Living mascot boosts morale

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Noelle Caldwell
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
It's the image that resonates with the 525th Fighter Squadron from Elmendorf, Alaska: a beat-up yet hearty tan and white English bulldog on a blue and grey unit patch--but the mascot this squadron brought here with them to RED FLAG 09-2 can sit, roll over and even "shake, shake, shake" on command. 

"Having him around just improves everything for everybody's morale," said Staff Sgt. Jonathan Browning, the 525th FS NCOIC of scheduling and training. "He just brings everybody together," he said. 

Fado, pronounced "Fid-DOH", and affectionately named after a historic Irish pub frequented by Raptor pilots, is a 70-pound, one and a half-year-old purebred English bulldog that is the official mascot and DoD working dog for the F-22 Raptors of the 525th FS. 

"I haven't met one person who doesn't mind or doesn't like the dog," Sgt. Browning said. "Everybody loves having him around." 

"I think Fado is awesome; just having a pet around makes you less stressed," said Staff Sgt. Mark Casey, 20th Operations Support Squadron weather journeyman, Shaw AFB, S.C. 

"We used to have a live cat in my squadron as our mascot. It used to come and sprawl out inside the top of a copy box and would wait for me to pet him," Sgt. Casey said. "It's too bad we had to get rid of him." 

Fado was born on July 22, 2007 in Miami, Fl., where 525 FS commander Col. Chuck Corcoran and some of his airmen began searching for breeders selling bulldogs. 

"It's a cool thing to see and have, especially since our predecessors before us decided to do it," Sgt. Browning said. 

The 525th FS has a long lineage of fighter history, with aircraft such as the P-47 Thunderbolt that was flown in 1944, to the F-4E flown in 1969; and was the first squadron to be selected to fly F-15 Eagles in Europe. After the squadron's final weapons training deployment at Leeuwarden Air Base, Netherlands, the 525 Tactical Fighter Squadron was inactivated at Bitburg AB April 1, 1992. 

After 15 years of inactivation, Pacific Air Forces Command redesignated and activated the 525th Fighter Squadron at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, on Oct. 29, 2007 with the Air Force's premier fighter aircraft -- the F-22A Raptor. 

"He's part of the reason why we are who we are--that's why he goes everywhere we go," Sgt Browning said. "It's really brought the history out in the squadron."
Unlike the mascot on the patch, Fado comes very close to matching the spitting image with a few minor differences. 

"Obviously, we can't knock (Fado) over the head and put a band aid on him or cap his tooth with a gold crown!" Sgt Browning said jokingly. "But I love that the bulldog on the patch looks mean and tough--like he's been through a fight but still keeps kicking butt. Much like the F-22," he said. 

"TO 1-Fado-1," is the care manual that identifies Fado's caregivers and addresses how he is supposed to be taken care of as the squadron's mascot. 

Fado's primary care giver, 1st Lt. Ryan Shelhorse, is a pilot and one of four selected Lieutenants in the Air Force to fly the F-22 as his first airframe. 

"The primary caregiver is (normally) determined by whoever is the youngest in the squadron, but taking care of Fado is definitely not something I had to be 'told' to do," Lt. Shelhorse said. "I love Fado; he's definitely a fighter-pilot dog and brings a lot of joy to everyone in the squadron." 

Although Lt. Shelhorse is one of the newest pilots to the squadron, he said he finds balancing taking care of Fado and studying his fighter tactics is just like "anything else." 

"You have to have priorities. You've got to make sure (Fado) is taken care of--shot records are current, his deployment papers are ready to go, etc.--but you can't forfeit studying, either. You've got to be ready and on top of your game when it comes to flying that aircraft," Lt. Shelhorse said. 

"I think it's a good idea. Everybody should have a live mascot," Sgt. Casey said.