SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. --
The 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing Korean War Era is an association that was established more than 20 years ago to bring together those who served in the war, by helping them travel across the U.S. and see different aircraft at the different bases.
A reunion is held for this association every year at different bases around the states.
This year, Seymour Johnson AFB had the privilege to host the final official reunion for the group Oct. 26 through 28.
Throughout the tour, the veterans saw and interacted with many of the Airmen currently stationed at the base. On the first day, the tour attendees saw static displays of various aircraft including the F-86 Sabre. During the Korean War era, the F-86 was one of the major aircraft used.
They also experienced tours with the 333rd Fighter Squadron and the 4th Mission Support Group (MSG).
The MSG building showcases artifacts that pay tribute to the wing’s history. The Korean War veterans viewed some familiar pictures and memorabilia from the war including an exact replica of the MiG alley sign from Korea.
“I remember when we were back in Korea,” said retired Staff Sgt. Russell Gray. “Every day, we would watch the pilots suit up and make their way to their aircraft and pass that exact MiG alley sign. Every day they pass and every day we would know that they were off to do some incredible things. Seeing this sign in here provided me with a lot of emotion and nostalgia.”
The second day of the tour was the most anticipated day for the veterans. They saw an F-15E Strike Eagle and witness the capabilities of the aircraft firsthand, as well as board a KC-135R Stratotanker.
“Everything is new to us,” said Bohumil “Bob” Kroupa, Korean War veteran. “When we see the new equipment and new aircraft, it amazes us to see the transition and improvements that were made. I used to work on the predecessor of the KC-135, [the KC-97 Stratofreighter], so to see some of the capabilities of the Stratotanker is amazing.”
With the new modifications and the newer, faster fighter aircraft, including the F-15E, Korean veterans expressed they were just as anxious to see the aircraft up close and meet with the Airmen who work with the aircraft on a day-to-day basis.
“Seeing the F-15 and its capabilities makes me realize how much has changed since my days,” said retired Master Sgt. Jesse Black, Korean War Veteran. “You can even see a change in the Airmen who work on the aircraft. You can tell they love their job and enjoy going to work. Now, more military members are more educated and are essentially going to make a career out of this. The Air force is a great training ground and these troops should be proud to be in a technical training atmosphere.”
On the last day of the tour, a formal banquet was held in honor of the veterans. At the banquet they were able to socialize with members of the base and base leadership including Col. Brian Armstrong, 4th Fighter Wing vice commander, and Chief Master Sgt. William Adams, 4th Fighter Wing command chief. Dr. Roy Heidicker, 4th Fighter Wing historian, gave a closing speech to formally thank the veterans for their service and conclude the reunion.
“The 4th Fighter Wing is pleased, proud and humbled to have hosted an unforgettable reunion for these veterans,” Heidicker said. “Our goal as a base was to give this extraordinary group of people the best experience of the wing heritage. The fact that these veterans could have gone anywhere for their last reunion but instead decided to come here is a great honor.”