The 8th Fighter Squadron (Fighting Patch at left) has been with us since November of 1940, when it was first organized at Selfridge Army Air Field, in Michigan. Decommissioned for a while, it is now back in the front lines of our Air Defense against any would be adversaries. This weekend saw its first graduating class of new F-16 Viper pilots since its arrival last year at Holloman Air Force Base, near Alamagordo, NM. According to the Squadon’s commander, Lt. Colonel Mark Sletten, each of the evening’s graduates’ training has cost the Air Force about eight (8) million dollars.
The squadron is best known as the Black Sheep Squadron of World War II fame and for one of its commanding officers, Colonel Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, one of WWII’s top USMC fighter Aces, whose memoirs inspired the 1970s television show “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” later syndicated as Black Sheep Squadron, which dramatized the squadron’s exploits during the war.
Although the original “Black Sheep” group was composed of USMC pilots, their Squadron no longer exists, so it’s been reborne, but this time as a USAF Fighter Squadron, not a USMC outfit. (This clarification the suggestion of Capt. Robbie Ritchie).
“These guys get to be a part of a very special fraternity and we have absolutely trained them up well to go out and be a part of that fraternity, the combat arms we know and love,” said Lt. Col. Mark Sletten, 8th FS commander. “For them to be a part of the greatest nation, the greatest
military, greatest service and of course the greatest platform – the F-16, leaving here tonight as qualified F-16 pilots makes us all proud.”
Getting all of the people shown below properly identified could not have been done without the indispensible assistance of the Daedalian Leadership Awardee, Captain Robbie “Ramm” Ritchie,* who made sure we properly identified all those shown. Prior to this specialized fighter training with the 8th, Captain Ritchie had been an instructor pilot. The name used for such already experienced new Basic students is FAIP, which stands for: First Assignment Instructor Pilot. This prior duty assignment helps account for Robbie’s rank of Captain.
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Below, is the the class video, 11 minutes long, which shows many clips taken from the months of fllight and fighter training the eight members of this first graduating class of the 8th Fighter Squadron experienced in their work with the Viper Fighter. Aside from a few inserts of actual wartime footage target anihilation (taken in the mideast), the video content was primarily taken by the students or HAFB Public Affairs videographers during their training activities. The video gives the viewer and unique insight into the experience these young men went through this past year at Holloman.
The film uses a number of special effects for the dramatization of some of the student experiences, such as refueling practice and of the TDY (Temporary Duty assignment) to Louisiana’s Bayou country. The video was produced by class member, Lt. Evan Wade, and also shows, quite graphically, to where each of the graduates will be going for their front line fighter assignment. This video can be seen best when your monitor is set to full-screen mode. Lt. Wade garners some top-gun kudos for his excellent production.
* Here is part of the official HAFB Public Affairs Office news release concerning Daedalian Award Recipient, Capt Robbie Ritchie:
This class’ recipient of the coveted Daedalian Flight 24 Leadership Award this
year, was Capt. Robert Ritchie. The Captain, one of the 8th Fighter Squadron F-16
Basic-Course graduates, always knew he wanted to be a fighter pilot.
Ritchie’s father is a retired Air Force pilot who flew C-130s and T-38s, before
flying for a commercial airline out of Minnesota.
“I was one of those kids that built model aircraft and hung them from the ceiling,”
said Ritchie. “My childhood bedroom was one big aerial battle.”
Ritchie graduated with an undergraduate degree followed by a Masters of Science in
aerospace engineering from the University of Minnesota, before leaving for Officer
Training School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.
Of the eight Viper pilots to graduate from Class 18-CBF, Ritchie was one of five who
were First Assignment Instructor Pilots “FAIP” trained on another aircraft before coming
“On behalf of Class 18-CBF, I can honestly say our experience training here on Holloman
Air Force Base has been one of the most professional experiences that we have ever been
involved with,” said Ritchie. “From the jets, to the instructors, to the maintainers,
to the air traffic controllers, how the base is run and everything in-between.”