U.S. Air Force Weapons School reactivates historic squadron for Unmanned Aircraft Systems

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ryan Whitney
  • Nellis AFB Public Affairs
Airmen at Creech Air Force Base will soon be seeing Weapons School graduates joining the ranks in the 432nd Wing and Air Expeditionary Wing after the U.S. Air Force Weapons School reactivated the 26th Flying Training Squadron as the 26th Weapons Squadron here, Sept. 30. 

The 26th WPS is the first Unmanned Aircraft Systems Weapons Squadron, and will specialize in training and producing MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper pilots and sensor operators to help fill what Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says is an "insatiable appetite" for UAS platforms, said Col. Scott Kindsvater, USAFWS commandant. 

The 26th WPS is the seventeenth active WPS currently and is scheduled to begin its first class in January 2009. 

"This marks the first activation of a squadron at the Weapons School since the stand-up of the F-117 and B-2 Divisions in 2002," said Colonel Kindsvater. "This is a momentous occasion for a community of aviators that have been without this level of tactical integration and training in their history." 

Taking the stick of the newly activated squadron is Lt. Col. Daniel Turner, a command pilot with more than 3,600 flight hours in the MQ-1B, C-130, and AC-130. The colonel returns to the Weapons School from the 3rd Special Operations Squadron. Earlier in his career, then-Major Turner took part in WPS activation, when he was selected as one of the initial instructors of the 14th Weapons Squadron, the special operations division of the USAFWS. 

Colonel Turner awarded the new squadron patch to the cadre that will be instructing the first class. Maj. Joe Campo, Maj. Bryan Callahan, Capt. Andy Beitz, Capt. Mike Stolley, Maj. Lichen Pursley are the pilots, and Tech. Sgt. Christopher Bluto, Staff Sgt. Aaron Aguilar, and Senior Airman John Rourke are the sensor operators for the course. 

"I couldn't have asked for a better group of Airmen for this squadron, they were on the fast track and they have put all that on hold to come down here and better the Air Force, and that is very commendable," the colonel said about his cadre. "All of their packages had somewhere in it that they were the best their units had to offer, and I couldn't agree more." 

The cadre was then given unit patches, which have not changed since Walt Disney designed the patch in 1940 when the squadron was activated. It depicts a Tiger, representing the famed American volunteer group, the "Flying Tigers," riding on a mustang, which is symbolic of the P-51, the squadron's aircraft at the time of the Patches creation. 

Missions for the 26th Weapons Squadron will be flown from Nellis Air Force Base, as opposed to Creech Air Force Base, where most UAS operations are currently underway.