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‘Silver Lobos’ fly into retirement

HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The 20th Fighter Squadron used the F-4F Phantom II to train German air force crews from 1972 to 2004.  The squadron's inactivation ceremony was held here Dec. 20.  By Jan. 7, all F-4s assigned to the 20th FS will be retired to the Air Force's Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.  (Courtesy photo)

HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The 20th Fighter Squadron used the F-4F Phantom II to train German air force crews from 1972 to 2004. The squadron's inactivation ceremony was held here Dec. 20. By Jan. 7, all F-4s assigned to the 20th FS will be retired to the Air Force's Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. (Courtesy photo)

HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFPN) -- The Air Force’s last operational F-4 Phantom II squadron held its inactivation ceremony here Dec. 20.

The inactivation of the 20th Fighter Squadron, known as the Silver Lobos, also signifies the end of a 33-year German-American joint fighter training program in the decades-old F-4E and F aircraft.

“As we close the chapter on fighter squadron Phantoms flying over (Holloman), we must remember the book has truly not ended,” said Brig. Gen. Kurt A. Cichowski, 49th Fighter Wing commander. “There still remains, yet unwritten, lines of prose dedicated to the pilots and crews who trained here, and the bonds of camaraderie forged from the mutual bonds of our two nations. There remains a future yet undocumented that will be traced to the Airmen who trained here, and the fantastic aircraft they flew together.”

During the ceremony, Lt. Gen. Klaus-Peter Stieglitz, German air force chief of staff, said, “The cooperation has been the longest-lasting military project between the U.S. Air Force and the Luftwaffe. The 20th FS will definitely be remembered for the understanding and friendship between our two air forces and nations.

“The termination of the F-4 training here at Holloman, the inactivation of the 20th FS and the deactivation of the Luftwaffe’s fighter squadron symbolizes the end of an era,” he said. “However, it is not the end of our objective here at Holloman.”

The German air force will continue to train its aviators here in the Tornado, a European-built fighter/bomber aircraft.

Lt. Col. Mark Buccigrossi, 20th FS commander, said it is a somber time for the pilots, crew chiefs and their families.

“Everyone is saddened by the inactivation,” Colonel Buccigrossi said. “The guys are going back to Germany to fly F-4s. They will continue flying them for a few more years. The detractor for us, of course, is closing the chapter of the German-American liaison. The F-4 is retiring, and it’s time for us to move on.”

The bulk of the squadron’s fleet left for the Air Force’s Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. The final two aircraft will be retired Jan. 7.

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