2020 has proven to be an interesting year so far, to say the least. Many milestones and anniversaries were celebrated with elbow bumps and social distancing due to COVID-19 restrictions and concerns.
The 414th Fighter Group, a geographically separated unit of the 944th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., hit their 10-year anniversary this summer since their reactivation at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., in July of 2010.
“Between 2010 and 2012 we evolved into what you see now,” said Lt. Col. Eric Ostendorf, 307th Fighter Squadron assistant director of operations and 414th FG historian. “The plan was always to keep us as part of the FTU [Formal Training Unit], which has also grown. We have people embedded in the active duty operational squadrons as well.”
To commemorate the anniversary, the 414th FG organized a group photograph with an F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft as a way to memorialize the milestone. The 4th Fighter Wing has designated two of their own aircraft as the 414th FG and 307th Fighter Squadron flagships.
“They [4th FW] really made us feel like part of the team,” said Ostendorf. “We don’t own our own airplanes, we fly 4th FW airplanes and teach their students.”
Nose art signifying the 10-year anniversary was added to the designated flagships and was the backdrop in the group photo. Col. Jason Reiss, 414th FG commander, has been in charge since December 2019 and is responsible for executing the Chief of Staff of the Air Force directed Total Force Integration with the 4th FW. He directs activities of over 250 personnel assigned to the 307th FS and the 414th Maintenance Squadron.
“For over a decade, the 414th has punched above its weight class,” said Reiss. “The group comprises approximately 11 percent of the formal training unit aircrew roster but has flown over 15 percent of the missions. Our Airmen are responsible for producing nearly 25 percent of the Basic Course aircrew for the past three years and are some of the most experienced personnel in the F-15E community. They provide a bulwark of continuity and mentorship for the Strike Eagle community and have provided key Total Force leadership in both training and combat environments.”
Oct. 5 marks the original conception of the 414th FG at Seymour Johnson, 76 years ago. In 1944, the group consisted of the 413th, 437th, and 456th Fighter Squadrons and flew 109 P-47’s to the Pacific war zone. Part of the group was sent to Iwo Jima, an island in Japan, and their main objective was to attack Japanese airfields.
The group’s final mission of World War II was in a show of force on Aug. 30, 1945. 414th fighters and B-29s flew over Tokyo as the instrument of surrender was being finalized by Gen. Douglas MacArthur on USS Missouri.
The 414th was reactivated in 1955 and became the host organization on Oxnard AFB, Calif., which provided logistical support for Air Defense Command. They were one of the first groups to be part of Project Arrow. This was a project that was designated to bring back distinguished groups from World War II that had compiled memorable records.
The pride and commitment to excellence in all they do apparently still stands strong as they consistently validate their importance as a TFI partner.
“The 414th has matured into an experienced, versatile, and invaluable organization and has repeatedly demonstrated the synergies achievable by leveraging both active and reserve capabilities as a total force team,” said Reiss. “The group stands ready to evolve with their active duty partner, the 4th FW.”