71st FTS 'Ironmen' return to Langley
By By Senior Airman R. Alex Durbin, 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 24, 2015
LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- U.S. Air Force Airmen, former Service members and families welcomed the 71st Fighter Squadron "Ironmen" back to Joint Base Langley-Eustis during a reactivation ceremony here, Aug. 21.
Deactivated in 2010, the historic fighter squadron will continue its legacy of excellence, but shift its focus from the front lines to now train today's pilots as the redesignated 71st Fighter Training Squadron.
The unit will conduct adversarial air support, or "red air," for 1st Fighter Wing, F-22 Raptor pilots and leverage its 17 T-38 Talon aircraft to provide realistic training scenarios - a mission Lt. Col. Brian Coyne, 71st FTS commander, said will save money and increase mission-focused training, while easing the burden originally shouldered by 27th Fighter Squadron Service members.
"In the past, [the 27th FS] needed to use F-22 flying hours to provide adversarial support," said Coyne. "For a fraction of the cost, T-38s can provide training support, which not only saves money on training, but allows our F-22 pilots more flying hours."
While the squadron's efforts will cut costs and save flying hours, its members also are committed to keeping the 1st FW ready for America's call.
"We're here to provide world-class adversarial air [support] to replicate what [our enemies] will do," said Capt. Nichole Stilwell, 71st FTS T-38 pilot. "Our job is to help polish our F-22 pilots and keep them ready at any time."
Coyne said the squadron's mission is two-fold and will not only help 1st FW pilots, but provide 71st FTS officers the opportunity to master enemy flight tactics, while honing their own piloting skills.
"We plan to make our [pilots] experts on what our enemies will do, which provides a unique opportunity," said Coyne. "Our program here will season them and allow them to bring a diverse background which will increase readiness in our Air Force."
Following his assumption of command, Coyne reminded the squadron of their vital place within the 1st FW.
"You've all signed up for an incredibly difficult and important mission. You're the [F-22 pilots'] sparring partner. The sword's already razor sharp - you help the 1st Fighter Wing figure out how to use it better," said Coyne. "Because of what the Ironmen are doing today, the full force of Langley's combat power will be ready to undertake [war] when the flag goes up. It's an incredible legacy that the Ironmen of today must, and will, live up to and honor."
Originally formed in December 1940 as the 71st Pursuit Squadron, the 71st FS has flown a variety of combat aircraft including the P-38 Lightning, P-80 Shooting Star, F-86 Sabre, F-106 Delta Dart, and F-4 Phantom. In 1975, the 71st Tactical Fighter Squadron moved to Langley and was equipped with the F-15 Eagle, which it flew for more than 30 years before its deactivation.
Over the course of its history, the 71st FS saw combat in numerous conflicts across the globe including World War II, Operations Northern Watch, Southern Watch and Iraqi Freedom, and was credited with the first air-to-air victory in Desert Storm. For its valor and excellence in combat, the unit earned numerous accolades, including three Presidential Unit Citations, eleven Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards, and five Hughes Achievement Trophies.