Warren Trask touches up some of his art work during Desert Storm. (Warren Trask's photo collection)
F-16.net: Please give us an overview of your military career and tell the readers a little about yourself?
Warren: Born in Akron, Ohio in 1957. Lived in Hudson, Ohio until age 10. My father was a chemical engineer for US Rubber Company (became Uniroyal). His company transferred him to Albany, New York in 1968. I remained there until my Air Force enlistment in May, 1982.
Attended Basic Military Training at Lackland AFB, Texas, May 1982 - July 1982 (6 weeks).
Avionics Technical School at Lowry AFB, Colorado, July 1982 - September 1982 (6 weeks).
First assignment: 19th & 17th Aircraft Maintenance Units (AMU'S), Shaw AFB, South Carolina. September 1982 - September 1985. Airframe: F-16A & B "Fighting Falcon".
Second Assignment: 4450th Tactical Group (TG) (deactivated, reactivated as 37th Tactical Fighter Squadron), Nellis AFB, Nevada, September 1985 - September 1989. Airframe: F-117A "Stealth Fighter".
Third Assignment: 19th & 33rd AMU's, Shaw AFB, South Carolina, September 1989 - December 1991. Airframe: F-16C&D "Fighting Falcon".
Fourth Assignment: 13 Fighter Squadron (FS), Misawa AB, Japan, December 1991 - December 1994. Airframe: F-16C & D "Fighting Falcon".
Fifth Assignment: 310th FS, Luke AFB, Arizona, December 1994 - December 1998. Airframe: F-16C & D "Fighting Falcon".
63rd FS patch. (Jon Somerville collection)
Sixth Assignment: 51st Fighter Wing Command and Control Division, Maintenance Operations Center (MOC), Osan AB, Republic of Korea, December 1998 - January, 2000. Job: Senior Controller.
Seventh Assignment: 63rd FS (changed to 63rd AMU), Luke AFB, Arizona, January, 2000 - November, 2004 (retirement date). Job: Unit Environmental Coordinator (Hazardous Material Program Manager).
F-16.net: What sparked your interest to join the USAF?
Warren: For as far back as I can remember, my father and I used to build both plastic and balsa model aircraft together. Attending air shows became a family tradition, too. As I grew older, I had a desire to work on more sophisticated and challenging aircraft. The Air Force was just the next step for me.
F-16.net: Do you have any hobbies?
Warren: Model building (mostly aircraft), Art (pencil drawings and oil paintings), Riflery, Martial Arts, Sports (Soccer, Lacrosse).
F-16.net: How does one get permission to put nose art on an aircraft? Did being so far away from your home base help?
'Code One Candy' on F-16C #85-1420
while with the 33rd TFS during Desert Storm. (photo by Warren Trask)
Warren: I wanted to do some paintings, but there weren't any canvases available. I asked our captain if I could do a drawing on one of the F-16's, something that might boost morale like the nose art of World War II. He said I could, but only if it could be washed off. In other words, no permanent artwork could be applied to the aircraft. If anyone was offended by it, it would have to be removed immediately. I suggested using grease pencils, because it could be easily removed with soap and water. He gave his approval to do a "test" piece. Once completed, the commander would have to approve it. If he approved, we were told that we might be able to do more. The commander checked out my first nose art piece while accomplishing his aircraft walkaround check. He asked everyone standing there what they thought of it, and we all gave it our "thumbs up". He said he'd take it up for a test flight, and if it didn't smear he'd let us do the whole fleet. The rest is history.
F-16.net: Tell us the process that you would go through making nose art?
Warren: In my free time, I'd make rough sketches of possible nose art pieces. Once I came up with a promising design, I'd ask the aircraft crew chiefs if I could draw it on their aircraft. Some of them had their own ideas, so I'd incorporate those into my drawings. Once I got their approval, I'd grab a maintenance stand, a few grease pencils, and begin work. I did a rough sketch with "white" to start, and then I'd fill in the other colors later. Blending the colors was accomplished just like with oil paints, but instead of a using a paint brush, I smeared the colors around with the side of my right thumb. It was easier to draw during the late afternoon and early evening when the temperature was in the 90's - low 100's, but the sun wasn't beating directly down on me. During this time, the aircraft skin was still warm, and the grease pencils were softer and easier to apply. Occasionally I'd have to get down from the stand to look at the artwork to make certain it looked correct from the ground. The curvature of the aircraft made it necessary to distort the drawing a little. The top of the drawing had to be enlarged as it was curved away from the viewer, and the bottom had to be reduced since it was closer. Often, the crew chiefs or my coworkers would coach me from the ground so I wouldn't have to climb up and down so often.
When the 363rd TFW returned home from Desert Storm in March of 1991 four aircraft kept their nose art for the Shaw AFB open house. The other three aircraft with nose art kept were: ?Desert Shield?, 'Sweet . . . But Deadly' and 'Code One Candy' which Warren Trask touched up before the show. All nose art but 'Hammer Time' was removed right after the air show and it survived into the next unit which attempted to preserve it. (photo by M. Steadman)
F-16.net: How long would it take you to complete a nose art image?
Warren: Most of my pieces took two or three days to complete.
F-16.net: You used grease pencils to create your work. How often would they need to be touched up?
Warren: Touching up the pieces was accomplished about every 30 days. Some required more frequent touch ups because their colors faded more quickly than others. "Red" only lasted about two weeks, whereas "blue" and "black" rarely required any maintenance.
F-16.net: Why do you feel it is important to have nose art?
Warren: First and foremost, it bolsters morale a great deal. It gives those who aided in it's conception a feeling of "belonging", "accomplishment", and "pride". It also allows all of us a way to express our feelings, thoughts, and desires. Most of my pieces were done to make people chuckle a bit . . . myself included. Additionally, drawing or painting nose art on military aircraft is a "tradition" that I feel should be carried on.
F-16.net: Any particular nose art that was special to you?
Warren Trask poses for a shot with his favorite nose art '363rd TFW Desert Shield' on F-16C #85-1419
. (Warren Trasks photo collection)
Warren: All were special for one reason or another, but if I had to pick just one I'd have to say the "363 TFW - Desert Shield" piece. I did that one for then Colonel "Ed" Eberhart when we found out that he was being promoted to Brigadier General. We were all very proud of him, and wanted to give him something to express our thanks for his leadership and for all the things he did for as our commander.
F-16.net: If asked by a unit, would you do artwork for them?
Warren: Anytime . . . anywhere. I'd even touch up old nose art pieces for the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum if they wanted me to.
F-16.net: Did you do any art on aircraft before or after the war?
Warren: Yes, while the 19th AMU from Shaw AFB, South Carolina were on temporary duty at Cold Lake, Canada (I don't recall what year it was). I did a piece called "Helmet Crusher" on an F-16D. The canopy actuator failed and smashed a pilot's helmet that had been placed on the canopy rail. It was my very first attempt at nose art, and looked a bit like "Code One Candy". The young lady in the drawing wasn't crouched, though she was doing the splits. I was inspired by another artist, Gary Temples. He had been drawing on some of our TDY aircraft, and told me to grab some grease pencils and do some of my own. That's how I got started with nose art. Later, my drawing for the 37th TFW insignia was applied to the F-117A prior to their deployment to the Gulf War.
A little side note, none of the aircraft (F-16's or F-117A's) that were adorned with my artwork ever crashed or got shot down in combat (at least not while the artwork was actually on the aircraft) they weren't even scratched. Some of the pilots considered it good luck to be in an aircraft with my artwork on the side.
F-16.net: How does one get to be in the black jet program as the F-117 was not
public domain at the time?
Warren: I can only speak about the selection process for the F-117A project, as it's the only one of which I have personal knowledge. Representatives from the project were sent to all the bases to look for the most qualified people in the required specialty fields. Based on personal interviews and supervisor's recommendations, the unit then selected those who looked promising. They then did a second interview with those who were selected to narrow the field a bit more, and to inform those that made the final cut that they had been chosen. Of course, nobody knew what they had been chosen for, yet. All they knew was that there was a Top Secret project that required their technical expertise, and they would have to be willing to volunteer for it with only that knowledge. If the answer was "Yes", it was on to the next phase . . . paperwork. There was a ton of paperwork, the project staff and other agencies did a VERY thorough background security check, and when all that was finished, you waited for your orders and a sponsor package from the unit. A sponsor was assigned to assist each incoming member with the move. Once you arrived at the actual work site, you were given your project briefing and allowed to see the "resource" . . . not until then. Discussion of the project was not permitted outside the immediate work area.
USAF F-16C block 25 #84-1219
of the 33rd TFS with 'Hot Cock' nose art. Aircraft was sent over during Desert Shield for the 33rd TFS but was taken from the 19th TFS. This upset some of the 19th TFS as it was their flag ship and it was immediately converted to the 33rd TFS markings. So a whimsical cartoon cock was painted for nose art. (Photo by Warren Trask)
F-16.net: The 19th TFS had just converted to block 40's. Is that why they didn't
go to war with the rest of the 363rd TFW?
Warren: That's the main reason. The19th TFS maintainers were still becoming familiar with the new airframe when the call came down. We were, however, familiar with the older airframe . . . so some of us were used to fill open manning slots for those units which deployed. Volunteers weren't hard to find.
Although with the 19th TFS, Warren deployed with the 33rd TFS for the war. (Jon Somerville collection)
F-16.net: Tell us your experience during Desert Storm.
Warren: I'd have to write a book. So much happened over there, I wouldn't know where to begin. I can say that it wasn't much fun, and living conditions were terrible at first. Things got better as time passed, and morale was very high by the time the air war actually began. I became very ill during my last month over there, and returned home after the war with the symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome.
F-16.net: What is your most memorable time out on the ramp working on the F-16 both positive and/or negative?
Warren: When all the aircraft launched on the first night of the Gulf War air campaign. The adrenaline was really flowing that night. I remember thinking, "This is it. There's no turning back now."
F-16.net: Other than the F-16, what aircraft have you worked with? And how does the Viper compare?
Warren: I worked on the F-117A "Stealth Fighter" from 1985 - 1989. The F-16 is a much easier aircraft to troubleshoot and repair, and it's a beautiful aircraft . . . very maneuverable . . . fast, but the F-117A is, I can't find the right words, it's totally awesome. I'm a huge Stealth Fighter fan.
F-16.net: Any fond memories of a specific deployment or exercise?
Warren: Too many to list. Rygge Flyplasse in Moss, Norway was pretty intense. The local people were extremely nice to us. We were there when that 747 (Korean Airlines Flight 007) got shot down by the Soviet Union (1983).
F-16.net: What assignment was your favorite?
Warren: This one (Editor: current one, but now retired) . . . Luke AFB, Arizona.
F-16C block 25 #83-1150
adorned with 'Max Thrust' nose art. This is Warren Trak's last art work applied during the war completed just before he left the gulf on March 11th, 1991. Sadly, This artwork didn't even last a month. (Photo by Warren Trask)
F-16.net: What is next for you?
Warren: Retirement . . . rest. I have a serious medical condition which is getting noticeably worse every week. If we can't get it under control soon . . . well . . . let's just say I've been praying for a miracle. I am hopeful that God will answer my prayers. I still have a lot that I would like to accomplish in my life, but am prepared for whatever happens.
F-16.net: Anything you would like to add?
Warren: I have enjoyed my life, and have lived most of it "on the edge". I hope that the information I have shared with you will inspire others to carry on the nose art tradition.
F-16.net: Thanks for the interview.
- TSgt. Warren Trask was interviewed online by Jon Somerville in November of 2004.
Nose Art Link
For more information and photos of nose art go to: