Inside the Gates: 90th Fighter Squadron celebrates century of service
One of the squadrons based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson is celebrating 100 years of serving the nation. The 90th Fighter Squadron stood up in 1917 during World War I and has taken part in every conflict since.
Pictures around the squadron highlight its storied history and bring back memories for former member Travis Vanderpool. He flew with the unit 50 years ago during Vietnam.
"It was a special time. It had been a dream since I was a little boy to be a fighter pilot,” he said.
A relic of that era also hangs on the wall: a squadron flag from 1967.
"It actually sustained damage in an attack on the base in Bien Hoa, Vietnam,” said Lt. Col. David “Zeke” Skalicky, commander of the 90th.
Members of the 90th, past and present, gathered to celebrate their century of service. Nicknamed the Dicemen, the reunion is a chance to connect over the generations.
"We find that we have a lot more in common than you would ever think,” said Skalicky. “The airframes change, the people turn over, but the Dicemen are the Dicemen through and through."
The first mission the Dicemen flew was scouting enemy lines from the air, but it’s changed over time.
"Started as a reconnaissance squadron and then a bombardment squadron and now, today, it's a fighter squadron. So, we've been toughing everything the Air Force does,” said First Lt. Patrick Bowlds. "You always have to look back and say the heritage you're a part of carries on for generations."
During a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary, jets flew overhead. Vanderpool said it reminds him of his days in the sky. He flew the F-100. Dicemen today pilot F-22s.
"It was still really a great airplane to fly,” said Vanderpool. “It felt like it could do all of that but then you see what these things can do, how quickly they get up, get off the ground, make the maneuvers that they do. It's just incredible how things have advanced."
From France in World War I to Australia in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the conflicts in the Middle East, the Dicemen have been there and say they're ready for whatever is next.
"That's the spirit that we're going to carry forward into the next century,” said Skalicky.
The 90th Fighter Squadron is older than the Air Force itself, which is celebrating its seventieth birthday this year.