It’s a cool, calm morning in the high desert of south-central Oregon. The peaceful morning doesn’t stay that way for long as soon the Klamath valley was filled with the sound of GE and Pratt motors hard at work, spewing fire and converting dinosaurs into that unforgettable noise we all love and crave.
Among the jets launching out of Klamath Falls, many a Block 30 F-16C adorned with the red, white, and blue Texas flag emblazoned on the vertical stab hustled towards the airspace. In town for Sentry Eagle 2011, the Texas Air National Guard’s 182nd Fighter Squadron’s jets joined several other ANG Viper units in the fray, mixing it up with the host unit and Montana’s F-15s along with a pair of US Navy Super Hornets from VX-9.
Based at the Kelly Field Annex at Joint Base San Antonio, the Lone Star Gunfighters have a long and illustrious history with fighter types. In fact their parent unit, the 149th Fighter Wing, has only operated fighter aircraft since its inception in 1960.
The lineage of the 182nd goes back even further to 1943 when they flew P-47 Thunderbolts in Europe during World War II as the 396th Fighter Squadron. The 396th supported some of the most famous campaigns of the war, including the D-Day invasion of Normandy, as well as the Battle of the Bulge.
A unit of many firsts, some of the more noteworthy accomplishments include the Air National Guard’s first MiG-15 kill during the Korean War and the first ANG unit to operate the delta-winged Convair F-102 Delta Dagger. The first Block 15 F-16s arrived on property in 1986, and went through Block 25s before receiving their Block 30s in 1998.
After combat operations in Korea, maintaining a 24-hour alert in support of Air Defense Command, and deploying for Operation Southern Watch, in 1999 the 182FS shifted from being a combat-coded squadron to a Formal Training Unit (FTU), teaching F-16 students the ins and outs of the Viper. Whether it’s a B-course student fresh out of UPT, a pilot going for re-qual or transitioning from another airframe, the 182FS has it covered, graduating about 50 pilots each year–many of which are active-duty pilots.
Air-to-air exercises like Sentry Eagle allow the 182FS students to cut their teeth in the ACM arena with dissimilar aircraft, honing their skills before graduation and heading off to their operational assignments.