March 9, 2010 (by TSgt. Susan Stout) - The pilots of the 301st Fighter Squadron changed their patch during a ceremony March 5 which marks the end of almost a decade of Tuskegee heritage at Luke AFB.
69th FS patch [Jon Somerville collection]
In March 2000, the 301st Fighter Squadron was reactivated in the 944th Fighter Wing and 64 Air Force Reserve Command pilots integrated with the 56th Operations Group fighter squadrons providing instruction to teach and graduate the Combat Air Forces newest F-16 pilots.
Almost three years ago, Headquarters Air Force decided to preserve the Tuskegee Airmen heritage with the newly-standing up Air Force Reserve associate F-22 Raptor squadron at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. The 301st FS
will stand up during a ceremony at Holloman in April.
"It has been a tremendous privilege to be associated with the Tuskegee Airmen and to have but a small part in the hallowed history of the 301st Fighter Squadron," said Lt. Col. Steve Speckhard, 69th FS commander. "Their lineage of courage, bravery, honor and warrior spirit in the face of unimaginable adversity is so strong that one can't help but feel a tremendous sense of pride when you get to wear that patch."
In February 2001, the 69th Fighter Squadron was deactivated at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., following a Desert Storm campaign flying more than 1,500 combat sorties. Headquarters Air Force authorized the reactivation of the 69th FS at Luke with the 944th Fighter Wing.
"We here in the now-69th Fighter Squadron have been fortunate to be able to perpetuate the proud military traditions of the 301st Fighter Squadron for the last 10 years here in the 944th Fighter Wing and for the 56th Fighter Wing," Colonel Speckhard said. "Our patches and our history have now changed, yet our dedication and commitment to our mission have not. We train fighter pilots and also provide highly-experienced warriors downrange to bring the fight to the enemy in the ongoing global war on terrorism."
The 69th FS was previously stationed at Luke as the 69th Tactical Flying Training Squadron from October 1969 to March 1983 as the German air force worked alongside U.S. Air Force instructors teaching German students to fly the F-104 Starfighter. Almost 2,000 Starfighter pilots graduated at Luke during that time.
"It is with great pride and honor that we are able to bring the 69th Fighter Squadron back to Luke Air Force Base," Colonel Speckhard said.
Originally an operational and replacement training unit from 1942 to 1943, the 69th FS went on to fly combat missions in Southwest and Western Pacific, Korea, and Southwest Asia.
According to Colonel Speckhard, the 69th FS is one of the largest and most experienced fighter squadrons in the U.S. Air Force with an average of 2,700 total F-16 hours and 1,000 F-16 instructor hours.