Commentary | Feb. 20, 2009

Victory through knowledge and valor

By Theodore J. Turner 432d Wing Historian

With the arrival of the 432d Wing's 66th birthday, on Feb. 22nd, each member of the Hunters team has an opportunity to reflect more fully on the unit's distinguished history and the rich and enduring legacy that is their inheritance. 

The 432d has a remarkable record of accomplishments, from days distant and recent, and a clear promise of future achievements and glory. Yet on this occasion, as we recall the triumphs of then and now, and look to tomorrow, it is fitting to take a moment to appreciate the qualities and values that have stood the Hunters in good stead over the years. They represent an unspoken creed that binds us all together. 

When the unit came into existence as the 432d Observation Group in 1943 at Alachua Army Air Field, Fla., it became a part of a mission and role associated with military aircraft since the acceptance of the first Wright Flyer for martial purposes in 1909. 

Observation evolved into today's intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, with both manned and unmanned aircraft (and spacecraft) becoming platforms and vital instruments in an age of information warfare that raised the specter of a transformational revolution in military affairs. 

In the 1940s and into the 1950s, the 432d's function took on a more direct aspect as it changed first into a reconnaissance group, and then into a tactical reconnaissance group. Later, when the lineage and destiny of the group fused with that of the 432d Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, they chose to retain a motto established in 1955 as an expression of their mutual legacy. That motto, Victoria Per Scientiam, inscribed in Latin as was the custom, translated as Victory Through Knowledge. The dictum remains apt in the Information Age. 

Still, it might be argued that even in the 1950s there was something incomplete in the expression. The group's 1955 participation in Operation Sagebrush, an exercise that simulated an atomic war, and included the testing of an aerial reconnaissance concept that brashly pushed the boundaries of traditional Army and Air Force roles, suggested a hint of fearlessness as well. 

On Aug. 19 1966, the 432d Tactical Reconnaissance Wing answered its first call to glory, becoming a pivotal force in the Vietnam War during 14 separate campaigns, and garnering two Presidential Unit Citations, four Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards (with Combat "V" Device), and a Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm. Appropriately, the "V" stood for valor. Although the 432d began the war in a traditional tactical reconnaissance role, before the conflict ended the wing bore the designation tactical fighter wing, having added combat air patrol and strike operations to its reconnaissance missions. 

For the remainder of the 20th century the Air Force put the 432d through some astounding changes, transforming it from a wing into a tactical drone group and charging it with the testing of the AQM-34 model drone. However, the Hunters' claws would not stay closed for long. The 432d became a tactical fighter wing once again in 1984 and stayed one until inactivated in 1994. 

On May 1 2007, the Air Force activated the unit as the 432d Wing at Creech AFB, Nev. The return of the gallant 432d served as a well-deserved rallying point for the brave and spirited Airmen of unmanned aviation already engaged in combat operations in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. These operators of an aircraft that refused to merely observe, but has insisted on joining fully in the battle, are indeed worthy Hunters. 

In celebration of the birth of the wing 66 years ago, I offer these words as an inscription for the birthday cake: Victoria Per Scientiam Et Valēre, Victory Through Knowledge and Valor.