Laughlin Heritage Corner with the 47 FTW Historian

  • Published
  • 47th Flying Training Wing public affairs

April is often considered a month connected to rebirth and change, and for Laughlin Air Force Base, that certainly holds true. Throughout the base’s history, April has ushered in multiple major mission-impacting reorganizational events and even has forced Laughlin to contend with something else April is known for—its weather.

01 April 1957: Air Training Command (ATC) deactivated Laughlin’s main tenant unit, the 3645th Flying Training Wing, Fighter. Control of the base transferred to Strategic Air Command. At this point, the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Light, and its U-2s and RB-57s began moving to LAFB from Turner AFB, GA to take advantage of the area’s remoteness and almost perfect year-round flying weather. Just four years later though, on 01 April 1961, command jurisdiction of the base transferred back to ATC.  

02 April 1990, to prepare for changes to the specialized undergraduate pilot training (SUPT) program, ATC reorganized the 47th’s training squadrons and stood up three new ones: the 39th, 84th, and 87th Flying Training Squadrons. The 39th was a forerunner to the Operations Support Squadron (it performed similar functions), while the 84th conducted Phase II training and the 87th conducted Phase III / T-1A training. Activation of the 39th led to the inactivation of the 47th Student Squadron.

 07 April 2002: A severe thunderstorm, centered over the T-37 ramp, stalled and dropped hail over 2” in diameter for up to 10 minutes. Even though maintenance had taken the necessary aircraft sheltering actions prior to leaving work, more than half of the aircraft present received enough damage to render them unflyable. The storm knocked out 89 T-37 Tweets and 25 T-1 Jayhawks, but our sister training Wings at Sheppard, Vance, and Columbus helped LAFB complete its mission by loaning us a few of their aircraft. All were returned by late May.

26 April 2005: Capt Alicia Palmer and 1Lt Abram Woody, two IPs for the 87 FTS flew the wing’s first T-38C Propulsion Modernization Program (PMP) flight in aircraft 65-0384. The T-38C is an updated version of the T-38A which featured improved avionics and propulsion.

The History Office has also undergone a recent change. Mr. William McEvoy returned to Laughlin as the Wing Historian from a few years in that role at Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa, Japan. Mr. Robert Marcel departed to be the Historian at Little Rock Air Force Base, and we wish him the very best!

These are a few of the month’s major historical highlights, please check back early next month for more. If anyone has any questions about Laughlin’s history or its heritage, please feel free to contact the History Office at 298-5420.