90th Fighter Squadron celebrates 90 years

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Francesca Popp
  • 3rd Wing Public Affairs
An overcast sky and rain didn't stop the F-22 from showing off its air power to wrap up the 90th Fighter Squadron's 90th anniversary. 

Former and current members of the 90th FS gathered here Aug. 17-20 to recall the squadron's past and look forward to its future. 

"It is very humbling to be part of a squadron with such a great legacy," said Capt. Matt Byrne, 90th FS F-22 pilot and youngest member of the squadron. "I am excited to join the 'Dicemen' as we start a new and important chapter of the squadron." 

The 90th was initially activated Aug. 20, 1917, as the 90th Aero Squadron at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas. The first few months of its existence were consumed by the necessary training to prepare the men for operations in France during World War I.  Approximately two months later, the men of the 90th arrived at Le Havre, France. The initial cadre of officers and enlisted men began preparing the infrastructure necessary to support their flying mission. The air contingent arrived soon after this first group. 

In its 90 years of existence, the Air Force's fourth oldest fighter squadron was renamed 14 times and inactivated for nearly two years in the late 1940s-early 1950s. Its members have flown biplanes, attack and cargo aircraft, bombers, and fighters for the last 34 years. The squadron "Pair-o-Dice" has had 41 home stations in its time. The Dicemen have participated in many major conflicts, including World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm/Shield and Operation Enduring Freedom. 

Bill Haynes, a retired lieutenant colonel, was one of the former members who attended the event. He was the 90th Tactical Fighter Squadron commander in Vietnam in 1967-68 and flew 187 combat missions, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Air Medal and Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. 

Colonel Haynes said he arrived at Bien Hoa, Vietnam, in June 1967 and was appointed the squadron commander two months later. The squadron flew F-100s then. 

"In spring of '68, I was appointed Bien Hoa deputy base commander, reluctantly relinquishing command of the 90th, but continued to fly combat," he recalled. 

He said that attending this reunion and being back with the 90th was the high point in his life, second only to commanding the squadron. "It was unbelievable ... the 'Dice' are in good hands," he said getting choked up. 

Colonel Haynes, who retired from active duty in 1970, was the keynote speaker at a reception for the 90th. As the eldest member of the 90th FS attending the reunion, he was able to express the feelings he has toward all the Dicemen then and now. 

"Airplanes come and go and we surely do get attached to them, but people are people," he said. "Unquestionably, 'Whats' are important in life, but the 'Whos' are what really count in the end. The 90th seems to have always been blessed with special 'Whos'," Colonel Haynes said. 

No one knows what the next 90 years will bring to this squadron. Its members, however, are "extremely motivated to live up the long tradition of excellence that precedes us," said Captain Byrne. 

"Clearly, it began on those muddy fields in 1917, and continues to this day. It behooves us all to see to it that (this tradition) continues as long as America needs the Dice," said the former commander. "Dice then, Dice now, Dice forever!"