Last A-10s in Europe depart

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany – A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft assigned to the 81st Fighter Squadron takes off for the final time from Spangdahlem Air Base May 17, 2013. A total of 21 aircraft relocated to several bases in the United States. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Pomeroy/Released)

An A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the 81st Fighter Squadron takes off for the final time May 17, 2013, from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. A total of 21 aircraft relocated to several bases in the United States. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Pomeroy)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany – U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Clinton Eichelberger, 81st Fighter Squadron commander, gears up before departing in a U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft May 17, 2013. Eichelberger was the lead pilot for the final four A-10 flight to leave Europe from Spangdahlem Air Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gustavo Castillo/Released)

Lt. Col. Clinton Eichelberger gears up before departing in a A-10 Thunderbolt II on May 17, 2013, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. Eichelberger is the 81st Fighter Squadron commander and was the lead pilot for the final four A-10 aircraft to leave Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Gustavo Castillo)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany – U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Clinton Eichelberger, 81st Fighter Squadron commander, inspects the cockpit of an U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft before departing May 17, 2013. Eichelberger flew one of the final four A-10 aircraft flight to leave Europe at Spangdahlem Air Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gustavo Castillo/Released)

Lt. Col. Clinton Eichelberger inspects the cockpit of an A-10 Thunderbolt II before departing May 17, 2013, from Spangdahlem Air Base, Gemany. Eichelberger is the 81st Fighter Squadron commander and flew one of the final four A-10 aircraft to leave Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Gustavo Castillo)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany – U.S. Air force Senior Airman Christopher Nichols, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics technician from Warner Robins, Ga., runs through a pre-flight inspection for a U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft assigned to the 81st Fighter Squadron before its final take off from Spangdahlem Air Base and Europe May 17, 2013. The 81st FS had been assigned to Spangdahlem since 1973 but is scheduled to inactivate in June. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gustavo Castillo/Released)

Senior Airman Christopher Nichols runs through a pre-flight inspection for an A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the 81st Fighter Squadron before its final take off May 17, 2013, from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The 81st FS had been assigned to Spangdahlem since 1973 but is scheduled to inactivate in June. Nichols is a 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics technician from Warner Robins, Ga. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Gustavo Castillo)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany – U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft assigned to the 81st Fighter Squadron takes off for the final time from Spangdahlem Air Base and Europe May 17, 2013. The squadron officially inactivates in June. Several A-10s will be reassigned to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gustavo Castillo/Released)

A-10 Thunderbolt IIs assigned to the 81st Fighter Squadron take off for the final time May 17, 2013, from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The squadron officially inactivates in June. Several A-10s are to be reassigned to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Gustavo Castillo)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany – Members of the 52nd Fighter Wing cheer on a U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft before its final departure, May 17, 2013. The final four A-10s from the 81st Fighter Squadron left Spangdahlem Air Base and Europe as part of the squadron’s inactivation.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Pomeroy/Released)

Members of the 52nd Fighter Wing cheer on an A-10 Thunderbolt II before its final departure, May 17, 2013, from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The final four A-10s from the 81st Fighter Squadron left Europe as part of the squadron’s inactivation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Pomeroy)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- The last four A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft from the 81st Fighter Squadron left Spangdahlem May 17, 2013.

Twenty-one aircraft relocated to the United States over the past few months due to the deliberate and comprehensive restructure planned by the U.S. Air Force that has lead to the inactivation of the 81st in June.

The loss of A-10s is a significant event for the United States here in Europe.

"Saying farewell to the 81st makes today a sad day, but it is just another chapter in the life of a fighter squadron," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Clinton Eichelberger, 81st commander from Annapolis, Md. "We are proud to be standing here and we are going to safely move these aircraft back to the United States."

After flying over the next few days, the aircraft will land at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., where they will continue supporting operations employed as a combat aircraft.

Although the A-10s have left Europe, Spangdahlem will continue to support the U.S. Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces Africa and NATO mission as an integral part of the U.S. Air Force. The 52nd Fighter Wing will maintain a relevant combat capability, as it is a critical mobility hub and enduring USAFE installation.

"Today is a significant event and an emotional day for the base. The A-10s have a proud heritage with a lasting legacy in Europe," said Col. Joseph McFall, 52nd FW vice commander." "However, the F-16s stationed here will continue to fulfill mission capabilities for the Air Force and its NATO allies.

Spangdahlem AB's role in fulfilling USAFE-AFAFRICA's enduring mission's remains as significant as ever to the United States and the nation's European allies.

"It doesn't stop here," Eichelberger added. "The guys that are going to go on to fly the Thunderbolt are going to continue to perform that mission and continue to train to provide the support that the ground forces need."