Once a 49er … Always a 49er
By Airman 1st Class Heather Stanton, 49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 17, 2006
HOLLOMAN AFB, N.M. --
The 49th Fighter Group Association toured Holloman Nov. 9 for a reunion of new and old Fightin' 49ers.
The 49th Fighter Group Association is an organization for anyone who has been a part of the 49th in one way or another.
The group gets together at least once a year at many spots around the United States.
The veterans and retirees in this group were from all eras of the Air Force. Many fought in the Vietnam War and deployed there when the entire 49th Wing deployed for three months in 1972.
There were nine World War II veterans. One, Maj. (ret.) Ralph Wandrey, was an ace with six confirmed kills. He was also the wingman of Maj. (ret.) Richard Bong, a member of the 49th Fighter Group and the top Air Force ace.
But this tour was not only a reunion for these men of our history. It was a time for them to tell each other what they went through and reminisce their accomplishments and triumphs.
"This place is very sentimental to them," said Ms. Virginia Keys, the wife of one of the veterans. "They were very young going in and didn't know what to expect. It's great for them to come back."
During the tour, the veterans and retirees had a mission brief with Col. David Moore, 49th Fighter Wing vice commander, on what the 49 FW is doing now and what it is hoping to do in the future. They went to the 49th Maintenance Group and saw F-117As taxi on their way to fly afternoon sorties. The tour visited BEAR Base to show how the Air Force deploys now, with tents, generators and water purification systems.
After the BEAR Base tour, the veterans and retirees made their way to Heritage Park.
Many of them stopped to look at the P-38 on display because many of them flew that plane.
There is an F-105 on display that brought memories of snowball fights and squadron rivalry at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, to one.
"We would have a snowball fight with the first snow in Germany," the veteran said. "I was in the 7th (Fighter Squadron) there and I remember when the 8th (FS) took sheep and chickens and locked them in the 7th one Friday. Monday morning when people started arriving, it smelled like a barnyard all day."
The group was at Holloman through Sunday; they went to the Air Force Ball and had more memories shared and more to remember for the next time they get together.