Hawaii ANG fighter pilots claim top honors
By Staff Sgt. John Linzmeier, 154th Wing
/ Published September 30, 2021
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, HI -- A Hawaii Air National Guard fighter squadron was recently recognized as one of the Air National Guard’s most outstanding flying units after receiving the Winston P. Wilson Trophy for the year of 2021.
The 199th Fighter Squadron was presented the award on behalf of the National Guard Association of the U.S., setting the unit apart among more than 30 other flying squadrons equipped with fighter and reconnaissance aircraft.
The prestigious award is bestowed annually to recognize top-performing units, based on overall effectiveness during exercises, deployments, inspection results, accident prevention and many other significant contributions.
Maj. Gen. Winston P. Wilson, who the trophy is named after, served as the Chief, National Guard Bureau from 1963 through 1971. He was the first Air Force officer to hold the position.
At Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, 199th FS pilots are better known as the ‘Hawaiian Raptors,’ sharing the title and F-22 mission with active-duty aviators from the 19th FS. As a Total-Force Team, the Hawaiian Raptors are the only guard-led Raptor unit in the world, with the 199th FS being the lead in the active associate.
“This is just another proud moment for the Hawaiian Raptors and it shows exactly what we set out to achieve -- being the best in our nation during this critical time and making sure that we’re always ready to go,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Horton, 199th FS commander. “Arriving at this point means excellence on every front, and we clearly have the right people who are standing up to make it happen.”
According to Horton, the ‘secret sauce’ to his squadron’s success is based on the Hawaiian Raptor cadre’s excess of experience and resourcefulness combined with their unparalleled support from aircraft maintenance specialists.
“What we have different in the Hawaiian Raptors is our experience,” said Horton. “But when you tie that in with the high performers on the maintenance side, based on their dedication to the mission, and you get a lethal combination of both ability and availability, which makes all the difference in a fight tonight scenario.”
Fighter operations at JBPH-H focus on more than just training pilots to be the best possible warfighters. The Hawaiian Raptors maintain a unique alert posture on a 24/7 basis, with standby aircrews who are permanently stationed at an alert facility. Upon notification of a threat within the Hawaiian Raptor’s area of responsibility, crews are ready to step without delay.
Members of the 199th FS have provided a nonstop watch over the Pacific skies since the alert mission was established in 1958, prior to Hawaii receiving its statehood. All pilots and ground personnel involved provide some of the nation’s primary defense measures to intercept any aircraft that poses a threat within the world’s most isolated area of operation.
With approximately 27 Total Force instructor pilots who operate inseparably, Horton said that the Hawaiian Raptors specializes in passing on their decades of flying experience with Airmen from the ANG and active-duty Air Force.
“Our Total Force partners are crucial in the sense that they provide a lot of the initiative and new blood and who arrive here during their first assignment and with Hawaiian Raptor’s highly experienced cadre they become instructor pilots really quickly,” said Horton, “so we’re able to generate first assignment instructor pilots at a relatively fast pace, which overall helps the nation’s readiness.”
It’s not uncommon for squadron pilots to pass the 1,000-flying-hour mark, a career milestone that few achieve in the fighter community.
In alignment with the unit’s high-level award, a 199th FS member, who goes by call sign ‘Baha,’ was recently awarded by the National Guard Bureau the prestigious Lance P. Siijan Award for the year 2021. The award recognizes the highest qualities of leadership in the performance of their duties and the conduct of their lives. Baha will progress further as a nominee and compete for the same award amongst pilots across all Air Force components.
“Baha’s independent leadership is the characteristic are we are trying to develop and replicate,” said Horton, “he is living the ‘Accelerate Change or Lose’ evolution General Brown so often speaks about, using boldness and initiative to make good things happen at his level.”