SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --
The 55th Fighter Squadron will celebrate its 100th anniversary Aug. 9.
To celebrate a century of accomplishments, Airmen from the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron 55th Aircraft Maintenance Unit have tasked the artistic minds among them with creating a work of art that will tie the past of the squadron with its present.
“The mural ties into a theme of our past 100 years, and by displaying it, our maintainers know what we have done and where our predecessors have been,” said Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Henderson, 55th AMU assistant superintendent. “To understand our mission now, we should know where we’ve been.”
Tech. Sgt. Brian Barnes, 55th AMU tactical aircraft maintainer, was one of the individuals chosen to take on this project.
“This [mural] is important, because we want to give something visual for people to see all the unit has accomplished,” Barnes said. “It’s of us recording, giving a way for visitors and people within the unit to see what we’ve done and where we’re going.”
The painting stretches 12 feet by 5.5 feet across a wall inside the AMU building, depicting an F-16CM Fighting Falcon on a field of checkered white and blue.
The blue squares, each with five white dots, represent the squadron’s emblem: a pair of blue dice showing fives for the 55th “Shooters.”
In the white squares surrounding the Fighting Falcon are paintings of every aircraft flown by the 55th FS since its transition to an aerial unit in November 1930 -- starting with the Boeing P-12 biplane and ending with the A-10 Thunderbolt II.
For a squadron as busy as the “Fighting 55th,” finding time to create the mural was difficult.
“We are in a very chaotic environment, because we’re also doing flying operations, which makes it challenging,” Henderson said.
The idea for a mural began in December 2016, after which materials were acquired and the project formally began in January.
According to Henderson, Barnes dedicated nearly 55 hours to the painting between fixing aircraft and accompanying the squadron to Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, for Red Flag exercises.
It was during a temporary duty assignment to Red Flag that Henderson said he saw Barnes’ artistic ability for the first time, when he mistakenly sent a message to Henderson that read, “I can’t wait until Friday, love you,” which Barnes then illustrated as a comic.
As soon as he saw the comic, he knew that Barnes would be the right Airman for the job, Henderson said.
The commemorative painting reached completion April 28.
The mural painted by Barnes is not the only project leadership has in store for the squadron; they plan for at least one more and are looking forward to making their conference room more colorful with squadron patches and photos, Henderson said.
As for what else the squadron has planned for their 100th anniversary, Henderson promises, “There’s more to come.”