23rd FS best in USAFE

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Spangdahlem has some of the best Airmen throughout the U.S. Air Forces in Europe. The 23rd Fighter Squadron proved that when the unit was designated the 2008 USAFE Fighter Squadron of the Year.

"The talented men and women in the squadron are the number one driver for that award - there's no doubt about it," said Lt. Col. Mike Lay, 23rd FS commander. "I may get a lot of credit, being the squadron commander, but it's really the people who make up the squadron who are behind it."

Many factors contributed to the selection of the 23rd FS as the best in USAFE.

Among those factors includes the unit deploying 16 F-16 Fighting Falcons and more than 300 personnel in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where it flew more than 1,500 missions counting approximately 6,200 flying hours spanning 135 days, according to the unit's award package. 23rd FS Airmen kept mishaps to a bare minimum - zero.

"There were no Class A or B mishaps," the commander said, meaning there were no mishaps above a certain dollar amount. "It's an incredible feat considering the squadron flew more than 3,600 sorties for almost 10,000 flying hours throughout the year."

The fighter squadron received kudos for its performance of the base's mission, as well as for aiding in missions outside its reach while deployed. 23rd FS members spent more than 500 hours volunteering at the Balad Theater Hospital to ease a critically-manned staff, the awards package noted.

Back home, Airmen in the squadron also frequently volunteer for scheduling and driving for Airmen Against Drunk Driving.

"It's really about taking care of each other," Colonel Lay said, proud of the unit's six-year streak without a driving-under-the-influence incident. "We are very much a family, and we show that by taking care of each other on and off duty. It's all about unit cohesion."

What sets the unit apart from others is "the members of the 23rd Fighter Squadron. There is not a day that goes by that I don't look forward to going to work," said Capt. James Goeppinger, 23rd FS A-Flight commander. "The Fightin' Hawks understand the mission, are motivated - giving 123 percent every day - and enjoy being at work."

"From the mission aspect, the level to which we work as a squadron and the number of missions we can execute at any one time is profound. No other squadron outside of Spangdahlem can, when called upon, provide the airpower from so many different facets as the Hawks," he added.

Throughout 2008, the fighter squadron and its members received numerous awards, both at Spangdahlem and downrange. Three 23rd FS pilots were recognized at the 52nd Operations Group level, and three 23rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron sections were named as Tuskegee Team of the Month for February, March and April 2008.

"It's a great thing that we won this award," Colonel Lay said. "But I don't think we do it for the recognition. We try to keep it simple and professional, focusing on the mission and getting the mission done well."