Oct. 26 (UPI) -- Hundreds of the U.S. Air Force's 421st Fighter Squadron Airmen returned home Monday after deployment since May at a United Arab Emirates base.
The 421st Fighter Squadron departed Utah's Hill Air Force Base on May 20 to the Al Dhafra Air Base in the UAE to support Central Command in the region, the Air Force said.
The deployment included Airmen from the active duty 388th and Reserve 419th Fighter Wings, flying F-35A aircraft, into combat to support the United States in the Middle East, the Air Force announced.
During the deployment, the 421st FS used the F-35A on close air support missions, performed offensive and defensive counter-air, and enabled regional deterrence through participating in joint exercises with national partners in the Middle East, according to the Air Force.
"We're all proud of the job that the 421st FS has done and we're excited to have them back home," Col. Steven Behmer, 388th Fighter Wing Commander, said in a statement. "They picked up right where our previously deployed squadrons left off. We'll continue to train here and remain focused on providing F-35A combat capability."
The deployment marked the the third time in 16 months that F-35As from Hill AFB were called into support a combat mission.
The Airmen will quarantine for 14 days as a precaution against any potential spread of COVID-19.
"We're extremely happy to welcome everyone home in time for the holiday season and look forward to seeing our folks reunited with their loved ones," Col. Matthew Fritz, 419th FW commander, said in the statement. "Deployments are always a challenge and each of our return deployers and their families deserve a pat on the back for a job well done."
The F-35A, which reached full warfighting capability at Hill AFB earlier this year, combines advanced stealth capabilities with the latest weapons technology, and the 388th and 419th are the first combat capable F-35A units, according to the Air Force.
The first operational F-35As arrived at Hill AFB in October 2015, and the base now has 78 F-35As.