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Air Force legends tour Tyndall

Retired Col. George "Bud" Day examines the cockpit of an F-22 during a tour here Friday.  Mr. Day is the highest decorated living American veteren.

Retired Col. George "Bud" Day examines the cockpit of an F-22 during a tour here Friday. Mr. Day is the highest decorated living American veteren.

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Men from the (callsign) "Misty" Forward Air Controllers (FAC) of the Vietnam War visited Tyndall Air Force Base Friday as part of their five-day reunion event in Destin, Fla.

The Misty FACs were an F-100F fighter squadron and part of a top secret mission to disrupt the transfer of enemy supplies and equipment on the Ho Chi Minh trail from 1967 through 1970. Twenty-two percent of the 155 Misty pilots were shot down; three were killed in action and four became prisoners of war.

Among the visitors were retired Col. George "Bud" Day, Medal of Honor winner and the highest decorated living American veteran.

"It's wonderful to get back together with the people you went to combat with," Mr. Day said. "We have an extremely tight bond."

Mr. Day was shot down on a Misty mission in August 1967 and captured by the North Vietnamese. After five days of captivity, he escaped and evaded the enemy for more than two weeks when he was captured again and held in the "Hanoi Hilton" prisoner of war camp for five years with Sen. John McCain-who has credited his survival of the camp to Mr. Day. 

Retired Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd, former head of the Air National Guard was also in attendance.

"It's great to see what the Air Force has become," Mr. Shepperd said. "The planes we flew were 'Model-T's' compared to the Raptor."

The squadron had several other members who went on to career success to include two Air Force chief of staffs and six general officers.

Friday's tour began with a greeting from Brig. Gen. Tod Wolters, 325th Fighter Wing commander, and continued with an F-22 briefing from the 43rd Fighter Squadron's chief of Standardization Evaluation and event coordinator, Capt. Daniel Lee.

"Everyone in the 43rd was honored to have the Misty FACs here," Captain Lee said. "The real gift is us learning from their incredible experience. Though the technology of warfare has changed, many of the rules the Misty's learned the hard way are still used today."

"The Misty's represent a great part of our Air Force heritage," said Col. William Mott, 325th Operations Group commander. "It's been an honor to have them here and to show them the best aircraft the Air Force has to offer, as well as the men and women who fly and work on them."
The tour concluded with a static display of an F-22 for the men to examine, followed by a flight demonstration where they got to see the Raptor in action.

"Watching that airplane was quite an experience," said Mr. Day.

"I still can't believe I saw what I saw," said retired Lt. Col. Jack Doub, former Misty pilot and reunion planner.

"I've been planning the reunions since 2005 and I'm so thankful to the guys here at Tyndall on behalf of the Mistys," he said. "I don't know how we can top this in reunions to come."

After the tour, the Mistys got a chance to interact with some of Tyndalls' fighter pilots in the 43rd Fighter Squadron's heritage room and share experiences.

"Words cannot describe the honor and privilege that we feel in hosting the heroes that make up the Misty group," said Lt. Col. David A. Krumm, 43rd Fighter Squadron commander. "These great Americans' legacy of service, sacrifice and excellence are part of the unswayable foundation of our great Air Force and we were ecstatic to show them how we are continuing their great traditions with Airmen who are committed to those same core values."