January 4, 2008 (by A1C Thomas Trower) - The 522nd Fighter Squadron encased its colors, in preparation of storing the squadron legacy until it is again needed by the Air Force, December 21st 2007 in Hangar 208 after its final passes over Cannon AFB, N.M.
USAF F-16C block 50 #91-0366 from the 522nd FS takes off from Cannon AFB on December 21st, 2007. The aircraft is the last to depart from the base following a Base Realignment and Closure commission which caused the deactivation of the squadron.
The 522FS was the only remaining F-16 fighter squadron remaining at Cannon since the Base Realignment and Closure Commission deemed that the base needed to find a new mission. The 523rd Fighter Squadron and the 524th Fighter Squadron inactivated earlier this year.
The squadron's motto of "First in, Last out" was fitting to the squadron, said Col. Tod Fingal, the 522FS commander who relinquished command in the ceremony. The unit was the first to call Cannon home and was the last fighter squadron to depart, he said.
The 522FS, known as the Fireballs, has been in service for the Air Force in some form for the past 67 years, 48 of those were here at Cannon. The unit served in World War II where it was the only unit in Air Force history to fight as an infantry unit, they fought until they were captured and forced to walk in the Battan Death March. The squadron also saw service in Korea, Japan, Operations SOUTHERN WATCH and NOBLE EAGLE, and most recently in Guam.
The final pilot to fly a sortie in the name of the 522FS was Maj. Bob Battema. He said that at its prime, the 522FS had about 21 aircraft, 30-40 pilots and 350 maintainers worked together to keep the squadron flying.
At the time of the inactivation, there were six aircraft at Cannon and 12 pilots, said Major Battema, 522FS director of operations.
"This is not bitter sweet at all," said the major. "This is a great moment. The Fireballs have a great history and this is a great opportunity."
Cannon is now under command of Air Force Special Operations Command and their first squadron, the 73rd Special Operations Squadron, is set to be in place by February. Following the 73SOS, which will fly the MC-130W Combat Spear, the 3rd Special Operations Squadron will move to Cannon to begin flying the MQ-1 Predator.