Cold War Samurai – The 14th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 1987 – 1991

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The Samurai of the 14TFS

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The officers and enlisted personnel of the 14th Tactical Fighter Squadron were a seasoned group of Airmen. There may be some who made disparaging remarks about the unit being the ”JV” squad on the team, but that cheap shot reveals ignorance. True, the other squadron was somewhat higher on the administrative pecking order due to seniority in the wing, kind of like the oldest child in a family, but person for person, the 14TFS-1 was never better than the 14th TFS. If the Cold War “balloon” had ever gone up, both squadrons would have been in the fight.

The composition of the squadron was impressive in the 1987 to 1989 period which this web log writer is most familiar with. Some pilots in the squadron had started the 432TFW at the beginning in 1984, opted to continue their overseas tour (COT) and transferred to the 14th from the 13th. As such they were very familiar with fighter ops in northern Japan and the Far East.

A number of Samurai pilots had flown the F-16 in other assignments, including a number of “Korean hands” who had flown the type in the Wolfpack at Kunsan Air Base, and were thus familiar with the aircraft and fighter ops in the Pacific theater.

Capt. "B.C." circa 1988 (Courtesy

Viper pilot Capt. “B.C.” circa 1988 (Courtesy

Still other experienced pilots came from a variety of other airframes, such as the F-4E, the RF-4C and the early model F-111s, transitioned into the Viper, and had already seen a few things in the air. Some of them had been around the Pacific area of operations too. They joined the Viper community as the F-16 force built up in the 1980s and as older airframes went to the reserve component or were retired.

Last but not least were the “Viper Babies,” young pilots fresh from pilot training coming in to the unit straight from one of the F-16 RTUs. So fresh we even had a 2nd Lt. fighter pilot, a kind of rarity given the length of the pilot training timeline. The Viper Babies were a distinct minority at that time, but they were eager to learn the ropes from the old hands, those kerosene cowboys on a fighter ranch.

1st Lt. "Sledge" circa 1988.  (Courtesy

Viper pilot 1st Lt. “Sledge” circa 1988. (Courtesy

Personnel of the ground echelon, the non-rated officers and the NCOs and Airmen had a similar variety in background and experience. Their overall numbers in those days were fewer than the pilots in the squadron, but everyone performed a necessary duty in the squadron and did it well.

The Cold War 14TFS was a great unit, if not a perfect outfit, as such a thing does not exist. The cross-section of personalities was like that which you can find in any group of professionals. Some personalities stood out compared to others. Some got along better with this one or that one, normal stuff. But the leadership made a huge difference in how well the squadron functioned. So from this writer’s perspective, overall, the maturity and experience level of the unit was good, well-balanced and benefitted even more from the solid unit leadership of the “Grand Poobah.”


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