Air Force best

By Mary Jo May 

  56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs A Luke fighter squadron and a former Ger-man flying squadron pledged to maintain their common heritage Saturday during an F-16 basic pilots course graduation.
  Lt. Gen. Peter Vogler, German Air Force Command commander, and Gen.  John Jumper, Air Combat Command commander, signed the Decree of Honor  cementing the relationship between the 63rd Fighter Squadron and the Luftwaffe's Cactus Starfighter Squadron during Class 00-IBG graduation.
  Luke trained German fighter pilots from 1964 on the F-84 Thunderstreak to 1984 on the F-104 Starfighter.

  The Cactus Starfighter Squadron was formed in 1957 after Germany joined NATO and needed to rebuild its air force. Each Luftwaffe pilot trained at Luke two years and more than 1,800 Luftwaffe pilots received their training at Luke on the F-104 alone.

Former Arizona Gov. Jack Williams established the Arizona Cactus Starfighter Squadron in 1965 to bestow honorary Arizona citizenship on the German pilots and to acknowlege the ties between the German pilots and their Arizona hosts.

"We needed the help of the U.S. Air Force and Luke to train our German pilots and get us back

  room is the "Starfighter" which displays photos and memorabilia.

 A quote from German Fighter Ace Gen. Adolf Galland, "Only the spirit of attack, born in a brave heart, will bring success to any fighter aircraft, no matter how highly developed it may be," is painted on the briefing room's wall. The Cactus Starfighter Squadron took this "Spirit of Attack" one step further.

During the graduation ceremony, Vogler presented the Cactus Starfighter Squadron's "Spirit of Attack" award to 1st. Lt. Bryce Hardy.

 The award is given to the student who has shown the most dedication to duty, best examples in attitude and flying skills and embodies the warrior spirit.

The Cactus Starfighter Squadron keeps the spirit of the F-104 training at Luke alive in other ways such as reunions, supporting local charities and promoting and financing the Arizona State University student exchange program.

"I hope the young folks realize the true meaning of this relationship," Vogler said. "We want the young generation of  fighter pilots to learn from our mistakes. We are proud of what we are. We are proud of being fighter pilots."Staff Sgt.Aaron Marcus


Lt. Gen. Peter Vogler, German Air Force Command commander; Gen. John Jumper,

Air Combat Command commander, and Lt. Col. Rob Topp, 63rd Fighter Squadron

commander, look at the wing of a German F-104 in the 63rd FS.

   on our feet during   four decades of the Cold War and the Iron Curtain," Vogler said. "Bombs didn't only destroy my country, but the selfrespect of the German people. The American people helped us regain our selfrespect and gave us back our dignity."  The training built a solid foundation for everlasting friendship between two countries.

"We tend to look at our differences easily, and we forget how much we are alike,"  Vogler  said. "It's important ! to keep alive what unites us in spirit, attitude and objectives."

In 1998, the 56th Fighter Wing commander accepted a proposal by Vogler, the elected Cactus Starfighter Squadron commander, to explore the feasibility of joining the former Starfighter pilots with Luke once again.

   After a year of study, the formal relationship between the 63rd FS and the Cactus Starfighter Squadron began.

"We join ranks in everlasting friendship as a visible symbol of the strong bonds between the American and German people," said Lt. Col. Rob Topp, 63rd FS commander. "Although the 63rd FS never trained German pilots, we have strong ties because of two brothers currently assigned to the squadron. Maj. Franz and Capt. Steve Plescha's dad,
Frank Plescha, was an F -104 instructor pilot in the Cactus Starfighter Squadron."

A display of an F-104 aircraft wing with the German Iron Cross and signed by Cactus Starfighter Squadron members covers the back

wall of the Panther's main briefing room. Another briefing