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8th FS 'Black Sheep' inactivated

May 20, 2011 (by A1C Siuta B. Ika) - Almost two years after its reactivation, the 8th Fighter Squadron held its inactivation ceremony May 13 on the 8th FS trim PAD.

A member of the 8th FS wears the historic 'Black Sheep' patch on May 13th, 2011 during the 8th FS inactivation ceremony. [USAF photo by TSgt. Joe Laws]

The 8th FS, which was reactivated in September 2009 after being inactivated April 2008 following the retirement of the F-117 Nighthawk , will once again be placed in inactive status due to the changing of Holloman's flying mission.

Since its reactivation, the 8th has done many great things explained Lt. Col. Craig Baker, 8th FS commander.

"In less than a year, we boosted, by over 100 percent, the power projection of the 49th Wing's combat capabilities," he said. "We flew 2,500 sorties and over 3,000 hours. That's more than 10 sorties a day, with less than nine F-22s. We deployed to the (Central Command) area of responsibility, (have been in) three Red Flag (exercises), several air combat simulators and (participated in the) Neptune Falcon (exercise)."

The 49th Operations Group commander, Col. Kevin Huyck, also shared the significance of what Colonel Baker and the 8th FS have been able to accomplish during its period of activation.

"You've ramped up the Black Sheep to the fastest F-22 squadron to be operationally ready in the history of our Air Force. You've stood up a fighter squadron and you've deployed around the world to show that we are a globally capable force," he said. "Lord knows we don't give you enough resources, we don't give you enough people and sometimes we definitely don't give you enough guidance from above. Excellence is not only what you achieved, but also what you've left behind and the Black Sheep legacy of greatness continues today."

The 8th's F-22 Raptors will be absorbed into Holloman's 7th Fighter Squadron and other F-22 squadrons at Nellis, Langley and Elmendorf Air Force Bases.

The 8th's inactivation will mark only the second time in its 61-year history it has been in a state of inactivation. Colonel Baker, who assumed command of the 8th in 2009 and flew the first Black Sheep Raptor at Holloman, is one of a few commanders to ever take part in an activation and inactivation of the same squadron.

"The word that comes to mind is emotional -- in a good and bad sense," he said of being the commander during the 8th's activation and inactivation. "I am proud and ecstatic that I got to raise a squadron from, essentially, the ashes. I am privileged to have been able to create all the squadron shops the way we wanted, deciding what operations method to use, having a 'first' Commander's Call, and building an initial and working relationship with maintenance."

Colonel Baker's ties to the Black Sheep go beyond being the last 8th FS commander.

In 2003, he was responsible for planning the high-value, hard and deeply buried targets in Operation Iraqi Freedom, during which, two Black Sheep F-117s executed his plan, dropping the first four bombs of OIF in a decapitation strike.

After OIF, he was privileged to go to Iraq to do a weapon's effectiveness assessment as part of the Combined Weapons Effectiveness Assessment Team.

"I actually got to assess the weapons effects at the targets that I planned and the 8th bombed," Colonel Baker said. "I was able to gather bomb pieces and parts at the target sites and bring them back to the pilots that flew those missions. I was not part of the 8th, but I was able to build a relationship with the 8th not only before and during, but after OIF when I spoke to them about their exact weapons effects on their targets."

Besides being the last fighter squadron from Holloman to see combat, stemming from its participation in the beginning of OIF, Black Sheep F-117 Nighthawks also dropped the first bombs of Operation Desert Storm.

8th Tactical Fighter Squadron Black Sheep also deployed F-4 Phantoms to Thailand during the Vietnam Conflict in the early 1970s, but the Black Sheep legacy at Holloman actually extends back to 1968, when the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing was first assigned to the Tularosa Basin.

Having flown 15 different airframes during its illustrious history, perhaps the aircraft with the biggest influence on the 8th FS was one the Black Sheep thought they wouldn't get to fly.

Capt. Bradley Young, 8th FS pilot, explained the history behind the 8th and its Black Sheep moniker.

"In 1943, the 49th Fighter Group began the transition from the P-47 Thunderbolt to the P-38 Lightning, an aircraft superior in terms of performance," he said. "While the other two squadrons received new aircraft, the 8th received the aircraft being discarded by the other squadrons. The pilots, feeling that the 8th was on the tail end of the supply line, began calling the 8th the 'Black Sheep' squadron. The name stuck and the Black Sheep went on to become recognized experts at aerial combat. "

Although the Black Sheep will officially inactivate July 15, 2011, their legacy will live on, explained Colonel Baker.

"Today's inactivation ceremony marks only a temporary rest period for the Black Sheep, a rest period that will make us hungry, make us improve and make us part of the long historical tradition," he said during the inactivation ceremony. "As the great philosopher John Wayne once said, 'if it was easy, anybody could do it.' Trust me when I say that you are not anybody, you will forever be known as Black Sheep. It has been my indescribable honor to be your commander and to serve with you. And I leave you with, 'once a sheep, always a sheep.'"

Courtesy of 49th Wing Public Affairs

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