Heartwarming welcome awaits US squadron returning to East Anglia

A family of a deployed Airman wait to welcome them home at Royal Air Force Lakenheath

A family of a deployed 48th Fighter Wing Airman wait to welcome them home at Royal Air Force Lakenheath. NOvember 2. - Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cedrique Oldaker

A group of airmen has returned from an eight-month deployment, much to the joy of their loved ones.

Families and friends gathered at RAF Lakenheath from October 26 to November 1 to welcome them home after their long time away.

The airmen, a part of the 494th Fighter Squadron at the 332nd Expeditionary Wing, have been in an undisclosed location in southwest Asia since February 2021.

The group, also known as the Panthers, has completed 1,900 missions and over 8,400 hours of combat operations.

Family and friends await the return of the 494th Fighter Squadron personnel at Royal Air Force Lakenheath

Family and friends await the return of the 494th Fighter Squadron personnel from their recent deployment at Royal Air Force Lakenheath. October 26. - Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Wood

The commander of the 494th Fighter Squadron, Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Hutto, said: "The Airmen we deployed handled the mission with professionalism, humility and credibility that only comes through being hardened through the fire.

"They believed in the mission and that gave them a purpose and drive to not only complete the mission, but excel at it."

While conducting operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the Panthers also supported Operation Final Countdown and Operation Allies Welcome by flying their F-15 Strike Eagle fighter jets.

U.S. Air Force aircrew assigned to the 494th Fighter Squadron prepare to exit an F-15E Strike Eagle at RAF Lakenheath

U.S. Air Force aircrew assigned to the 494th Fighter Squadron prepare to exit an F-15E Strike Eagle at Royal Air Force Lakenheath. October 26. - Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Wood

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The squadron also deployed to another location to support one of the largest airlifts in history. It took them 24-hours from when they received the call for support.

Colonel Jason Camilletti, 48th Fighter Wing commander, said: "We’re happy to welcome home some of America’s finest after being deployed for many, many months.

"The men and women that comprised the 494th FS aviation package—our aviators, maintainers, and support airmen—demonstrated once again that the Liberty Wing is always ready to own the skies! Kudos to them for delivering combat air power when and where our nation needed it!"

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