95th returns, New F-22 squadron reflects local, military history

  • Published
  • By Ashley M. Wright
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Reflecting on a storied past and looking toward the future of air dominance, the base's new F-22 Raptor squadron was officially named the 95th Fighter Squadron Oct. 11 .

"We are honored to have the 95th FS call Tyndall home again," said Col. David E. Graff, 325th Fighter Wing commander. "It symbolizes so much to both our local community and military history."

The 95th FS was the leading squadron at Tyndall for three decades and is easily identified by its symbolic mascot, Mr. Bones, a skeleton with a top hat and cane, adorning the unit patch.

"I feel very fortunate to bring the 95th FS and Mr. Bones back from the grave," said Lt. Col. Erick Gilbert, current 325th Program Integration chief and soon-to-be 95th FS commander.

From September 1974 to December 2010, the squadron trained thousands of fighter interceptor pilots and weapons controllers utilizing the T-33 Shooting Star and the F-15 Eagle. The squadron was the last of three F-15 squadrons to be inactivated at Tyndall due not only to its substantial local history, but also to its vital contributions during World War II, which resulted in 199 aerial victories, the destruction of more than 400 strategic targets and ultimately being awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation.

The unit is currently preparing for the transfer of 24 F-22s and more than 1,100 positions to the base. Once reaching its initial operating capability, the squadron is likely to deploy one of the most advanced aircraft in the world into a combat area of responsibility.

"We are charged with the responsibility to project combat air power to wherever it is needed in support of our national military objectives," Colonel Gilbert said.

The additional F-22s bring the total number of the fifth generation fighters to more than 50 at Tyndall. This is the largest contingent of F-22s at one location, which makes for what Colonel Gilbert recognizes as an important opportunity for Airmen to work together in both maintenance and operational areas to improve daily practices and "sharpen the sword."

"We will work together as a team, both maintenance and operations from both the 95th and the 43rd Fighter Squadrons and Aircraft Maintenance Units to better train F-22 pilots and prepare them for combat operations," Colonel Gilbert said.

Aircraft for the new squadron will start arriving in early 2014; however, opening the 95th FS for business early allows for the bed-down of incoming personnel and permits time for the development of a road-map to combat readiness. The squadron has started receiving an average of 50 to 60 personnel per month and will continue to do so for the next several months.

"We have a huge challenge ahead of us, but we are more than equipped to handle anything that stands in our way of bringing the 95th back to Bay County," Colonel Gilbert said.

The F-22 arrived at Tyndall 10 years ago with the mission of training pilots on the first fifth-generation air dominance platform. The new squadron's arrival, which has been years in the making, will take Tyndall air power directly into a combat role.

"There is a significant responsibility of living up to the legend established by the heroic acts of the previous WWII-era Airmen when thinking of the past actions of the 95th," Colonel Gilbert said. "There is a ton of local heritage. It is incredibly exciting to reactivate the 95th due to its rich history of flying T-33s and the mighty F-15 in Panama City for so many years. There could not be a bigger following than that of Mr. Bones and the 95th FS. The new combat F-22 mission only adds to that legacy."