Laughlin Heritage Corner: December

  • Published
  • By Robert Marcell
  • 47th Flying Training Wing

The Laughlin Heritage Corner with the 47 FTW Historian

December is special to many people, and for many reasons. As a historian, it is special to me because it is the last month in the year: It is the end of that twelve-month cycle by which we measure our lives and all of our stories. Once December is over, we throw out the old calendar and open to the first page on a new one. Because of this, it is a perfect time for us to reflect, to look back, and to be grateful for all that has come before us. This month, then, in this edition of the Laughlin Heritage Corner, we look back at life at Laughlin—and some of what has occurred in our Decembers past.

First, and perhaps foremost this year, December 2020 marks a very special occasion. For it was 25 years ago this month, on 18 December 1995, that Lt Col Kathleen M. Conley took command of the 86th Flying Training Squadron at Laughlin Air Force Base. This was history in the making, for not only was Lt Col Conley the first woman to graduate from the Air Force Academy in 1980, but, here at Laughlin, she became the first woman in the Air Force to command a flying training squadron too. We proudly carry forward this tradition of being at the tip of the spear—the forefront of change—here at Laughlin today, where we resolutely prepare our next generation of leaders to fly forever upwards and onwards.

In addition to this rather significant anniversary, though, we might also mark a few other events that occurred this month at Laughlin, including:

  • WW2-Era Laughlin Begins Teaching B-26 Pilot Transition Training

When?: December 1942

What?: In December 1942, Laughlin Air Force Base—which was then still named the “U.S. Army Air Forces Transition Flying School, Medium Bombardment, near Del Rio, Texas”—opened for business and began training WW2-era pilots on how to fly the then-new B-26 Marauder.

  • Eagle Pass Runway Opens for Touch-and-Go Landings

When?: 10 December 1962

What?: Did you know that we used to operate an auxiliary airfield out of Eagle Pass? It was used for T-37 touch-and-go landings all the way up until 1991 (which is when we opened the “Wizard” auxiliary airfield out at Spofford, Texas, and no longer needed the one at Eagle Pass).

  • First Flight of the T-38C

When?: 12 December 2004

What?: Ogres Flight Commander, Instructor Pilot Capt Robert Pekarek, flew the first T-38C training flight with student Lt Dave Klutz on 12 December 2004. Pekarek would return to Laughlin as a colonel in 2017-2018 to command the 47 OG.

  • Air Force Changeover from the Tri-Deputy System to the Objective Wing System

When?: 16 December 1991

What?: In 1991, the Air Force transitioned from the “Tri-Deputy System” they had been using to organize bases for decades to a new “Objective Wing System.” This appointed a single Wing Commander with no deputies to whom all of the Groups directly reported—the system we know today. As part of this changeover at Laughlin, many squadrons were inactivated, redesignated, or activated, and the 47th Operations Group was stood up, replacing the Deputy Commander for Operations (with some of that role’s former duties also going to the 47 OSS).

  • Laughlin HQ Moved onto Base from Del Rio

When?: 31 December 1942

What?: For a time, while the base was being constructed and prepared for its mission, Laughlin HQ wasn’t at Laughlin at all! Instead, it operated out of the federal building in Del Rio. On 31 December 1942, base HQ finally moved onto base proper!

As always, check back next month, in the New Year, for more Laughlin stories and anniversaries!