Storied 53rd Fighter Squadron reactivated in partnership with D.C. Air Guard

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Andrew Enriquez
  • District of Columbia Air National Guard

The 53rd Fighter Squadron uncased its guidon in an activation ceremony in the 113th Wing, D.C. Air National Guard, auditorium at Joint Base Andrews, Dec. 10th, 2021. The activation comes as the squadron launches a full partnership with the 113th Wing as part of the U.S. Air Force’s Total Force Integration initiative, which partners active duty personnel with National Guard units for training and staffing. Fifty-one active duty pilots, maintainers, logisticians, and support personnel will work alongside their D.C. Air Guard colleagues. 

Air Force Lt. Col. James Wentzel, a combat veteran F-16 pilot assumed command of the 53rd during the ceremony.

The active-D.C. Guard association began September 2014, with the decision to assign a single F-16 pilot to D.C., and expanded from one to four active duty pilots in 2016.

“The active association at (Joint Base) Andrews has always been focused on developing airmen through integration with the Air National Guard,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Mark Massaro, commander of the 495th Fighter Group, parent unit to the 53rd, in his prepared remarks. “Specifically, developing our new F-16 pilots so that they can gain experience and become future leaders in the F-16 community. Now, as we grow into the 53rd Fighter Squadron, we will also develop and season our young F-16 maintainers, so that they can become experts and leaders in their functions.”

According to Chief Master Sgt. Elias Sepulveda Jr., D.C. Air National Guard Senior Enlisted Leader, the 53rd personnel will be coequal with the D.C. Guard’s own 121st Fighter Squadron:

“(They will be) gaining experience from our subject matter experts: maintainers, supply and logistics personnel, and in return we’re going to increase and benefit benefit from their manpower,” Sepulveda said. “So it’s a win-win. It’s a good thing they’re with us and we’re glad to have them. It’s always good to incorporate different cultures and build upon the diversity we have here in the 113th Wing. And having that active duty culture incorporated into us is just going to make us better. ”

“It’s going to be an awesome opportunity to improve readiness, increase lethality, expand the capability of the total force, and forging a new partnership with the active duty,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark A. Campo, commander, 113th Wing, D.C. Air National Guard.

While the concept of “Total Force” development has existed since 1966, it saw increased importance during the Global War on Terror, and relies on unique partnerships. 

The 53rd was originally established Nov. 22nd, 1940, and flew combat missions in Europe during World War Two. During the Cold War it was a strategic unit based in Germany. It once again flew combat missions in the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm, but was inactivated in 1999. The unit insignia, featuring a cartoon tiger, was designed by Walt Disney in 1943.