as nearly 200 personnel from Hill’s active-duty 388th Fighter Wing and Air Force Reserve 419th Fighter Wing left for a joint deployment to the Asia-Pacific region.
Airmen from the 421st and the 466th Expeditionary Fighter Squadrons will deploy for nearly 180 days, while their reserve counterparts will have varied deployment lengths.
The pilots, maintainers and support personnel will provide F-16 air support in the region as part of a theater security package rotation.
Major Dave DeAngelis, an F-16 pilot with the 419th, said one of the group’s main objectives is simply to keep a watchful eye on the region they are stationed in.
“The main threat over there is North Korea,” he said. “But there are some other things we look out for as well.”
Hill’s two fighter wings have been deploying side by side since July 2007 when the units began flying and maintaining a fleet of F-16 aircraft as part of an initiative dubbed Total Force Integration.
The initiative seeks to enhance combat capability by capitalizing on the unique strengths of the active-duty and reserve components. Since the 2007 initiative, the two wings have joined forces to support 10 operational deployments.
“The 419th guys, typically, have been in longer and bring a level of experience that we wouldn’t otherwise have if it were just the 388th,” said Col. Paul Schulze, commander of the 421 Fighter Squadron.
“So when we deploy together, we’ve got a good mix of folks that might be heading out for the first time and then folks that maybe have already served three deployments.”
On average, said Kari Tilton, spokeswoman for the 419th, each member of the wing has more than 15 years of total military experience.
Col. Keith Knudson, commander of the 419th, said many of the reservists on the deployment volunteered for the job.
“About 75 of our citizen airmen raised their hands to volunteer for this deployment,” he said, “and we look forward to carrying out this mission.”