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Bunyaps inactivate with honor

Col. Jack Forsythe, 49th Operations Group commander, and Lt. Col. Chris Knehans, 7th Fighter Squadron commander, roll the guidon of the 7th during the inactivation ceremony Friday. The inactivation of the 7th will be Dec. 31. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Michael Means)

Col. Jack Forsythe, 49th Operations Group commander, and Lt. Col. Chris Knehans, 7th Fighter Squadron commander, roll the guidon of the 7th during the inactivation ceremony Friday. The inactivation of the 7th will be Dec. 31. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Michael Means)

HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The Holloman community gathered in Hangar 301 for the 7th Fighter Squadron's inactivation ceremony Friday.

Col. Jack Forsythe, 49th Operations Group commander, Lt. Col. Chris Knehans, 7th Fighter Squadron commander, and Mr. Greg Stephens, honorary commander of the 7th Fighter Squadron, spoke at the ceremony.

"This was a big day," Brig. Gen. David Goldfein, 49th Fighter Wing commander, said after the ceremony. "Bittersweet, but exciting to the community because it marks the beginning of the F-22."

The 7th Fighter Squadron, or "Screamin' Demons," has been training stealth pilots since Dec. 2, 1993, according to Colonel Knehans. Due to the drawdown of the F-117A Nighthawk, he said, there are enough qualified pilots to see the program through the phase-out. With no need for a formal training unit, the colonel explained, the 7 FS is being inactivated. Its official inactivation date is Dec. 31, 2006.

General Goldfein said the first 10 Nighthawks to retire are no longer flying; they are waiting for the bed-down base to be prepared, then they will be parked.

"This is not the first and it won't be the last," General Goldfein said about the F-117A. "You tend to look at this plane and love it. But, like every plane we've ever flown, it has a life cycle."

Colonel Forsythe praised Colonel "Hans" Knehans for producing 50 stealth pilots with zero flying accidents and for maintaining a positive atmosphere in the squadron.

"Hans, the climate you set would be the envy of any commander," Colonel Forsythe said.
Colonel Knehans, during his speech, credited his wife for generating much of the squadron's positive atmosphere.

Colonel Knehans mentioned the squadron has trained 273 Nighthawk pilots since 1993. Before that, the colonel said, the 7th made over 190 aerial kills during its history and was the first fighter squadron to fly sorties over the Korean Peninsula during the Korean War.

"We're here to watch a page turn in history," said Colonel Knehans. "The closing of a fighter squadron that is older than the Air Force itself."

"From World War II to combat today, the Bunyaps were there," Colonel Forsythe said during his speech.

The "Bunyip," which evolved over time into "Bunyap," was a new mascot chosen by the Screamin' Demons during the Pacific Campaign in WWII, according to 49 FW historian Mr. Rick Shea. It is an Australian aborigine myth told to all new settlers about a strange creature which lived in a deep water hole, destroying everyone who camped nearby.

"Many settlers to Australia believed the story and, besides never camping near a bunyip hole, were careful not to disturb the monster when collecting water," said Mr. Shea.

Mr. Shea said the Screamin' Demons adopted the name and image of the death-dealing creature "because the outcome of awakening a bunyip was the same as an aerial contest with the 7 FS. Thereby, it was only appropriate that the two go into combat as Wingmen."

"The 7th will continue as long as brave men and woman continue to serve honorably," said 7 FS honorary commander Mr. Stephens.

The 7 FS has been inactivated, but if needed by the Air Force, it will be activated again for another mission.