P-51 Flight and Skydiving Highlight 97th FTS Anniversary Celebration

  • Published
  • By 2d Lt. Lauren Niemi
  • 80th FTW Public Affairs

The previous week at the 97th Flying Training Squadron was not for the faint of heart. 


On Thursday, October 19, Major Paul “Rufio” Yeagley made an entrance to the 97th FTS’s 25th anniversary from above by skydiving to the celebration venue at the local Wichita Falls Country Club. It was his 2097th jump. Rufio has been skydiving since 2004, when he was a cadet at the United States Air Force Academy. He now serves as an instructor pilot in the 97th FTS.


“The 97th is a place where, like myself, a lot of us can transition from active duty to the Reserve and choose to stay full time or part time and still contribute to that mission of training future pilots for the Euro-NATO alliance,” said Yeagley.


The 97th FTS has a rich history in the fighter community dating back to 1942, and was most recently reactivated as a Reserve squadron in 1998. Since then, it has been a critical component of the 80th Flying Training Wing, supplying instructor pilots for the elite Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT) program. The Air Force Reserve has a unique mission of augmenting combat capability through both the part-time and full-time service of its members.


ENJJPT is the world’s only multi-nationally manned and managed flying training program chartered to produce combat pilots for NATO. It trains roughly 200 pilots per year for the United States as well as 13 Euro-NATO allies.


The anniversary festivities acted as a segue into the 97th FTS’ change of command the following day, where the squadron said goodbye to Lt. Col. F. Wayne Waters and welcomed in his place Lt. Col. Bradley J. Brumbaugh. Present at the change of command were the unit’s heritage painted T-6 Texan II and a P-51 Mustang, the inspiration for the T-6’s heritage paint scheme and one of the 97th’s previously assigned air frames.