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How I found my heritage

Lt. Col. Sean Martin, 3rd Flying Training Squadron commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Terry Wasson)

Lt. Col. Sean Martin, 3rd Flying Training Squadron commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Terry Wasson)

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- In September of 2012 the 32nd Flying Training Squadron converted to the 3rd Flying Training Squadron. I was a student in the 32nd, some years later I taught in the 32nd, and a few years after that, I came back to lead the 32nd - or at least the squadron the 32nd became.

The 3rd FTS is the third oldest squadron in the Air Force.  After the 3rd Fighter Training Squadron, which taught Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals here, was deactivated it was determined that the squadron's rich history had to be carried on. The Airmen of the then 32nd FTS who fly the T-1 Jayhawk were chosen to inherit that heritage.

Shortly after Team Vance resumed flying after the 2013 winter holiday break, I received a call from a gentleman named Steve. He used to be in the 3rd Tactical Fighter Squadron in the Philippines in the early 1990s until Mount Pinatubo erupted, forcing the closure of Clark Airbase.

His goal was to have a Peugeot reunion. Peugeot in this case does not pertain to the French automobile, but instead to what the Air Force official history calls the "fanciful creature" on the 3rd Flying Training Squadron patch. This creature has been the symbol of the 3rd since well before World War II.

When Steve was preparing this reunion idea he was told that the 3rd still exists today, as an AETC squadron. Steve was hoping that I could give a short talk about where and what the current "Peugeots" do. I was a little apprehensive about talking to a roomful of retired "Cold Warrior" fighter types about the perils of flying a T-1 over mid-America, but I decided the opportunity to learn more about my squadron's heritage was too good to pass up.

I saw this reunion as a chance to establish some ties to the past and meet some great Americans.

It turns out I was right on both counts. I met retired Col. Stu Moseby who is in the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame and is probably more famous for bringing leather jackets back to the Air Force.

I also met "Moose," "Coma," "Frymo" and a host of other great guys who were at the tip of the spear flying F-4s and performing a variety of missions well beyond anything their counterparts were doing in the continental U.S. I even saw many squadron artifacts that these proud warriors brought with them as a reminder of times gone by.

After a couple of great presentation speeches covering the history of the 3rd, with emphasis on its days at Clark, it was my time to talk about how different life in the Air Force is different today and the obstacles that Airmen in a training squadron face.

It turns out my speech was well received -- or they were good liars -- and they treated me well during my time with them. I was presented with a lithograph for taking leave to be a part of the reunion.

The lithograph shows an F-4 with the equipment that was customary for that unit at the time. On the cockpit were the names of a pilot and a weapons system officer who exemplified Air Force Core Values. As the plaque was presented to me, the old pilots from the 3rd described to me who Col. Micheal Heenan and Lt. Col. Robert Grier were and what they did for their country.

Listening to the description of these warriors from their friends illustrated the whole point of travelling to see these gentlemen and the spouses who shared their experiences with them.