JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —
In 1945, Gen. Henry 'Hap' Arnold remarked "We have just won a war with a lot of heroes flying around in planes. The next war may be fought with no men in them at all."
Nearly 70 years later, the 558th Flying Training Squadron is fulfilling General Arnold's vision as it executes the Air Force's only undergraduate Remotely Piloted Aircraft crew training program.
The squadron, which first activated December 1, 1942, celebrated their 70th anniversary at JBSA-Randolph, November 30.
A short video showcasing the squadron's history and the unveiling of a painting during a ceremony, which was followed by a reception at the squadron. The painting featured an Republic F-84 Thunderstreak, one of the aircraft formerly assigned to the squadron.
The squadron's work today is changing the face of aviation as we know it, it has a proud roots in the heyday of flight as both a bomber and fighter squadron.
Like many of the 12th FTW's squadrons, the 558th's heritage can be traced back through Vietnam to World War Two.
"If you look back in our squadron's history, it's amazing to see what this squadron has done and what it continues to do," said Lt. Col. Scott Cerone, 558th FTS commander. "We have a rich heritage and we're extremely proud of where we come from."
The 558th originated as a Bombardment Squadron (medium) on December 1, 1942, as part of the 387th Bombardment Group, at MacDill Field, Fla. Then responsible for flying the B-26 Marauder, the unit was deployed to Europe in July of 1943, stationed in England as part of the IX Bomber Command.
Prior to D-Day, the 558th bombarded enemy targets in Hitler's Europe. For their actions and service in Europe, the 558th was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation and several campaign streamers.
The 558th was inactivated in 1945 and reactivated in 1962 as the 558th Tactical Fighter Squadron, one of the first squadrons to fly the newly operational F-4C Phantom II. The 558th conducted combat missions over Vietnam and Southeast Asia. Operating out of Cam Ranh AB, Vietnam, the 558th and the other 12th Tactical Fighter Wing squadrons carried out close air support, combat air patrol, and interdiction missions. However, after the Vietnam War, the squadron was once again inactivated.
The squadron wasn't reactivated again until December 1992, when it received its current moniker - the 558th Flying Training Squadron. Though periodically inactive since then, the squadron was responsible for undergraduate navigator training until it assumed responsibility for all introductory Remotely Piloted Aircraft training in May 2010.
In its current role, the 558th prepares all officers and enlisted who will fly and operate America's arsenal of MQ-1 Predators, MQ-9 Reapers, and RQ-4 Global Hawks.
Given the current mission, it's easy for the 558th to look forward to the future, but according to Cerone, their past is just important.