February 3, 2009 (by Dave Kendziora) - During a formal ceremony 25 years ago last week, the 419th Tactical Fighter Wing accepted the Air Force Reserve's first F-16 aircraft.
Lt. Col. James H. Fauske, 388th TFW and the 419th TAC Advisor, taxied F-16A block 5 #78-0070 to the 419th's ramp on October 16th, 1983. The 419th's first three F-16s were for maintenance familiarization training.
Preparations for the milestone had been under way for several months and the unit would attain full operational capability with its new jet three months ahead of schedule.
Today the pilots of the wing's 466th Fighter Squadron continue to fly the F-16 with distinction.
The ceremony was held on Jan. 28 1984 -- the Saturday of that month's Unit Training Assembly. Col. John J. Closner, 419th TFW commander, accepted the aircraft at what was then the 419th Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's main hangar, Hill Air Force Base Building No. 590.
An estimated 1,000 people were in attendance, including Sen. "Jake" Garn (R-Utah), Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Tidal W. McCoy, Twelfth Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Jack I. Gregory, and Air Force Reserve Commander Maj. Gen. Sloan R. Gill.
Gill had addressed the Utah House and Senate in Salt Lake City the day before the ceremony. He commended the strong employer support saying the conversion would not be possible without the help of employers of reservists throughout the Intermountain West. In part he also said:
"The Air Force Reserve hasn't always operated with state of the art equipment. With the F-105's departure, we start a new era and achieve another step toward an even more modern, more ready Air Force Reserve. Receiving the F-16 is another realization of increased readiness through Total Force and represents the excellent support the Air Force Reserve continues to receive from the active Air Force (especially Hill AFB
's Ogden Air Logistics Center and the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing)."
The Air Force Academy Band played as F-16A Serial No. 78-0070 rolled into the hangar. Following the traditional passing of the aircraft records to Col. Closner, Assistant Secretary McCoy read a letter President Ronald Reagan had sent to Senator Garn. It read:
Today marks another important milestone in strengthening America's defenses. This first acceptance of the F-16 aircraft by the Air Force Reserve in Utah is a clear sign that the Total Force Concept is a reality. The Air Force Reserve will be receiving one of the finest front line aircraft in the world, and I am confident that the highly trained pilots and support personnel of the 419th Tactical Fighter Wing will quickly achieve a high state of readiness.
I want to convey my personal appreciation to you and to all Utahns for helping make this important occasion a reality. Please extend my sincere thanks to Utah Reservists for their dedication and courage. Their service is what America is all about.