March 23, 2009 (by Randy Saunders) - The 50th TFW's growing list of accomplishments and recognition continued into 1985. The wing received notice of its selection for an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the period July 1, 1982 through June 30, 1984.
Pictured here are the Airmen from the 50th TFW at Hahn AB, who took part in USAF 1983 Gunsmoke competition. The 50th Space Wing inherited the legacy of the 50th TFW which inactivated on September 30th, 1991. [USAF photo by Randy Saunders]
This was the fifth such award for the 50th and added to an impressive inventory of honors dating to the World War II activities of the 50th Fighter Group.
Competition at U.S. Air Forces in Europe's Gunsmoke competition was fierce. Judges could not rely on camera scoring systems because the results were too close; instead, they had to measure bomb placement to determine the winning team. The 50th TFW placed second, and F-16 pilot Capt. Mark Fredenburgh won F-16 wing and overall Top Gun awards.
The 50th TFW's operational tempo did not slow in 1986, nor did the wing's receipt of accolades and recognition from its headquarters. The wing replaced its F-16A and F-16B Fighting Falcons for the advanced F-16C and F-16D.
U.S. Air Forces in Europe announced April 15, 1986, that the 313th Tactical Fighter Squadron had earned the USAFE
Commander in Chief's Trophy for 1985. Operations and maintenance teams within 50th TFW also received numerous awards at major command level and higher throughout 1986 and 1987, including the Secretary of Defense's Phoenix Award recognizing the best maintenance organization in the Department of Defense.
Maintenance and operations units, however, were not the only squadrons to garner impressive awards. USAFE named the 50th Supply Squadron's Mission Capable Branch the best in the command for 1986. The wing's Accounting and Finance Office received the Air Force's Accounting and Finance Special Acts and Services Award and the Superior Performance Award. The wing's life support function was named best in USAFE for 1986, and the wing earned foreign object damage prevention awards from USAFE and 17th Air Force. The 50th Transportation Squadron earned two distinguished awards for its programs in 1986.
While notices of the wing's numerous awards continued to arrive in the spring of 1987, air crews and maintenance teams continued to reach new heights. During a training deployment to Zaragoza Air Base, Spain, the 10th TFS surpassed a five-year-old sustained surge record at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, flying 956 sorties in 16 days.
In July, a pilot in 313th TFS won the individual Top Gun award at USAFE's first Excaliber bombing competition.
In addition, the 50th Security Police Squadron's Peacekeeper Challenge teams placed first and second in the USAFE competition.
As the 50th Tactical Fighter Wing entered its 35th year of association with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and USAFE, few could have foreseen the changes that would soon alter the unit's future--and the world's.
Col. Roger Taylor assumed command of the wing March 2, 1988, succeeding Col. Ben Nelson Jr. Under Colonel Taylor's leadership, the wing continued its tradition of excellence. Wing personnel demonstrated that character during four Salty Nation exercises, two NATO
tactical evaluations and a USAFE Operational Readiness Inspection. They also continued training deployments to Zaragoza AB and Incirlik AB, Turkey
Tactical fighter squadrons earned honors at Excaliber III and Excaliber IV: 313th TFS earned top honors in Excaliber III, and 10th TFS placed first in Excaliber IV's low-angle bombing phase. The selection of Capt. William Morgan of 313th TFS to fly the 2-millionth hour in the F-16 added another highlight to the wing's scrapbook.
Assistance from a variety of support agencies, many of which participated in contests independent of the tactical squadrons, made the high operational tempo possible. The wing's weapons crews opposed 17 other USAFE bases during Sure Fire competition June 6 to 17, 1988, at Sembach AB, Germany. Again, the wing's teams took top honors.
The distinguished service of the wing's maintenance community led to its selection in 1988 to test the Front-line Aircraft Maintenance Engineering program. Under this plan, selected military maintenance specialists received weapon-system-specific training to the same level as the contractor engineering and technical service representatives for that aircraft.
The maintenance community ended the year on another high note when, in November, the Explosive Ordnance Division received the 17th Air Force Maintenance Effectiveness Award for its munitions maintenance activities.
The wing also conducted four major accident response drills and underwent three Nuclear Surety Inspections in 1988. The results of these inspections helped justify the wing's receipt of special recognition from the Air Force Directorate of Nuclear Surety.
As the men and women of the 50th Tactical Fighter Wing closed the door on 1988, pending changes filled the air. Events in Europe, from a series of aircraft accidents in West Germany to growing social, economic, and political uncertainty in the Soviet Bloc would dramatically alter the course toward the future.
Pilots and maintenance personnel conducted aggressive training programs from Zaragoza and Incirlik AB in response to aircraft accidents, flying 2,879 sorties from Zaragoza AB alone. Locally, men and women of the 50th Tactical Fighter Wing took part in Salty Nation exercises and underwent nuclear surety and unit effectiveness inspections.
By year's end, the social, economic, and political turmoil in the Soviet Union had reached a boiling point. The Berlin Wall fell, and a new era in Europe began. Former Soviet republics proclaimed their independence and right to self-determination. Talk in Germany quickly turned to the possibility of reuniting East and West. Debate followed on the future role of American forces in Europe, and worldwide change loomed imminent.