Red River Valley Pilots Association. At the first practice reunion are (left to right) Col. Robin Olds, 8th TFW commander; Brig. Gen. William Chairsell, 388th TFW commander; and Col. Chappie James, 8th TFW vice commander. (U.S. Air Force photo)
1990's -- An F-16C Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft from the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is prepared for a strike against targets in Iraq and Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm.
TALLIL AIR BASE, Iraq -- Master Sgt. Terry Nelson fits a pair of shoes on a young Bedouin girl during a humanitarian mission here. He is a Public Affairs craftsman from the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mark Bucher)
"History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life and brings us tidings of antiquity." -Cicero
World War II Era On 24 December 1942, the 388th Bombardment Group (Heavy), (BG) (H), precursor to the 388th Fighter Wing (ACC), activated at Gowen Field , Idaho. The 388 BG (H) underwent extensive training on the B-17 Flying Fortress at Wendover Field, Utah. In June 1943, the group transferred to Knettishall, England, flying its first combat mission on 17 July 1943 over the Netherlands to bomb an aircraft manufacturing facility. During World War II, the group successfully flew 306 combat missions, earning two Distinguished Unit Citations which were later bestowed upon the 388th Fighter Wing. With the war coming to an end, the 388 BG (H) deactivated on 28 August 1945 at Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
French Flyboys Era On 23 November 1953, the wing activated for the first time as the 388th Fighter-Bomber Wing (388 FBW), at Clovis AFB, New Mexico and was equipped with F-86 Sabre. On 22 November 1954, the 388 FBW relocated to Etain-Rouvres AB, France, where it provided air defense and participated in NATO exercises. These “French Flyboys” went operational with a nuclear-weapon capability. Beginning on 27 February 1957, the wing converted from the F-86 Sabre to the F-100 Super Sabre. On 10 December 1957, the Air Force deactivated the 388 FBW.
McConnell AFB Era On 1 May 1962, the wing activated as the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing (388 TFW) under the Tactical Air Command (TAC). On 1 Oct 1962, the wing was reorganized at McConnell AFB, Kansas, under the Twelfth Air Force, as a tenant unit under the 4347th Combat Training Wing. Initially, the wing flew the F-100 Super Sabre and then converted to the F-105 Thunderchief. On 8 February 1964, the wing deactivated for the second time.
Southeast Asia Era On 14 March 1966, with an aerial bombing campaign raging over North Vietnam, the 388 TFW activated under the Pacific Air Forces, Thirteenth Air Force, and was assigned to Korat Royal Thai AFB, Thailand. During the wing's 9-year tenure at Korat, it flew over 93,000 combat hours and participated in numerous air-offensives, downing 17 MiGs and participating in all major aerial campaigns in the Vietnam War. The wing flew a wide variety of aircraft during the Vietnam conflict: F-105 Thunderchiefs, F-4 Phantom IIs, EC-121 Super Constellations, EB-66 Destroyers, A-7 Corsairs, C-130 Hercules, and AC-130. In April 1975, the wing provided cover and escort during the evacuation of Americans and allies from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and Saigon, South Vietnam. The following month, between 13 and 15 May 1975, the wing conducted over 100 strike and close-air support sorties during the successful recovery of the SS Mayaguez, (an American-registered cargo ship seized by the Cambodian communist regime). For these operations and its wartime service, the wing earned a total of eight Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards and a Presidential Unit Citation.
Hill AFB Era On 23 December 1975, the 388 TFW relocated to its current home of operations at Hill AFB, Utah . The wing started its conversion to the F-16A Fighting Falcon on 23 January 1979, becoming the USAF first fully-operational F-16 Fighter Wing. In March 1981, the wing conducted its first overseas deployment to Fleslan AS, Norway. In May 1989, the first F-16C Block 40 aircraft arrived at Hill AFB, Utah. The new model F-16, designed to accommodate the Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) pod, allowed targeting and bombing in adverse operational conditions.
Gulf War I and II The 388 FW was the first unit to fly the F-16 into conflict with the Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) system over the skies of Iraq and Kuwait during Operations DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM, and continued to employ the LANTIRN in Operations DESERT CALM, DESERT FOX, and NORTHERN and SOUTHERN WATCH. Since September 2001, the 4th, 34th, and 421st Fighter Squadrons and the 729th Air Control Squadron have actively engaged in Operations ENDURING FREEDOM, IRAQI FREEDOM and NOBLE EAGLE, defending the nation at home and abroad. The wing continued to develop its role of Forward Air Control-Airborne. Assorted support personnel were deployed en-mass or individually from within each unit of the 388 FW.
Present Day The 388 FW continued its dominance into the 21st century by avidly and diligently deploying its personnel on a continuous loop of AEF deployments, while taking on new roles with Forward Air Control – Airborne. The 388 Range Squadron, coupled with the Utah Test and Training Range, have continued to provide world class test and training opportunities to the world's F-16 fleet through many local and off-base exercises, to include AIR WARRIOR, AMALGAM THUNDER, COMBAT ARCHER COPE THUNDER, IRON FALCON, MAPLE FLAG, RED FLAG, and support for the Fighter Weapon Instructor Course (FWIC) and Tactical Air Control Parties (TACP). Today the men and women of the 388th Fighter Wing stand ready—ready to deploy - anywhere, anytime, with the knowledge, training, and equipment to ensure total air superiority over any adversary – “America's Airman defending our nation at home and abroad…Liberty or Death!”