4 FW celebrates 75 years of airpower, tradition

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  • 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

As the youngest branch of the Armed Forces, the U.S. Air Force, celebrated its 70th birthday, the 4th Fighter Wing celebrated its 75th anniversary with a weekend of celebratory events and ceremonies.

The 4th Fighter Group was activated Sept. 29, 1942 in Debden, England during World War II. The Eagle Squadrons consisted of American volunteers, until the 4th FG became part of the Army Air Corps and drafted members.

The wing hosted a 50-year-old time capsule ceremony, a base tour, the Battle of Britain ceremony, unveiled a heritage aircraft paint scheme on an F-15E Strike Eagle and a formal gala to honor the milestone and achievements throughout its 75-year history.

Col. Christopher Sage, 4 FW commander, unearthed a time capsule with contents from 1967 and 1992, Sept. 15, 2017. The original ceremony for the creation of the time capsule was held Dec. 2, 1967, and presided by the then 4th Tactical Fighter Wing commander, Col. Paul C. Watson. The other ceremony was held Sept. 25, 1992 on the wing’s 50th anniversary. 

The capsule included items such as operations documents, photographs, newspaper clippings from the News Argus, a 334th Fighter Squadron shirt, a small F-4 Phantom II static and more. 

Squadrons had the opportunity to include present-day items from 2017 to the time capsule as well. The capsule will be re-buried and is scheduled to be uncovered again in 25 years, on the wing’s 100th anniversary in 2042. 

“I’m proud to dedicate this time capsule to our sons and daughters who will follow in our footsteps in this great wing. We hope they can use this small sample of the rich history of the 4 FW and its special relationship with our community as an inspiration for their future contributions and the defense of freedom and our great nation,” Sage said as the ceremony concluded. 

The base tour commenced Sept. 15, 2017 and featured four primary stops to celebrate the wing’s legacy, Airmanship, support and operations squadrons. Static displays including the P-51 Mustang, F-86 Sabre, A-10 Thunderbolt II, and F-4 Phantom were also on display. 

“The specific stops helped to not only celebrate our legacy and heritage, but showcase our current operational capabilities and the amazing Airmen that make our mission possible every day,” Sage said. 

Members of Team Seymour and invited guests also commemorated the anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Sept. 15, 2017, which celebrates the victory over the German Luftwaffe during World War II.

The ceremony included speeches from Col. Christopher Sage, 4th Fighter Wing commander, Dr. Roy Heidicker, 4th Fighter Wing Historian, and Maj. Christopher Rugg, Royal Air Force exchange officer.

“Many articles have been written about this event, and our piano burning ceremony was actually featured on CNN last year, but it’s not an event that many get to witness first-hand,” Sage said. “We are excited to share it with you during this celebration year.” 

The informal part of the evening included the burning of seven donated pianos. There was also a four-ship missing man flyover at sunset before the piano burn.

Seven Americans flew for the RAF during the Battle of Britain. Three of the pilots were from the No. 71 (Eagle) Squadron, Vernon Keough, Andy Mamedoff and Eugene Tobin, who went on to become the founding fathers of the 4 FW.

The weekend of celebration ended with the 75th Anniversary Gala, Sept. 16, 2017, which featured Gen. Mike Holmes, Air Combat Command commander as the keynote speaker.  

The gala celebrated the heritage, achievements and history of the U.S. Air Force and the 4 FW. The items from the time capsule were on display and guests could also view the F-15E with the new heritage paint, and other heritage aircraft. The night included a meal and live music from various groups including the USO WWII era singers. 

“It was once said that the footprints of your heritage help determine the course of your future,” Sage said during the gala. “So here at the 4 FW we remember and we celebrate that heritage tonight as we look forward. The heart of the eagle squadron volunteer resides in today’s Airmen of the 4 FW. This fighter wing has always lead the way in defense of our great nation and we will continue to lead with courage, anytime, anywhere.” 

The 4th Equipment Maintenance Squadron spent more than one month painting the anniversary scheme for one of the wing’s F-15E Strike Eagle. The aircraft will remain painted this way for one full year. 

“If you haven’t gotten the chance to observe the work that Tech. Sgt. Timothy Fox and his fabrication team have done to make that Strike Eagle sing with all the ferocity, pride and esprit de corps this wing is known for, I encourage you to do so,” Sage said. 

The 4 FW’s motto is “Fourth but first” because of its reputation for toppling records and firsts throughout history.

Below are just a few examples of the 4 FW’s list of accomplishments and noteworthy achievements:

- The 4 FG flew P-51 Mustangs in February 1944 and are credited as the top scoring Allied fighter group of WWII. The group was the first to infiltrate airspace over Germany and collectively destroyed 1,016 enemy aircraft.

- In March 1949, the group transitioned to the F-86 Sabre aircraft and flew missions during the Korean War. Once again, the 4th was designated the top fighter unit during that conflict, having destroyed 502 enemy aircraft.

- The 336th Fighter Squadron became the first operational F-15E Strike Eagle squadron in 1989, and in 1991, the 4th FW became the first fully operational Strike Eagle wing in the entire Air Force.

-  The 4 FW has been commanded by many noteworthy officers, including Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager, the first person to travel faster than the speed of sound. He also travelled with the wing to Korea when the U.S.S. Pueblo was seized by North Korea in 1968.

- The wing was also commanded by then Col. Jeannie Leavitt, the first female to lead an active duty Air Force fighter wing and the Air Force’s first female fighter pilot. 

The wing has flown nine different aircraft in 75 years and destroyed more than 1500 enemy aircraft, dropped more than 4 million pounds of ordnance, produced 63 aces, countless Distinguished Flying Cross recipients and one Medal of Honor recipient. 

The 4 FW currently flies the F-15E, a dual-role fighter designed to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. The Strike Eagle has fought in many operations, including, DESERT STORM, SOUTHERN WATCH, ENDURING FREEDOM, ANACONDA, IRAQI FREEDOM AND INHERENT RESOLVE. 

Today the wing’s Airmen support operations across the globe, upholding our mission to provide dominant Strike Eagle airpower … anytime, anywhere.

"The heritage of our wing is impressive. We have accomplished so much over the years. I am incredibly honored to be the commander during the year of our 75th anniversary," Sage said. "Tomorrow is a new day and we will continue to write the next page of our nation’s history, and I am proud to stand among you all as we continue to be the tip of the spear in confronting our enemies while also paving the way for our next generation of warfighters.”