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Heritage of the past, legacy of the future

Heritage of the past, legacy of the future

F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 36th Fighter Squadron taxi down a flightline at Yokota Air Base, Japan in 2018. The first F-16 landed at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea Aug. 10, 1988. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

Heritage of the past, legacy of the future

Three F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea fly in formation over the Pacific Ocean. The F-16 is a fourth-generation, multi-role fighter that was built for the U.S. Air Force during the mid-1970s. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

Heritage of the past, legacy of the future

A P-51 Mustang aircraft in flight. The Mustang was among the best and most well-known fighters used by the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --

As U.S. Air Force history evolves, aircraft have come and gone, but one thing has remained the same, the legacy each squadron leaves behind.

The 36th Fighter Squadron “Flying Fiends” have more than 100 years of heritage, flying 21 different airframes like the P-38 Lightning, P-51 Mustang, F-80 Shooting Star and now the F16- Fighting Falcon, an aircraft they have been flying at the 51st Fighter Wing for the past 30-plus years.

“It’s an honor and privilege to be part of so much heritage and legacy,” said Capt. Marie Carillo, 36th FS pilot. “I think it is important for everyone in the squadron to show pride in who we are, to those who came before us, and continue their legacy and ours.”

The fiends secure that legacy with a 51st FW symbol of heritage they brought to their aircraft December 2006, the checkertail pattern.

The design first appeared during World War II on P-51 Mustangs assigned to the 51st Fighter Group's 25th Fighter Squadron and has been adapted by the 36th FS. It has appeared throughout the history of the 51st Fighter Wing tying each new generation of aircraft and pilots to their predecessors, said Laren Fleming, the 51st FW historian.

“Heritage plays a big part in bringing the unit together,” said Capt. David Schuster, 36th FS pilot. “Because of that heritage and history, fighter squadrons become a brotherhood and everyone is much closer. In return, this makes us more effective and successful in getting our mission done.”

For the past three decades, the fiends have prepared and executed air operations with motivated, expertly trained Airmen to defend and upkeep the U.S. and Republic of Korea alliance.

“Keeping the legacy alive gives us an identity,” said Carillo. “The checkertail pattern hasn’t been a part of the fiends too long, but we have already gravitated toward it.”

Knowing that, every time a pilot goes up in the skies they are representing the 36th FS and their colors, which brings a bit of pride to them, Schuster said.

“Knowing who you’re going to be a part of when you first come here and how you can keep the traditions of the unit alive is amazing to be a part of,” Schuster added. “It [the pattern] has become part of our uniqueness, and we are just carrying on the heritage to the next generation of fiends.”