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39th FTS celebrates 70 years

By Bekah Clark | 12th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs | Dec. 15, 2011

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas — This month marks the 70th anniversary of the 39th Flying Training Squadron's activation in Bellingham, Wash.

In the days following the attack on Pearl Harbor, members of the then 39th Fighter Squadron arrived at the Bellingham Airport, which had just opened to the public on the day of the attack.

With no military base nearby, the Bellingham community took the Airmen into their homes for the next several weeks as the unit conducted antisubmarine patrols in a fleet of P-39s along the West Coast in response to the attack.

The unit commemorated the anniversary of their arrival in Bellingham with a reunion in October of this year. Twelve current members of the 39th FTS attended the event hosted by the Bellingham's Heritage Flight Museum. Three original members of the unit including retired Col. Frank Royal, one of the first squadron commanders, were also there.

Lt. Col. Roger Suro, 39th FTS commander, cites squadron heritage as the importance of these types of events.

"When your squadron can go and connect with guys who were in your squadron during World War II, it's priceless," he said. "The motivation and esprit de corps that builds when you connect with the people who fought in the campaigns that are displayed on banners on your squadron's guidon is so important."

The reunion offered former and present squadron members the opportunity to swap stories and share history. The event, held on one of the airport's "fly days," also allowed current members of the 39th FTS to display the T-1 and T-6 aircraft they fly today.

Following their time at Bellingham, then 2nd Lt. Royal, selected to be the squadron commander because he was the oldest of the bunch, led the squadron to the South Pacific where they would go on to be one of the most-decorated squadrons of WWII. By the end of the Korean War, the squadron boasted more than 20 Aces - pilots who have shot down five or more enemy aircraft.

Though the squadron has undergone several reactivations since then, its mission has remained primarily the same - flight testing and training.

The 39th FTS was reactivated at Moody AFB, Ga. and became a part of the 340th Flying Training Group in September 2011. As a reserve associate unit to the 12th Flying Training Wing, the squadron was moved to Randolph AFB in September 2007 and trains instructor pilots.

Members of the 39th FTS can be found in any of the 12th FTW's five flying squadrons, instructing Pilot Instructor Training in the T-1 Jayhawk, T-6 Texan II and the T-38C Talon, or instructing Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals in the T-38C Talon.