JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —
Just weeks after painting a T-38C Talon in the colors of the Vietnam War-era F-4 Phantom II for the 560th Flying Training Squadron’s 45th annual Freedom Flyers Reunion in March, the 12th Maintenance Group’s corrosion control team has completed a similar project for a 12th Flying Training Wing squadron that’s some 700 miles away.
This time, the corrosion control team used a green and gray color scheme that hearkens back to World War II to transform the look of a T-6A Texan II for the 455th Flying Training Squadron at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.
“Our squadron was constituted the 455th Bombardment Squadron with the Martin B-26 Marauder in August of 1942,” said Lt. Col. Douglas Kabel, 455th FTS commander. “This paint scheme is a replica of our June 6, 1944, B-26 paint scheme as we supported Operation Overlord on the beaches of Normandy, France.”
The T-6A heritage aircraft is back at NAS Pensacola after Lt. Col. Nik Stathopoulos, 455th FTS director of operations, and Capt. Kais Heimburger, 455th FTS instructor pilot, came to Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph May 8 to pick up the aircraft.
The aircraft will be an important part of the squadron’s 75th anniversary reunion June 7-8 at NAS Pensacola. That event will bring together present and former members of the 455th FTS and members of the World War II-era 323rd Bombardment Group, which included the 455th BS.
The 455th BS played a major role in the European theater, said Capt. Matt Carver, 455th FTS chief of standardization and evaluations.
“The squadron took part in bombardment missions from England before D-Day and would continue the fight against the Axis powers in Europe until 1945,” he said.
The squadron was inactivated and activated multiple times after the war until it was redesignated as the 455th FTS at Mather Air Force Base, California, in 1972, giving navigators their initial training flying the T-37.
The 455th FTS was inactivated again in 1993, but was reactivated in 2009 at NAS Pensacola as the only combat systems officer primary training squadron in the Air Force after the 562nd FTS and 563rd FTS, which had been turning out Air Force CSOs and electronic warfare officers as well as Naval flight officers, were inactivated at JBSA-Randolph. The 455th FTS is part of the 12th FTW’s 479th Flying Training Group at NAS Pensacola.
The T-6A that now wears the colors of the B-26 Marauder will not only be an important part of the 455th FTS’ 75th anniversary reunion, it will also figure prominently in the squadron’s future.
“I am extremely pleased and excited about the amazing work of our 12th Maintenance Group team on this project,” Kabel said. “It will be a regular part of our training fleet and of course will make its way around the airshow circuit and other recruiting opportunities.”
The painting project, which began March 3 and ended April 24, had its share of challenges, said Mario Tarin, a member of the 12th MXG’s corrosion control team.
“The technical order manual used was the latest of that time,” he said, referring to the World War II-era TO, “but we still had to conform to the current TO. One of the most difficult challenges we encountered was the many different layers of colors that were connected to each other, which involved a lot of masking to paint the various colors.”
Compared to other projects, Tarin said this job required more masking – about three times the amount of masking versus the regular scheme – and measuring of the markings.
The team – which also included Neil Orlowski, Don Collier, Daniel Rodriguez, Louis Gonzales, Daniel Perez, Martin Herrera, Rudy Olivares and Julian Lalinde – was “very satisfied” with the finished project, Tarin said.
“When we work on projects like this, we are filled with pride and a sense of accomplishment knowing we had a part of our history brought back to life,” he said.
The aircraft gives the 455th FTS “a visible and tangible connection” to its past, Carver said.
“It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day flying training missions, but the newly painted aircraft helps us to remember those who fought in combat and the sacrifices of all squadron members through the years,” he said. “Not only do we have an obligation to Americans today to do our mission, but we have a legacy that has been built up by those who served before us to uphold.”