Dragon Test Team inactivates: 'Gray Dragon' to fly no more

Col. Gregory Neubeck, 53rd Test Evaluation Group commander and Lt. Col. Rick Silong, Detachment 1 commander, wrap up the detachment's guidon in preparation for its retirement during the Sept. 15 ceremony. (Amn. John Strong)

Col. Gregory Neubeck, 53rd Test Evaluation Group commander and Lt. Col. Rick Silong, Detachment 1 commander, wrap up the detachment's guidon in preparation for its retirement during the Sept. 15 ceremony. (Amn. John Strong)

HOLLOMAN AFB, N.M. -- The 53rd Test Evaluation Group's Detachment 1, Dragon Test Team, celebrated 24 years of service during its inactivation ceremony here Friday. 

"By law, whenever a weapon system is within five years of retirement we stop conducting modifications and testing," said Lt. Col. Rick Silong, Det. 1 commander. "Since the F-117s have been scheduled for retirement, we must inactivate our test unit at Holloman." 

According to Colonel Silong, when a detachment inactivates, it goes out of existence on a non-permanent basis - unlike a deactivation, where the unit is permanently closed. 

"If the Air Force ever decides to stand up another unit of the same size and scope as Det. 1, it will be easier to reactivate with the same patch and orders than to build a new unit from scratch," he said. "This also preserves the heritage of a unit." 

While at Holloman, Det. 1 tested software, hardware, weapon upgrades, platform survivability and the development of tactics to ensure the weapon system worked the first time - every time and maximized the combat capability of the war fighter. 

According to Col. Gregory Neubeck, 53 TEG commander, this wouldn't have been possible without Holloman. 

"As operational testers we rely on the support of the host wing to maintain our aircraft, to upload our weapons, to incorporate our test mission into the wing's demanding operational and training mission, to maintain our facilities and take care of our people," he said. "It truly takes a team effort to get our mission off the ground." 

Detachment 1 underwent multiple group, wing and location changes before finally ending up under the 53 TEG at Holloman in 1992. 

Colonel Neubeck said throughout that time it admirably supported the F-117A war fighter through Operations Just Cause, Desert Storm, Allied Force and Iraqi Freedom. 

During its tenure, the detachment had 46 pilots fly the Gray Dragon (the Air Force's only gray F-117A), had 14 commanders and had one former pilot become an astronaut. 

"The Dragon Test Team's dedication and achievements are a testament to its professionalism," he said. "We are all proud of its accomplishments and we celebrate the contributions it's made to the war fighter." 

Colonel Neubeck said he would like to thank the 49th Fighter Wing, Operations Group, Mission Support Group and Maintenance Group in particular for the awesome support over the years. 

"Your great support allowed us to stay focused on our mission."