The 95th Fighter Squadron and Aircraft Maintenance Unit will once again call Tyndall home as officials announced the new F-22 Raptor squadron activated Oct. 11.
“We are honored to have the 95th 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 called Tyndall home for three decades with their mascot, Mr. Bones, a skeleton with a top hat and cane, adorning the unit patch.
“I feel very fortunate to bring the 95th and Mr. Bones back home to Tyndall,” said Lt. Col. Erick Gilbert, current 325th program integration chief and soon-to-be 95th Fighter Squadron commander.
From September 1974 to December 2010, the squadron trained thousands of fighter/interceptor pilots and weapons controllers using the T-33 Shooting Star and F-15E Strike Eagle. The squadron was the last of the three F-15 squadrons to be inactivated at Tyndall due to its significant local history, but also due to its significant contributions during World War II resulting in 199 aerial victories, the destruction of more than 400 strategic targets and ultimately being awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation.
The unit activated during a ceremony Oct. 11 to prepare for the transfer of 24 F-22s and more than 1,100 positions to the base. 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.
Once reaching its initial operating capability, the squadron will be capable of deploying one of the most advanced aircraft in the world into a combat area of responsibility.
“We are charged to project power to wherever needed in support of our national military objectives,” Gilbert said.
The additional F-22s bring the total number of the 5th generation fighters to more than 50 at Tyndall. This is the largest contingent of F-22s at one location.Gilbert recognizes the activation 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,” 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 the influx of personnel and helps establish the critical road map to combat capability, said base leadership.
“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,” 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,” 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 locally 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 the legacy.”