The 22nd Tactical Fighter Squadron was stationed at Bitburg AB Germany. The 22nd Transitioned from the F-4 to the F-15A/B in 1977 and two years later to the F-15C/D. When the 36th Fighter Wing deactivated in 1994 and Bitburg AB was closed the 22nd Fighter Squadron transitioned to the F-16 and moved to Spangdahlem AB. Any information like squadron rituals, flying anecdotes that you would like to donate please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org using on the contact me page.
Thanks to the help of Bob “Russ” Russell & “Skip” Boles the following Eagle drivers are identified on the picture above (taken in 1979)
Left to Right, Standing (Back Row):
Doug Fraser, Rich Hill, Bran “Knife” McAllister, Lance “Lantz” Romer, Jim “Wiz” Wisdom, Mike Larkin, Steve “Grits” Britt, Ted Schramm, Lyman “Skip” Boles, Tony “Tony” Mahoney, Jack “Shoes” Overstreet, Charlie Price, Fred Pease, Unknown, Chuck “Waldo” Wald, Bob “Mallerd” Manke, Unknown.
Left to Right, Standing (in front of back row):
Mark “Cobra” Holmes and Gene “Tornado” Jackson
Left to Right, Kneeling:
John “Cat” Hall, Unknown, Chet Garrison, Unknown, Dick Stick” Stamm, Dave Rickert, Jerry Hokkanen.
Annecdote by Lt. Col. Bob “Russ”Russell
When the F-15 was bedded down at Bitburg AB, one of the German “wild parks” (like a zoo) came to us and “adopted” the squadron. We designed a patch with an Eagle and US Flag on it and were dubbed the “Adlers” (which is German for eagle). In the middle of 1982, when a new squadron commander was announced, he decided to get rid of the “Adler” patch and reinstate the Walt Disney “Bumblebee” patch, which was the official patch of the 22 TFS (we were wearing the Adler patch for years “unofficially”). He almost had a mutiny on his hands–we did NOT want to be known as the “Bees.” We much preferred being called the “Adlers.”
Group photo 1980
by Bob “Russ” Russell Lt. Col., USAF (ret)
The photo was taken near the Big 22 “Adler” (later “Bumblebee”) Squadron, Bitburg Air Base, Germany, in front of an F-15 in a tab vee, probably in 1980. The Squadron Commander was Dick “Stick” Stamm and the Ops Officer was Larry “Mac” McBride (both kneeling in the center).
Not all the pilots and other members of the squadron can be identified—here are the ones that have been:
Kneeling, left to right: Rich “?” Hill, Steve “Grits” Britt, Jim “Wiz” Wisdom, ?, Barry “Pong” Bennett, Dick “Stick” Stamm, Larry “Mac” McBride, John “Cat” Hall, Gene “Tornado” Jackson, Mark “Cobra” Holmes, ?, and two unnamed squadron sergeants.
Standing, left to right: ?, Bob “Russ” Russell, ?, ?, Randy “Willy Ray” Sitton, ?, Tim “Torb” Green, Gary “Snoop” Willens, Rodriguez “Cho Cho” Huete, Dennis “Dutch” Kuehler, ?, (Yoda), Bob “Mallard” Manke, Chuck “Waldo” Wald, Jack “Shoes” Overstreet, Bran “Knife” McAllister, Lance “Lantz” Romer, and five unnamed sergeants in the squadron.
22nd TFS Group photo 1981
Not all the pilots can be identified—here are the ones that have been:
Kneeling, left to right: Tim “Torb” Green, Wayne “Dez” Desinek, ?, __ “Stormy” __, Greg “Cowboy” Keck, Dick “Dickie” Willis, Tom “Zipper” Mahan, Bob “Jenks” Jenkins, ?, Robin “Robe” Doria, Jack “Shoes” Overstreet, and Bob “Russ” Russell.
Standing, left to right: “Mack” McCollum, “Siggy” Siegcrist, Walt “Buster” Burns, Gary “Snoop” Willens, ?, ?, ?, John “Easy” Kugler, Bob “Mallard” Manke, Barry “Pong” Bennett, Ron “Skipper” Brown, Bob “Bull” Meacham, Denny “Dutch” Kuehler, Terry “BUS” Maggard, Joe “Mad Dog” Dowdy, Bill “Tonic” Thiel, and ?
Great Stories and anecdotes of the 22nd tactical Fighter Squadron
these stories are submitted by Bob “Russ” Russell, 22 TFS, 1980-1982. Bob says that that these stories are absolutely true, “At least based on my old age, fading memory, and the fact that those were hard drinking days at Bitburg, so some of my brain cells may have been lost.”)
Retaliation As I indicated, there was the normal squadron rivalry found in any fighter squadron. Mostly, it was a simple exchange of words–some “pimping” if you will. But, sometimes, “action” is warranted. One time, when we reported to work at the Big 22, we found our squadron had been plundered severely–someone had come into the squadron and had taken photos, trophies, statues, mementos, lots of interesting memorabilia and historical items. We found out that the 525 Bulldogs life support sergeants had the combination to our squadron doors (I guess the life support NCOs had knowledge of each squadron’s entry–for a practical reason, perhaps).
At any rate, our “intelligence” told us that the Bulldogs had taken our stuff and were waiting to see what we would do. For a few days, nothing happened–a lot of the pilots for the Big 22 were musing as to what retaliation should take place, but we did nothing. Then, two of the younger captains who were in my flight (I was their flight commander) came up with a “plan.” They called me at a party to tell me what they were going to do, but I told them, “I don’t want to know–press on and I will figure it out later.”
These two young captains were great guys–fun loving, sharp, great pilots–and the kicker was that their girl friends were nurses at the base hospital. They had connived with their honeys to get some very powerful laxatives from the drug area of the hospital. What they did was funny as all get-out. They bought a huge hog from a German farmer. They loaded the not-so-happy pig in the back of a pickup truck and headed for the 525’s area on the flight line one Friday night. The squadrons were protected by security police. The guys drove their truck up to the gate to the area where the 525 squadron was and told the policeman on duty they needed to deliver something to the squadron. (I heard later it was pretty funny–the pig, under wraps in the back of the truck, was making weird noises and shuffling around in the truck, but somehow the guys got the police to grant them entry.)
They took the hog up to the Bulldog’s squadron and, since they had used one of our life support folks to find out what the combination was to the 525’s squadron, they unloaded the pig and started to put it in the Bulldog’s squadron. The next decision was where to lock up the pig overnight…since, after they got the pig situated, they fed it some grain laced with the laxatives they got from the hospital (their girl friends). The Bulldogs had just redecorated their lounge with new carpet and other nice things, so they didn’t want the hog to start “defecating” all over the new lounge. And, they didn’t want to lock up the hog in the life support area, since it might destroy the pilots’ oxygen masks and other special equipment. They finally found a room that was “suitable” and locked up the pig in the room with plenty of the food (spiked with laxatives), figuring that, when the squadron came in on Monday, the very pissed off pig would have dumped all over the place.
The two guys from my flight departed the area that night, totally convinced that the Big 22 had “retaliated” sufficiently for the 525 stealing our trophies from our squadron. Only problem: their plan was foiled a little bit.
First of all, the Operations Officer (second in command in an Air Force fighter squadron behind the commander) was originally a guy from our squadron and he was known as “Mother” to everyone–since he was one of those guys who checked every detail of everything every day–and he also was a workaholic. The Ops Officer decided to come in on Saturday to check on something and, since the pig had been delivered late Friday night and this guy was in there very early in the morning, the pig really hadn’t “dumped” as much as was hoped–he had torn up a few things rooting around, but he didn’t do that much damage (which is probably good–the guys who perpetrated the whole thing might have been court martialed!).
And, secondly, the 525 ended up BUTCHERING this hog (which had cost the two pilots from my squadron quite a few bucks) and having a big BBQ!! So, not only did our plan “fail” a little bit, but the Bulldogs got some free pork. Still, it was a fun sequence of events that happened (circa 1982).
Relocation of Assets Another “prank” occurred when the Deputy Commander for Operations — DCO (full colonel, second in command of a wing after the Wing Commander…although there is a Vice Commander, he/she usually handles things other than the flying operation) had to go away for a couple weeks on some short-term assignment (TDY–Temporary Duty). The lieutenant colonel squadron commander chosen by the DCO to be the “acting DCO” during his absence was a bit of a prima donna — he thought he was really something more than he really was.
Well, the full colonel departed and life was no good with our boss, the squadron commander, acting like the big shot on base. The “acting” DCO, the lieutenant colonel decided he would use the full colonel’s office while he was “in charge,” but that was about all. He left his office alone, but would go sit at his boss’s desk. A few of us pranksters decided it would be funny to MOVE all the squadron commander’s things (books, nameplate, photos of the wife and family, memorabilia pertaining to him, etc., up to the colonel’s office (about 1/4 mile away) and take all the STUFF from the colonel’s office and move it into our squadron–in the lieutenant colonel’s office. We did this on the Saturday before the DCO came back from his trip–our intentions were that, when he walked into his office, he would see only the squadron commander’s stuff…since his stuff was down at our squadron.
So, a couple of my buddies and I started packing and moving things — we spent several hours on that Saturday and, when we finished, it was great. It really looked like the junior officer was usurping his boss by moving into his office with all his stuff! That Saturday night, I had a party at my house and was in the middle of the party when my squadron commander called! Evidently, he had decided to go in that evening and do some paperwork…and, when he did, he discovered that all of his stuff was in his boss’s office! He was NOT happy, especially knowing it was a weekend and the DCO would be in Monday, perhaps even Sunday when he returned to the base.
I had evidently already established a reputation at Bitburg for “pranks” — my squadron commander said to me, “Russell, I suspect you are behind this little prank–you and your flight members usually are doing something crazy all the time. Early tomorrow (Sunday), get your butt down to this office and move everything back the way it was!” I tried to deny it, but broke up laughing and the jig was up.
So…the next morning, I and other culprits had to spend a couple of hours moving the 22 Squadron Commander’s stuff back to our squadron and moving the DCO’s stuff back to Wing Headquarters. Another prank that “almost” worked, but was foiled by someone coming into their office unexpectedly.
Best Last Flight Ever One “prank” that DID work and worked marvelously was when I decided to do something very different on my last F-15 sortie in Europe, before I moved on to my next assignment. It was to be an emotional flight anyway, since I had no idea if I would ever get to fly the Eagle again and I loved every minute I had flying that bird. And, it was doubly emotional as my three years with the Big 22 were the best three years of my USAF career–and Judy, my wife, and I loved every minute in Germany. Plus, I had more fun in that squadron than in any other and that included a later tour at Eglin AFB in the 58th Tactical Fighter Squadron.
So, here is what I did.
During my three years at Bitburg, I was the “master of ceremonies” for several squadron parties. At one party we had for a departing pilot, the squadron decided to come up with a “funeral home” theme. We built a wooden casket and had the pilot departing lie in the casket for the fun part of the evening (after a lot of Bitburger beer and other liquid nourishment). We thought we would have a “funeral” for him, with a preacher delivering a eulogy and some people coming forward to give testimonials. (We had someone pretend to be a hooker and come cry over the soon-to-depart pilot; we had a “former” wife come forward and give her two cents; we had others do the same–poking a lot of fun (and a few serious barbs) at this pilot (who had, by the way, “cheated” on his wife–so some of the humor she probably did not like!).
I was the preacher, the “Reverend Ralph Holywater, from Lost Wages, Nevada.” I dressed as crazy as I could. I had some white shoes (ugly things–not sure why I even had them); I wore some ugly checkered pants with a pink shirt and a beige jacket. My tie was some sort of gaudy thing and I combed my hair in the strangest way. I had dollar bills hanging out of my pockets and I had filled an old Jack Daniels whiskey bottle with iced tea (so I could chug it while giving my “sermon”). I had a huge cowboy hat on and carried some very large cigars to puff on. My “fly” (zipper) was pulled down so that my shirt stuck out of my tie. [I really wish now that I had had someone take a good set of photos of me! I have none, but hope you can picture this–I was a very strange looking preacher, trust me.]
I delivered the eulogy and the attendees loved it–so much, they asked the “Rev. Holywater” to come to other fun functions at the squadron and offer a few words about “sin and salvation.” I had a ball at a number of events (including one all-wives event whereby the ladies had made things to auction off–one lady sewed a Bulldog, a Tiger, and an Eagle on three different JOCK STRAPS–and she conned me into MODELING them for the ladies (over my pants, thank God)–it was a gas).
Back to my last flight. I decided that the Rev. Ralph Holywater should fly the last sortie, but I knew it was against regs and no one would “bless” me doing it, so I decided that I would TAKE OFF as Major Russell and LAND as the infamous preacher. To conceal the prank, I put on my pants, shirt and tie UNDER my flight suit. We wore red high-necked shirts under our flight suit, so that covered the tie and shirt just fine. The young captain who was to lead the four-ship flight briefed a 2 v 2 intercept mission (day/night sortie) to me and two other pilots, all younger than I was. The briefing revealed nothing, for I didn’t tell the other pilots about my plan.
When we went out to the tab vee (shelter), it was easy for me to carry a bag up into the cockpit and stuff it on the side (the Eagle has a lot of room in the cockpit). Inside this sack was my white shoes, my cowboy hat, my sports coat, my Jack Daniels “iced tea” drink, and a cigar. The crew chief didn’t know what was going on, either. NO ONE but me knew that I was going to “change” into the Rev. Holywater WHILE FLYING in a single-seat fighter!
We launched, flew out to the training area, and did our “intercept” work–a very mild, vanilla sortie. When it was time to return to Bitburg, which was not that far away, I told the flight lead on the radio, “I will be number four to return, so I will be the last to land.” I knew that there would be a bunch of folks gathered where I would park the jet and they would no doubt be hosing me down with a fire truck or fire extinguishers (filled with water), part of the ritual we had for “last flights” of any pilot departing. And, I wanted to be #4 so I could take my time on the way back–even though we “followed” each other for most of the flight (requested extended radar trail recovery), I needed time to do my changing act!
By now it was dark. We departed the area and the flight lead put us into trail, with me as #4. All was well so far. The minute I got into trail formation, I told the lead I would be “off frequency” for a few minutes (normal at times, as long as you had the backup frequency in your aux radio). I quickly put the jet on autopilot (for the old Eagle, that was simply altitude and attitude control–not heading, nor navigation–I still had to pay attention to our turns). I “safed” the ejection seat so I wouldn’t accidentally punch myself out if I snagged something! Then, I started to undress and re-dress.
Photo donated by Bob “Russ” Russell Lt. Col., USAF (ret)
That was NOT easy. I had to slip off my parachute harness, then take off my flying boots. Not much room in even the Eagle to do that–I am sure I pulled some muscles. Then, I had to take off my flight suit and red turtleneck under the suit. That done, I took the sports coat out of the bag, as well as the white shoes. I put on the shoes and the coat, setting the cowboy hat and JD bottle and cigar on the side console. Then, I put my flight boots and flight suit and turtleneck in the bag. Of course, all this time, I had my helmet off, so I had to then don the helmet, reconnect some things, put the harness back on, “unsafe” the seat, and be ready to land!
It was a really rushed event–I was darn lucky to not have screwed something up and I just got my helmet on and was back on frequency when approach control / tower cleared me to land! The other three jets landed ahead of me and they taxied to their tab vees–then, those pilots came to where the maintenance folks wanted me to park–out on the ramp so I could get “doused” easier and where everyone was gathered to bid me a fond adieu. They had portable lights pulled up so that my jet was lit up really well and the guys with the fire extinguishers could “attack” me easier.
When I taxied my jet into place and shut down the engines, I quickly donned the cowboy hat, grabbed my JD bottle of “tea,” and held a cigar in my hand. I raised the canopy and stood in the seat, looking down at about 25-30 folks gathered around the jet in the lights. I yelled, “Hello. I am the Reverend Ralph Holywater from Lost Wages, Nevada! Can anyone tell me where the hell is the Big 22 Squadron?”
There were two dozen people with their mouths wide open when they saw this. The Wing Commander was not there that night, but I believe the DCO and my squadron commander were…they were aghast also, of course. One of them turned to the flight leader for my last sortie and said, “Did he take off dressed like that?” Of course, the captain said, “No sir, he was fully dressed in flight gear.” Then, the lights (in their heads) went on: HOLY CRAP…Russell changed clothes inflight, in a single-seat jet, in the dark…!!