October 1, 2011 (by SSgt. Phil Fountain) - Members of the Texas Air National Guard's 149th Fighter Wing have begun a year-long remembrance leading up to the unit's the 65th anniversary in the Air National Guard with a new design for the wing's flagship aircraft.
USAF F-16C block 30 #87-0255, the specially painted flagship for the 149th FW, Texas ANG takes off from NAS Fort Worth on its way back home to Lackland AFB in San Antonio on September 27th, 2011.
Known as the Lone Star Gunfighters, the 149th Fighter Wing's specialty logo directly ties the unit's connection to the state of Texas and western tradition in South Texas.
Lt. Col. Michael "Bones" McCoy, an instructor pilot with the 182nd Fighter Squadron, explained the historical timeline.
"The 149th [Fighter Wing] was officially organized in July, 1960, but its lineage as the 'Lone Star Gunfighters' goes back to October, 1947, through the 182nd Fighter Squadron," Colonel McCoy said. "It was in 1947 when the 182nd [Fighter Squadron] received federal recognition through the Air National Guard."
A reserve component of the U.S. Air Force, the Air National Guard was created in 1947, at the same time the Air Force became an independent branch of the United States armed forces.
Overseen by Lt. Col. Michael Reid, commander of the 149th Maintenance Group, the project received input from the operations and maintenance groups.
The graphical depictions were created by Senior Master Sgt. Penny Laflam and Staff Sgt. Chris Hamilton, both members of the 149th Maintenance Group. The final version of the aircraft paint design required approval of the group commander, wing commander, and National Guard Bureau, where it was reviewed against aircraft marking regulations.
Members of the 149th Maintenance Group painted the multi-role fighter at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida, where a regional aircraft painting facility is available. The following Gunfighter Maintainers joined Sergeant Hamilton for the actual painting of the jet: Master Sgt. Tony Parker, Tech. Sgt. Jason Willis, and Staff Sgt. Frank Quijano.
Colonel Reid described how "our maintenance troops received invaluable training from this project."
The Air National Guard maintenance professionals received respirator training, as well as training in the use of the aircraft painting equipment.
While the 149th Fighter Wing does not have the capability to paint aircraft, members are often tasked with smaller paint projects, such aircraft maintenance equipment, missile launchers, fuel tanks, and travel pods.
The "Heritage jet," as it being referred to, will continue to be employed for F-16 pilot training, the primary federal mission of the 149th Fighter Wing, but will also become the aircraft of choice when the unit is requested to participate in air-shows, fly-over's, and other aerial demonstrations.
"It's fully mission capable, but will also draw positive attention and feedback back to our unit," Colonel Reid said. "Just in October , it's already scheduled to fly in the Midland Air Show, and before football games at Texas Tech [University in Lubbock] and the Air Force Academy."
The specialty markings have been approved for use for one-year, with a potential extension for a second year following the official 65th anniversary in Oct. 2012.
After the jet returned from Homestead, Colonel Reid said the maintainers were proud of the final product. "They have ownership of this aircraft, because they designed it."