Sunday, June 14, 2009

End Of An Era

Well After Eighty Six Years, The 131st Fighter Wing Has Officially Ended Operations at Lambert Airport. They celebrated (and wept) the final day with a ceremony at the base, including a presentation, lunch, and getting up close and personal with the final two eagles. When the engines finally started toward the end of the day the entire crowd was at the ramp watching as a moment in history was ready to take-off and never return. In fact, there were even ground crews from Lambert lined up beside the base waiting as well.

Col. Mohr, and Col. Drake were the two pilots who flew the eagles out of St. Louis. They took off waving to the crowd with there eagles and then sword into the sky before turning around and doing a final pass. Although the pass was great for pictures, a lot of people, probably everyone wanted that final pass to be just a little more loud. It kind of felt like going on on a whimper, which is exactly what it was. No one wanted to leave St. Louis, everyone thought it was a dumb decision, and worst of all everyone just had to keep on going for the final four years knowing there demise was coming. It is like knowing the date of your death, as every day you get closer, you get sadder.

The Event was like a reunion to some, as retired members from all ages meet up with there old friends, while others it was a final goodbye, as some pilots retire, or move to different units in order to continue to fly. A good chunk of people will move to Whiteman to support the B-2 Mission, while others will fly a desk and work at Jefferson Barracks.

All In All the decision to remove the planes from Lambert was very overlooked. St. Louis is where the F-15 was born, and having no planes stationed there leaves a hole in the defense mission. Stationed right in the middle of the country, the 131st would easily go anywhere within hours to protect our nation. Not to mention, out of the four (Col. Drake recently had this honor) pilots that reached over 4,000 Flight hours in the F-15, three of them were part of this unit, making the 131st the most experienced F-15 unit in the country.

Goodbye 131st Fighter Wing, it brings tears in my eyes knowing that I will not have a flight of 4-8 birds waking me up in the morning, it brings tears to my eyes knowing that I will not get to drive by the airport with my camera waiting for you guys to launch and recover, it brings tears to my eyes that so many people have to re-root there lives for missions that just aren't the same, and it brings tears to everyone that you guys have really left. EVERYONE will always be remembered for what they did and what they accomplished, serving our country and St. Louis.

Good Luck To Everyone And There New mission at Whiteman AFB. It is not the same as flying the best fighter ever built, but at least we are still flying. Also thanks to everyone who said thanks for the blog and website during the final day and through E-mail, it really does mean a lot.

Farewell 131st Fighter Wing. "Mission Complete Incomplete"

Video Is Now On Youtube. Over 500 Pictures will eventually be added to the site.
[First Picture Curtsy of Mark Nankivil]

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