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Swamp Fox pilots gather for reunion and memorial service

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jim St.Clair
A distinguished fraternity of former pilots from the South Carolina Air National Guard (SCANG) attended a special reunion and memorial service held at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, Saturday. The gathering of Swamp Fox aviators was the first of its kind held since the late 1990s, according to project officer 1st Lt. Luke Weymuller. More than two dozen veteran Airmen were on hand including pilots who flew the P-51 Mustang, the RF/F-80 Shooting Star, the F-86A and F-86L Sabre, the F-104 Starfighter, the F-102A Delta Dagger, the A-7D Corsair II and the F-16s that deployed to Operation Desert Storm. The reunion was six months in the making and the culmination of "a lot of work by a lot of people including [169th Fighter Wing Commander] Col. Mike Hudson and [169th Fighter Wing Vice-Commander] Col. Mike Manning," said Weymuller. "Col. Manning dived into every resource available to identify and locate former SCANG pilots for this reunion."

The day began with a slide presentation in the wing auditorium from Maj. Quaid Quadri. The briefing covered such topics as the current mission sets of the Block 52 F-16s the wing currently flies as well as the systems, tactics and training used by today's Swamp Foxes. Quadri observed that while some of the technology has changed over the years, the warrior ethos and fighting spirit of this generation's pilots is as strong as ever. After a question and answer session and comments from Hudson and Manning, everyone walked over to the flagpole outside the headquarters building for a memorial service.

Held under cloudy skies on an unseasonably cool day, the memorial service began with the SCANG Honor Guard raising the American flag and then lowering it to half staff. Master Sgt. Steven David sang the national anthem and chaplain, Lt.Col. Brian Bohlman provided an opening prayer. After Maj. Tally Parham read the poem "High Flight," the master of ceremonies, retired Col. Vince Hood, read the names of ten Swamp Fox pilots who died in the line of service. He then read another list of 36 pilots who have died since retiring from or leaving the SCANG. retired Col. Jet Jernigan provided the closing prayer and the ceremony concluded with a gun salute and the playing of taps by retired Col. Chuck DeVlaming.

The group then walked across the street to the airpark to have their pictures taken by the airframe they flew. The pilots were then taken to base operations for a tour and to see a static display F-16 in the hangar. They also got to observe a practice scramble at the Aerospace Control Alert facility. The day's activities concluded at the base canteen for a pilot-only roll call.