An Airman in the 9th Attack squadron wears the Flying Knights’ patch at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Sept. 28. The 9th Attack Squadron was re-activated as a remotely piloted aircraft training squadron on Sept. 28. The Flying Knights have a rich history dating back to World War II when Medal of Honor recipient Maj. Richard Bong flew in the 9th Fighter Squadron. (Courtesy photo)
U.S. Air Force Col. Kenneth Johnson, 49th Operations Group commander, hands the 9th Attack Squadron’s guidon to Lt. Col. Jeffrey Patton, 9th Attack Squadron commander, at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Sept. 28. The exchanging of the guidon symbolizes Patton assuming command of the newly-activated 9th Attack Squadron. The 9th Attack Squadron was activated to supplement the 29th Attack Squadron as a remotely piloted aircraft training squadron. (Courtesy photo)
by Airman 1st Class Daniel Liddicoet
49th Wing Public Affairs
10/4/2012 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The 9th Fighter Squadron was re-activated as the 9th Attack Squadron, part of the 49th Operations Group, at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Sept. 28.
The Flying Knights carry with them a rich heritage dating back to 1941, when the 9th Fighter Squadron was first activated to support a global mission during World War II. Newly evolved as a training squadron for remotely piloted aircraft, the Flying Knights continue to help protect national security objectives and strive toward a goal of combat-readiness.
The re-activation of the 9th Attack squadron represents the U.S. Air Force's growing emphasis on the use of remotely piloted aircraft.
"Last year, the U.S. Air Force trained more RPA aircrew than traditional pilots, and that is a trend that is likely to continue in the future," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Patton, 9th Attack Squadron commander. "As an RPA training squadron, we will train half of all new MQ-9 Reaper aircrews."
Major Jerry Brown, 9th Attack Squadron director of operation added, "The MQ-9 is now the most demanded combat asset in all theaters."
Despite the new direction for the Flying Knights, they remain deeply grounded in their heritage.
Originally equipped with the P-38 Lightning, P-40 Warhawk and P-47 Thunderbolt, the 9th Fighter Squadron amassed a distinguished legacy that included extensive participation in World War II, with a record of 668 aerial victories. The Flying Knights were also home to many notable aces, including Medal of Honor recipient Maj. Richard Bong. After serving in Vietnam, Korea, Operation Desert Shield, and Operation Desert Storm, the Flying Knights most recently operated the F-117 Nighthawk out of Holloman AFB prior to their de-activation in 2008.
"The Flying Knights have an amazing heritage because of its people and what they accomplished while they were with the ninth," said Patton. "We will continue to honor those who came before us."
Now armed with one of U.S. Air Force's latest weapons platforms, the 9th Attack Squadron will begin writing a new chapter in the Flying Knights' history.
"The 9th Attack Squadron will provide the finest MQ-9 operators for our Air Force," said Senior Master Sgt. James Howard, 9th Attack Squadron superintendent. "Our students will have a foundation of knowledge and experience that they will be able to use to meet future technological innovation in remotely piloted aircraft systems."
The U.S. Air Force chose to activate the 9th Attack Squadron as a result of a need to train more pilots and sensor operators. The 9th Attack Squadron will function alongside the 29th Attack Squadron at Holloman AFB as the primary training squadrons for the MQ-9.
"Because of the U.S. Air Force's operational requirements, the MQ-9 training requirements have doubled," said Howard. "By having two training squadrons, it enables us to train more students to meet that requirement. It also allows us better continuity and supervision for the new MQ-9 students."
The 9th Attack Squadron is currently manned with 60 members including aircrew, intelligence and administrative personnel.
"We're at about half of our authorized size right now, so we expect to grow over the next year," said Patton. "The demand for new MQ-9 aircrew will continue, and our mission is to fulfill that demand. The ninth and 29th share the 11 MQ-9 aircraft currently assigned to the 49th Wing here at Holloman."
As the 9th Attack Squadron grows and the importance of remotely piloted aircraft increases, the Flying Knights' sights will remain fixed on their common goal.
"The goal of the 9th Attack Squadron is to train the best RPA pilots in the U.S. Air Force to meet the needs of the combatant commanders," said Patton. "The ninth will achieve this by retaining our high quality instructors, leveraging aircrews' operational and combat experience, and setting high standards for our students. We must ensure that graduating students are ready for combat, since that is where they will go within the first month of their operational assignment."
With a long tradition of excellence and sacrifice laid before them, the Airmen of the 9th Attack Squadron carry their torch with pride into the future.
"The current Knights are warriors, combat veterans and heroes as well," said Patton. "Only time will reveal their contributions to supporting America's War on Terror."