JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
The 435th Fighter Training Squadron and the 12th Maintenance Group have blended a throwback paint scheme with a 40th anniversary reunion to celebrate a vital Air Force mission.
When the 435th was reactivated after the Vietnam War on Jan. 1, 1977 at Holloman Air Force Base, its mission was to teach new fighter pilots basic maneuvers in what was called Lead-In-Fighter Training. LIFT evolved into the 435th’s contemporary Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals program in today’s two-toned gray T-38C Talons.
Dozens of LIFT alumni and current squadron members are reuniting this week at JBSA-Randolph for some professional development-themed comradery. “Our heritage is bigger than all of us and it’s the reason people want to be in the Air Force,” said Lt. Col Jason Earley, the 435th Fighter Training Squadron commander.
Thanks to the Corrosion Control Shop, the 435th’s flagship is sporting the throwback blue tricolor of LIFT’s AT-38B Talons before the “Smurf Jet” scheme was phased out in the late 90s.
“The most rewarding part of our job is the challenge of painting a new camouflage paint scheme,” said Daniel Rodriguez, the 12th Maintenance Group’s Corrosion Control Shop supervisor.
According to Rodriguez, the freshly painted or “heritage blue” pattern recalls those early days of LIFT and IFF.
To be on time for the 435th’s anniversary celebration Jan. 20, Rodriguez’s team started working on the plane Dec. 20, 2016. Ten employees spent approximately 300 man-hours on the makeover.
In their shop, at full speed, Rodriguez’s team, with an average of 30 years’ experience, recall artists of yesteryear at work on a sheet metal canvas.
“The team over at Maintenance did a fantastic job,” said Earley.
Earley will be among the dozens of current 435th FTS “Deadly Black Eagles” and LIFT or IFF alumni who will pose with the flagship for a group photo during the reunion.