Laughlin Heritage Corner: February

  • Published
  • By Mr. Robert Marcell, base historian
  • 47 Flying Training Wing

The first month of the New Year is behind us, and the world now moves forward into February.

February is an exciting month for time nerds like your wing historian—as it’s the shortest month of the year, and it’s the only month that varies in its days (with 28 or 29 days, depending on whether or not it is a leap year). February is also “Black History Month” here in the United States, a month in which we highlight the many significant contributions that black Americans have made to our nation.

Black History Month traces its roots as a nation-wide celebration back to 1976, when President Gerald R. Ford first proclaimed support for its observation; subsequent presidents continued the tradition, until, in 1986, it was actually written into law (Public Law 99-244). In truth, though, and as is acknowledged in the law, its origins can actually be traced all the way back to 1926, when the brilliant historian and educator Carter G. Woodson first proposed a week to celebrate black history. February was chosen for Dr. Woodson’s black history week because the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Frederick Douglass (February 20) occur in mid-February. Finally, February, over the years, has also brought with it numerous historically-significant events right here at Laughlin as well.

In last year’s February “Heritage Corner” we talked about how we utilized the then-new T-1 aircraft for a medical evacuation for the first time ever in this month in 1995, how a former 47th Medical Group Commander designed innovative waste management solutions for NASA astronauts while serving here at Laughlin, and about how a devastating 2016 hailstorm wreaked massive amounts of destruction on Laughlin’s base and airplanes. In 1981, forty years ago this year, Laughlin also celebrated the graduation of its first-ever female pilot in the person of 2d Lt Kimberly Baird, who graduated from pilot training at Laughlin with 46 other pilots as part of Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) Class 81-03 on 25 February 1981.

A few new highlights from Laughlin’s February history, then, for this year, might include:

Laughlin Leases Val Verde County Airport

When: February 1943

What: During World War II, the U.S. Army Air Forces leased the Val Verde County Airport for $1.00 a year, and it became a sub-post of Laughlin Field. The first flying was actually done from this airport as construction was finishing up on the new base.


Laughlin Recognized for Flood Rescue Work

When: 5 February 1965

What: The 3646th Pilot Training Wing was presented the Air Force Association Citation on 5 February 1965 for its flood rescue work in September 1964.


The T-38C Propulsion Modernization Program Moved Forward

When: 18 February 2004

What: This month in 2004, AETC leaders announced that they had received an infusion of funds to speed up the T-38C Propulsion Modernization Program (PMP). This meant that the 87 FTS would gain their PMP T-38Cs three years earlier than planned. The T-38C was an upgraded version of the T-38As that Laughlin had been flying since the 1960s.


First T-6A Texan II Training Sortie at Laughlin

When: 21 February 2003

What: 2d Lt Donald Hicks, Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training (SUPT) Class 04-04, and his Instructor Pilot (IP), Capt Darrell F. Judy, 84 FTS K Flight commander, flew the first T-6A Texan II training sortie conducted by the 47 FTW on 21 February 2003. The T-6 had first arrived to Laughlin a few months prior.


47 FTW Civil Engineers Help South Carolina after Hurricane Hugo

When: 27 February 1990

What: The 47th Civil Engineer Squadron’s Prime BEEF team departed for Charleston, South Carolina on 27 February 1990 to help the city repair damages in the wake of Hurricane Hugo. Laughlin’s team was the first Air Force team to respond. Prime BEEF stands for “Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force.”

That is all for this month’s edition of the Laughlin Heritage Corner: Be sure to check in next month for more amazing stories about our base!