EIELSON AFB, Alaska --- After 13 years, the 355th Fighter Squadron is making a comeback and they’re bringing fifth-generation airpower into the fight.
The return was officially marked with a reactivation ceremony here Dec. 18 with Lt. Col. Samuel Chipman as it’s commander.
Also known as the ‘Fighting Falcons,’ the 355th FS joins the 356th FS making the 354th Fighter Wing home to two F-35A Lightning II squadrons.
“The 354th FW has been tasked with standing up two combat-coded F-35A squadrons for a total of 54 F-35As at Eielson AFB,” said Chipman. “The 355th FS is the final addition to this tasking.”
The reactivation of the 355th FS bolsters the wing’s transition to a combat-coded mission doubling the U.S. Pacific Air Forces’ F-35A combat capability.
“The squadron’s primary mission is the suppression of enemy air defenses and offensive counter-air missions,” he said. “Having two combat-coded F-35A squadrons at Eielson Air Force Base will provide PACAF and combatant commanders across the globe additional asset and deployment options, should the need arise to deter aggression by our adversaries.”
Aside from increasing the wing’s overall airpower, the reactivation of the 355th FS also holds local historical significance. The ‘Fighting Falcons’ last flew the A-10 Thunderbolt IIs out of Eielson back in 2007.
“I have had the opportunity to serve with many of its former members and some are close friends,” he said. “They’re extremely excited to hear that the Falcons will be back at Eielson.”
Chipman added that the reactivation also reunites the original “Pioneer Mustang Group,” comprised of the 353rd, 355th and 356th squadrons, which hasn’t happened since all three squadrons were based at Myrtle Beach AFB, South Carolina, in the early 1990s.
Col. David Skalicky, the 354th Operations Group commander and the reactivation ceremony’s presiding officer, professed his confidence in the squadron’s new commander.
“He’s a very seasoned combat fighter pilot. His immense experience in leading fighter pilots into battle, dealing with our enemies, and making sure all our forces go home safely,” Skalicky said. “He has that background. He knows how to do it.”
Chipman’s first encounter with the 355th FS goes all the way back to 2005 when he stumbled upon the squadron’s patch. Seeing the falcon’s wings stretch outside the boundaries of the patch coupled with an aggressive killer stare definitely sparked his interest in the fighter squadron.
By the end of his pilot training, he had the goal of getting assigned to the 355th FS but it never came to fruition as the squadron was inactivated in August 2007, just two months after he had started learning to fly the A-10.
“The fact that I missed out on being a Falcon thirteen years ago makes the opportunity to bring the Falcons back to life at Eielson even sweeter,” Chipman said.