Looking back on CAFB's Striking Snakes
By 2nd Lt. George Fowler, 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 22, 2008
COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
Each of the six flying training squadrons located at Columbus AFB has a unique history.
While some squadrons dedicate a single room to their heritage, the 50th Flying Training Squadron "Striking Snakes" displays their heritage with pride along the walls of their hallways.
The 50th Flying Training Squadron began as the 50th Pursuit Squadron Jan. 5, 1941. The squadron flew P-40s from Hamilton Field, Calif., patrolling the west coast. The new and improved P-38 Lightning was delivered to the 50th PS in August 1941. After receiving their new inventory, the squadron was assigned to the 342nd in Reykjavik, Iceland, flying coastal patrols.
While flying these costal patrols, four members of the squadron were given credit for shooting down German aircraft. In February 1944, the 50th PS was reassigned to the 8th Air Force and attached to the 802nd Reconnaissance Group, where they took part in actions in the European, African and Mediterranean Theaters. The squadron was disbanded twice and was reactivated once over the next several years until it was redesignated the 50th Flying Training Squadron March 22, 1972. Just over two months later, June 1, the 50th FTS joined the 14th Flying Training Wing at Columbus AFB where it has resided since.
The 50th FTS produces approximately 100 new pilots every year, superbly trained in the T-38 Talon. Students in the 50th FTS receive more than 100 hours of flight instruction in the Talon covering areas such as advanced aircraft handling and fluid maneuvering. Emphasis is also placed on two and four-ship formation flying.
Walking down the halls of the squadron and looking at the different displays, it is plain to see that the 50th FTS has a proud heritage. One of the squadron's greatest members is Lt. Col. Richard "Gene" Smith, Jr., who served as operations officer and squadron commander for the 50th FTS. Colonel Smith served 22 years in the Air Force. On his 33rd combat mission over Vietnam, flying the F-105D, Colonel Smith was shot down and spent more than five years as a prisoner of war. His awards include two Silver Stars, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Legion of Merit, two Air Medals, two Purple Hearts, the POW Medal and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry. Photos of Colonel Smith, along with the photos of five other POWs, can be found in the heritage hall of the 50th FTS.
The Striking Snakes recently received letters detailing the history of the squadron during the 1940s. The letters were donated by retired Maj. Thomas Youngsworth, who had been given the letters by his father retired Lt. Col. Carl Youngsworth. Colonel Youngsworth was a member of the squadron during those years.
"The 50th Flying Training Squadron is very proud of our heritage and the men and women who served before us. To receive a real-life historic squadron diary from someone with such a personal tie to it makes the connection that much more tangible.
We are extremely fortunate to have been re-united with such an amazing and invaluable part of our past," said Lt. Col. JJ Menozzi, 50th FTS commander.