Air Force deactivates 81 FS

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Whitney Gillespie
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

After nearly a decade, the 81st Fighter Squadron has closed its doors after a deactivation ceremony here, Dec. 6, 2022.


During the ceremony, Lt. Col. Michael Raabe, 81st Fighter Squadron commander, relinquished command of the 81st FS. To signify the deactivation, Raabe, along with Col. Alexander Heyman, 14th Operations Group commander from Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, furled and cased the squadron's guidon since its reactivation in 2014.


Although originally activated on Jan. 15, 1942, at Key Field, Mississippi, with a primary mission of flying the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, the squadron has been on loan to Air Combat Commands 23rd Wing from Air Education and Training Command.


During their time here, the Squadron’s unique organization comprised of air advisor pilots, air advisor maintainers and support personnel who conduct CONUS and OCONUS based training for the Afghan Air Force and other partner nations.  


“At the core, we develop partner nation air forces,” said Maj. Aaron Duffin, 81st FS director of operations and acting executive officer. “A lot of these nations are fighting insurgencies and violent extremist organizations and when we go in, we work with these Air Forces and establish both a foothold for developing the relationship as well as help them become a better Air Force.”


From working together, flying together, demonstrating maintenance and improving communication with their counterparts, the 81st is always willing to roll up their sleeves to ensure complete air to ground integration, explained Lt. Col. Michael Raabe, 81st FS commander.


Despite the demands of integration that come with the mission, the squadron has no shortage of accomplishments. Most recently taking part in a collaboration between the Air Force and forces from Columbia, Nigeria, Thailand and Tunisia in order to develop procedures for countering violent extremist organizations – all while bringing home the United States Air Force Air Advisor Team of the Year award.


“This whole thing has been such a memorable experience,” Duffin said. “I got to be part of a team that developed such a unique and powerful camaraderie.”


It was a bittersweet day for the 81st bidding farewell to their squadron, but also to their commander, Raabe, with his retirement following immediately after the deactivation, serving a humbling 21 years of active-duty service.


“I am honored to have been part of this journey. We all wanted the mission to continue because we believe in it so much, but we are closing and want to pay respect to what the mission’s done,” Raabe said. “This has been an incredible assignment, getting to be part of it has been such an eye-opening experience.”