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391st Fighter Squadron set to return from Afghanistan

An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 391st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, refuels Dec. 12 during a combat mission.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 391st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, refuels Dec. 12 during a combat mission. Nearly 20 F-15E Strike Eagles and approximately 400 Gunfighters return to Idaho in mid-January following more than four months of combat operations in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Nearly 20 F-15E Strike Eagles and approximately 400 Gunfighters return to Idaho in mid-January following more than four months of combat operations in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. 

For many of the aircrew and maintainers from the 391st Fighter Squadron's "Bold Tigers" who deployed in August 2008 to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, this marked their second time in the country over the past two years. 

During the deployment, the Bold Tigers flew more than 1,700 combat missions and accumulated approximately 7,000 flying hours while providing close-air support for U.S. and coalition ground troops engaged in combat operations throughout the country. The Bold Tigers delivered more than 131,000 pounds of ordnance and were credited with directly saving coalition ground forces on numerous occasions. According to squadron leadership, the professional restraint displayed by Bold Tiger aircrews was also credited with saving civilian lives. 

In addition, the squadron's outstanding performance was recognized during numerous high-level visits to Bagram Air Base by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz and Gen. John D.W. Corley, commander of Air Combat Command. 

"I could not be more proud of this squadron," said Lt. Col. Dan Orcutt, commander of the Bold Tigers. "I will never forget watching our aircrew shake hands with U.S. Army and coalition soldiers who stopped by the squadron to say, 'Thank you for saving our lives.' Their visits symbolized the importance of our mission, and it was honor to hear their stories and show them our jets." 

In addition to supporting flying operations around the clock, the squadron also manned ground alert aircraft which remained ready for immediate takeoff. During their four-month deployment, the squadron launched these alert aircraft more than 20 times. The squadron's operations and maintenance team had these aircraft in the air in one third the required time. This immediate response made a life or death difference to ambushed and outnumbered ground troops on many occasions, squadron officials said. 

"The outstanding performance of our maintenance personnel was key to our success," Colonel Orcutt said. "We flew more hours in four months than we normally fly in a year. Throughout that time, we did not miss a single sortie for maintenance. This unprecedented sortie production simply isn't possible without a world-class maintenance team, which we're extremely fortunate to have."

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