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Oldest U.S. military flying unit celebrates centennial

Col. Phil Stewart (left), 9th Reconnaissance Wing commander, and Lt. Col. Stephen Rodriguez, 1st Reconnaissance Squadron commander, unveil a commemorative plaque celebrating the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron’s 100 year anniversary on Beale Air Force Base, Calif., March 8, 2013. The 1st RS is the United States military’s oldest flying unit, established March 5, 1913. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings/Released)

U.S. Air Force Col. Phil Stewart, left, 9th Reconnaissance Wing commander, and Lt. Col. Stephen Rodriguez, 1st Reconnaissance Squadron commander, unveil a commemorative plaque celebrating the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron’s 100 year anniversary on Beale Air Force Base, Calif., March 8, 2013. The 1st RS is the United States military’s oldest flying unit, established March 5, 1913. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings/Released)

1st Reconnaissance Squadron 100th Anniversary

The 1st Reconnaissance Squadron celebrated its 100th anniversary March 7-9, 2012, as the oldest flying unit in U.S. military aviation. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Mr. John Schwab/Released)

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Keith Dobbe, 548th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group, gives the invocation at a ceremony dedicating a plaque to the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron’s 100 year anniversary celebration March 8, 2013, at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. The plaque at Heritage Park rests in the shadow of an SR-71 Blackbird. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

U.S. Air Force Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Keith Dobbe, 548th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group, gives the invocation at a ceremony dedicating a plaque to the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron’s 100 year anniversary celebration March 8, 2013, at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. The plaque at Heritage Park rests in the shadow of an SR-71 Blackbird. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

Maj. Gen. (ret.) Patrick Halloran, one of the first pilots of the U-2 and SR-71, speaks at the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron Centennial Symposium March 8, 2013, at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. Halloran gave vivid descriptions of missions during the Cold War, training and being commander of the 1st RS. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. (ret.) Patrick Halloran, one of the first pilots of the U-2 and SR-71, speaks at the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron Centennial Symposium March 8, 2013, at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. Halloran gave vivid descriptions of missions during the Cold War, training and being commander of the 1st RS. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

Former and current 1st Reconnaissance Squadron commanders, SR-71 Blackbird and U-2 “Dragon Lady” pilots pose with a plaque dedicated to the squadron during their centennial celebration March 8, 2013 at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. The plaque at Heritage Park rests in the shadow of an SR-71 Blackbird. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

Former and current 1st Reconnaissance Squadron commanders, SR-71 Blackbird and U-2 “Dragon Lady” pilots pose with a plaque dedicated to the squadron during their centennial celebration March 8, 2013 at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. The plaque at Heritage Park rests in the shadow of an SR-71 Blackbird. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

Aviation artist Kristin Hill (left) and Dave Schmall (right) present Col. Phil Stewart, 9th Reconnaissance Wing commander and Lt. Col. Stephen Rodriguez, 1st Reconnaissance Squadron commander with a painting depicting the centennial of the 1st RS at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., March 7, 2013. The painting features many aircraft flown by the 1st RS including the U-2 “Dragon Lady” and SR-71 Black Bird. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo/Released)

Aviation artist Kristin Hill, left and Dave Schmall, right, present U.S. Air Force Col. Phil Stewart, 9th Reconnaissance Wing commander and Lt. Col. Stephen Rodriguez, 1st Reconnaissance Squadron commander with a painting depicting the centennial of the 1st RS. The painting features many aircraft flown by the 1st RS including the U-2 “Dragon Lady” and SR-71 Black Bird. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo/Released)

Lt. Col. Stephen Rodriguez, 1st Reconnaissance Squadron commander, talks about the commemorative painting of the 1st RS centennialat Beale Air Force Base, Calif., March 7, 2013. The art was painted by Kristin Hill, an aviation artist and participant of the U.S. Air Force Art Program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Stephen Rodriguez, 1st Reconnaissance Squadron commander, talks about the commemorative painting of the 1st RS centennial at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., March 7, 2013. The art was painted by Kristin Hill, an aviation artist and participant of the U.S. Air Force Art Program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo/Released)

Aviation artist Kristin Hill speaks about her painting depicting the centennial of the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., March 7, 2013. Hill has painted more than 250 aviation art paintings and has work featured in many international airports as well as the Pentagon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo/Released)

Aviation artist Kristin Hill speaks about her painting depicting the centennial of the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., March 7, 2013. Hill has painted more than 250 aviation art paintings and has work featured in many international airports as well as the Pentagon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo/Released)

The Beale Air Force Base Honor Guard prepares the POW/MIA table during the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron Centennial celebration at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento, Calif., March 9, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Allen Pollard/Released)

The Beale Air Force Base Honor Guard prepares the POW/MIA table during the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron Centennial celebration at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento, Calif., March 9, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Allen Pollard/Released)

Members of the Air Force Band of Golden West play during the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron Centennial Celebration at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento, Calif., March 9, 2013. The event was attended by current and past 1st RS commanders and members of Team Beale. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Allen Pollard/Released)
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Members of the Air Force Band of Golden West play during the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron Centennial Celebration at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento, Calif., March 9, 2013. The event was attended by current and past 1st RS commanders and members of Team Beale. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Allen Pollard/Released)

Col. Phil Stewart (lower middle), 9th Reconnaissance Wing commander, and 1st Reconnaissance Squadron past and present commanders pose for a photo during the 1st RS Centennial Celebration at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento, Calif., March 9, 2013. Photos were on display showing the evolution of the squadron throughout the last 100 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Allen Pollard/Released)
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U.S. Air Force Col. Phil Stewart, lower middle, 9th Reconnaissance Wing commander, and 1st Reconnaissance Squadron past and present commanders pose for a photo during the 1st RS Centennial Celebration at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento, Calif., March 9, 2013. Photos were on display showing the evolution of the squadron throughout the last 100 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Allen Pollard/Released)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The 1st Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., celebrated its 100th anniversary March 7-9 as the oldest flying unit in U.S. military aviation.

The squadron opened its doors to the base populace and special guests for tours, and two days of historical symposiums were held featuring former SR-71 Black Bird pilots, commanders and history experts.

In addition, a plaque was dedicated to the squadron at Heritage Park, and a military dining-out commemorated the event.

"It's an honor to be part of this historic occasion," said current 1st RS commander Lt. Col. Stephen Rodriguez. "We stand on the shoulders of giants here as we continue the proud tradition of providing [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] to war fighters."

One speaker at the symposiums, Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Patrick Halloran, was one of the first pilots for the U-2 and SR-71. Halloran gave vivid descriptions of missions during the Cold War, training and being commander of the 1st RS.

"The U-2 and SR-71 are the biggest long-term contributors to the 1st," he said. "Those two airplanes made tremendous contributions to history, and I am proud to have been part of this outfit."

Paintings of 1st RS aircraft, unveiled for the Air Force Art Program, were donated and prints were sold during symposiums to help supplement the cost of the celebration.

"These presentations were a very interesting perspective into the history of the 1st RS and the history of aerial reconnaissance from some of the top experts in the field," said Col. (Ret.) Dave Pinsky, Pacific Coast Air Museum executive director and former 9th Reconnaissance Wing commander.

The plaque at Heritage Park rest in the shadow of an SR-71 static display and reads, "This site honors the men and women of the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, oldest flying unit in the United States military, and commemorates its unbroken heritage since its founding on the 5th of March 1913."

The squadron has maintained an unbroken heritage from its founding. Originally organized in anticipation of a potential breach in security along the border between the U.S. and Mexico, General John Pershing directed the 1st Aero Squadron to become the first tactical aviation unit to participate in American military action.

The 1st RS has flown 47 different airframes while being stationed worldwide at 52 locations, including four stints at sea.

Col. Phil Stewart, current 9th RW commander, noted that the events were held without using Air Force funds, as funding came from registration fees, ticket fees, memento sales and donations.

"Much of this wouldn't have been possible without the donations from the local community, and the countless hours volunteers put into planning," he said. "I have never been more proud to be part of a celebration and am continuously impressed by our Airmen."

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