Col. Jack Forsythe, 49th Operations Group commander, and Lt. Col. Chris Knehans, 7th Fighter Squadron commander, roll the guidon of the 7th during the inactivation ceremony Friday. The inactivation of the 7th will be Dec. 31. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Michael Means)
7th Fighter Squadron inactivation ceremony Friday
by Laura London
49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
12/13/2006 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M.
-- The 7th Fighter Squadron "Screamin' Demons" will inactivate Dec. 31 due to the phasing out of the F-117A Nighthawk. A ceremony marking the event will be held Friday.
"Our mission is -- was -- to train inbound F-117 pilots to make up for normal (permanent change of station) attrition," said Lt. Col. Chris Knehans, 7th FS commander.
"Due to the drawdown, there will be enough qualified pilots to see the program through the phase-out. Since there is no need for a formal training unit, we are being inactivated."
"The 7th FS has been the mainstay of developing combat capability for the F-117," said Col. David Moore, 49th Fighter Wing vice commander. "The instructor pilots, life support technicians and (operations) desk personnel have trained an amazing cadre of stealth fighter pilots. We are all indebted to their legacy of professionalism, integrity and war fighting spirit."
The 7th FS has been around since Jan. 15, 1941, when it was known as the 7th Pursuit Squadron, according to Colonel Knehans.
Aces, pilots with five or more kills, who flew with the 7th are Maj. Richard I. Bong, Lt. Col. Gerald R. Johnson, Capt. Robert M. DeHaven, Capt. Joel E. Parris III, 1st Lt. Fernley H. Damstrom, Maj. Arland Stanton, Capt. Elliot E. Dent Jr., 2nd Lt. Milden E. Mathre, 1st Lt. Frederick E. Dick, Maj. Franklin A. Nichols and 1st Lt. A.T. House. Ironically, Lieutenant House received ace status nearly 50 years after the end of hostilities, said Rick Shea, 49th Fighter Wing historian.
"We have been on the leading edge in World War II, Korea and Vietnam," said Colonel Knehans.
The Bunyaps, as the Scramin' Demons were formerly called, contributed a total of 190 aerial victories to the wing's total during World War II, said Mr. Shea. And they served as part of the U.S. occupational air defense force in Japan immediately following WWII.
"Seventh pilots made significant contributions to the 49th FW war efforts in Kosovo and Operation Iraqi Freedom," said Colonel Knehans. "We have been the F-117 schoolhouse since Dec. 2, 1993."
From 1999 to 2005, the Demons were known as the 7th Combat Training Squadron. In 1999, Colonel Knehans explained, the Quadrennial Defense Review found the Air Force could save money by combining the 7th FS and the 46th Training Squadron and moving the 7th FS's F-117As to the 9th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, closing the 7th Aircraft Maintenance Unit.
"Since the 7th no longer 'owned' airplanes, we couldn't be a fighter squadron -- hence the combat training school," Colonel Knehans said. "In 2002, the objective wing was dissolved -- now no fighter squadron owned airplanes. In late 2004, I started working to re-establish our heritage back to a fighter squadron. On July 22, 2005, we reclaimed our fighter squadron status."
Colonel Knehans said the Demons have six F-117As which will be among the first 10 to go into retirement. The T-38s, used for initial qualification, requalification training, instrument and qualification evaluations, test support and F-117A reduced altitude upgrades, will be managed by the 8th Fighter Squadron. They will continue performing all of these functions after the 7 FS inactivates except, of course, initial qualification on the F-117A.
Local news coverage ...
Quite a history of the F117A Nighthawk