A farewell flyaway ceremony held on Apr. 21, 2023 paid tribute to the airmen and technical crew who helped put in 80,000 flight hours in the F-16 Viper through missions around the world.
The 100th Fighter Squadron Red Tails of the 187th Fighter Wing, Alabama’s Air National Guard unit at Dannelly Field in Montgomery, honored the 35-year legacy of the F-16 Fighting Falcon as the last jets departed from the base on Apr. 21, 2023.
As reported by WSFA 12 News, the unit is divesting its F-16 jets as it prepares to field the F-35A Lightning II later this year.
Maj. Gen. Sheryl Gordon, Alabama Air National Guard, said:
“The Alabama National Guard has flown the F-16 out of Dannelly Field longer than any other jet in our history combined.”
As the video in this post shows, a farewell flyaway ceremony held Friday paid tribute to the airmen and technical crew who helped put in 80,000 flight hours in the Viper through missions around the world.
“From Iraq to Afghanistan, to Korea to Kuwait, Qatar, Romania, Ukraine, this wing has represented our nation with professionalism and pride,” said Alabama National Guard Brigadier General William Sparrow.
The ceremony paid tribute to the service and dedication of the airmen and technical crew who flew the F-16s, which logged a total of 80,000 flight hours on missions across the globe, from Iraq to Afghanistan, Korea to Kuwait, Qatar to Romania, and Ukraine. As the 187th Fighter Wing prepares to transition to the F-35A Lightning II, the departure of the F-16s marks the end of a remarkable 35-year legacy, during which the Alabama National Guard unit flew the F-16s out of Dannelly Field longer than any other jet in its history combined. The F-16s will now be moved to other bases across the country for continued use.
For pilots like Maj. Bart Smith, who had flown the F-16 for about seven years, it was a bittersweet moment. However, as the 187th mission evolves, they need to move forward. “That’s what we have to have to go into the future,” said Smith, pointing at the F-35 jet on display at the ceremony. “It’s cutting-edge technology. It’s the best fighter that the world has yet produced, and it’s just a joy to get up there and fly.”
The Tuskegee Airmen, also known as the Red Tail Flyers, have left an indelible mark on the history of American aviation.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black military aviators in the US Army Air Corps, a precursor of the US Air Force. Pilots, navigators, maintainers, bombardiers, instructors and support staff all trained at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. The Tuskegee Airmen flew more than 15,000 sorties during World War II in Europe and North Africa.
The Tuskegee Airmen painted their Curtiss P-40 Warhawks, Republic P-47 Thunderbolts and North American P-51 Mustangs with a red-tailed paint scheme.
According to official USAF documents, it is well documented that our WWII bomber pilots would look out their windows and gain confidence from Red Tail fighters flying beside them. It has been stated they took comfort in knowing their chances for survival were higher with a Red Tail escort than from any other outfit in 12th and 15th Air Force.
As a tribute to their legacy, some of the F-16s in the 100th Fighter Squadron had their tails painted red, honoring the brave men who paved the way for generations of pilots to come.
Photo credit: WSFA 12 News