SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- The remaining Airmen with the 4th Maintenance Group and 335th Fighter Squadron returned to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Nov. 23 from a deployment supporting Operation Inherent Resolve at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.
The last group of more than 80 members returned home just in time for the holidays as the bulk of the deployers had returned a month prior.
Col. Christopher Sage, 4th Fighter Wing commander; Col. Brian Armstrong, 4th FW vice commander; Chief Master Sgt. Anthony Duplechain, 4th Operations Group superintendent; and more than 160 friends and family welcomed the Airmen home upon their arrival.
“Me and the kids, we’re super excited to see David,” said Jade Rankin, wife of Staff Sgt. David Rankin, 4th Component Maintenance Squadron fuels system technician. “The kids were able to pick him out of the crowd, our son took off running when he spotted him, and our daughter, as soon as she saw him, screamed out, ‘Daddy’ and ran to him.”
Members of the 335th FS flew more than 1,200 sorties into Iraq and Syria in support of OIR. They dropped more than 2,000 bombs on various Islamic State of Iraq and Levant targets, including oil fields, oil transportation and cash reserves.
“The three biggest impacts we had on the fight [against ISIL] were, first, we killed a bunch of their leadership,” said Capt. Joshua Haswell, 335th FS executive officer. “Second, we destroyed a significant amount of their infrastructure, and third, we helped liberate large areas of Iraq.”
Aircrew with the 335th FS flew more than 9,250 combat hours, taking out more than 1,950 enemies that included more than 80 high-valued ISIL individuals.
Ground crew from the 4th MXG ran 24/7 operations and kept more than 15 F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft up and running. With an average heat index of 130 degrees Fahrenheit at the deployed location, maintainers and maintenance specialists worked around the clock to keep aircraft systems and aircrew cool for optimum performance levels.
“We were out there in the heat day in and out just to make sure the [aircrew] and the avionics were staying cool, so they could put bombs on targets,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Keeling, 4th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron engine specialist.
Weapons loadcrew Airmen loaded anywhere from seven to 10 bombs, ranging from 250 pounds to 2,000 pounds. Aircrew, on average, flew seven to eight hour sorties while deployed, in comparison to flying an average of only an hour and half to two hours while training at home station.
“Due to the demand of the mission, and only having a certain amount of aircraft, having that length of sortie and having to continuously have an aircraft available around the clock, our aircraft took a lot of abuse,” said Capt. Ryan Morris, 4th AMXS 335th Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in-charge.
In addition, Morris added everyone from the crew chiefs to the specialists to the weapons Airmen had a hand in making sure thejets were ready to go.
“We would have been unable to crush [ISIL] without the extraordinary support and effort put forward by our [maintenance Airmen],” Haswell said. “They worked tirelessly every day to ensure the jets were ready on time, so we could put bombs on target. We can’t thank them enough for ensuring we had jets that would bring us home.”