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Air Force’s oldest fighter squadron celebrates centennial

1972-D84 (Williams) -- Crew of Ship #2, 27th Aero Squadron at Toul Aerodrome, June 20, 1918. (Courtesy photo)

1972-D84 (Williams) -- Crew of Ship #2, 27th Aero Squadron at Toul Aerodrome, June 20, 1918. (Courtesy photo)

1972-D84 (Williams) -- Sgt Fred W. Erdman, Lt Hoover's plane, B Flight, 27th Aero Squadron, Saints Aerodrome, France, 1918. (Courtesy photo)

1972-D84 (Williams) -- Sgt Fred W. Erdman, Lt Hoover's plane, B Flight, 27th Aero Squadron, Saints Aerodrome, France, 1918. (Courtesy photo)

(Courtesy photo)

(Courtesy photo)

(Courtesy photo)

(Courtesy photo)

Photo of 2nd Lt. Frank Luke. (Courtesy photo)

Photo of 2nd Lt. Frank Luke. (Courtesy photo)

(Courtesy photo)

(Courtesy photo)

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --

The Air Force’s oldest fighter squadron celebrated its 100th year anniversary May 8.

The 27th Fighter Squadron dates back to World War I and was originally organized at Kelly Field, Texas.

It was later assigned to the 1st Pursuit Group in early 1918 and is now known as the 1st Operations Group. The squadron also served in the European theater from March 1918 until armistice in November of that year.

However, the squadron is also known as the unit with the first Airman to receive the Medal of Honor.

Second Lt. Frank Luke, known as the "Arizona Balloon Buster," was a fighter pilot for the 27th Aero Squadron, now known as the 27th FS, with the 1st Pursuit Group. Luke received the Medal of Honor after he voluntarily started a patrol for German observation balloons.

While being pursued by eight German planes that protected these balloons, he unhesitatingly attacked and shot down three German balloons and two German planes. After he was forced to land after receiving massive damage to his aircraft, Luke continued defending himself. Instead of surrendering, he killed six enemy troops and wounded many more with his pistol until he fell dead from a wound to his chest.

“He is a big name for the 27th Fighter Squadron,” said Joshua Lashley, 1st Fighter Wing historian. “That mentality, courage, bravery [and] spirit is something they still carry out today.”

The 27th FS carries these traits through their mission to deliver F-22 Raptor airpower world-wide on short notice to support the combatant commander’s taskings.

“For 100 years, the 1st FW has been at the forefront of aerial combat,” said Col. Peter Fesler, 1st FW commander. “To have the 27th FS deployed on their centennial, participating in combat against our enemies, is one of the greatest ways to honor its heritage and tradition of combat excellence.”

Becoming a part of the 1st FW also suits the 27th FS, because they were the first in many things, Lashley said.

The squadron was the first to achieve aerial victory in Europe during World War II, the first to fly jet aircraft, the first to receive the F-15 Eagle, and in 2003, the 27th FS was announced as the first operational squadron to fly the F-22 Raptor.

"The men and women of the 1st FW provide the highest levels of service and commitment to the Air Force every single day," Fesler said. "Their dedication and expertise enable 100 percent mission success in every task. They live up to the legacy of all the 1st FW Airmen [who] came before them, taking great pride in their heritage as the oldest wing in the Air Force and the premier Air Dominance organization."