On July 16, the 34th Fighter Squadron "Rude Rams" celebrated not only the success of their last deployment to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, but also the rich heritage, dedication and passion of all Rams, both current and past. That afternoon the Rams furled their flag and inactivated as a squadron but continued to stand strong together as "America's finest."
Before its inactivation, the 34th FS held its last Warrior Call honoring the hard work and dedication of all who worked to make its last deployment to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, a success.
"I actually love the tradition of the Warrior Call," said Lt. Col. David Lyons, commander of the 34th FS. "In the Air Force we are constantly sending our Airmen off to war -- all four corners of the earth. Regardless of what flavor uniform or what job they do, we can all learn from every one of those experiences and there are valuable lessons to be learned every time an Airman comes home."
Twelve F-16s and more than 250 34th FS and 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit Airmen deployed to Bagram from January to May of 2010, though one of their own just recently returned from an extended tour of six months.
"This last combat deployment with the Rams and F-16s was really a culmination of the rich history for the 34th dating all the way back to World War II," said Capt. Mike Blauser, 34th FS weapons officer. "In some way, shape or form the Rams have been involved in every major conflict the United States has been involved in since World War II."
While there, the Airmen found that their previous four months of training was a key element to their success.
"The common thread here throughout is if you talk to any one of these guys they'll say that, when push came to shove ... the training took over and things happened automatically," Blauser said. "I think that's a testament to the time we took during the months leading up to our deployment to make sure we were adequately prepared."
"We had two F-16s airborne 24/7 for 122 days. We flew over 1,400 combat sorties, and over 6,000 combat hours," Blauser said as he described the successes of the Rams' last deployment. "Just to put that into perspective, that's really the equivalent of what we do in an entire year when we're stateside. The 34th FS plus AMU accomplished that in just over 4 months ... Not once did we lose a sortie to a broken aircraft."
Overall, the Rams and their commander are proud of the work they did in Bagram. "The entire deployment can kind of be summed up in the phrase, 'Ordinary people doing extraordinary things,'aa" Blauser said.
After his time spent with his Ram teammates at home and abroad, Lyons had three lessons to share with every Airman:
1. "Train like you fight. You hear that all the time but it's absolutely true because you are going to fall back on your training. If your training is found lacking, you're going to get hurt."
2. "Rely on each other. You can't accomplish the mission by yourself, I don't care how great you are ... Rely on your teammates and they'll never let you down."
3. "Every action that we take on this battlefield is going to have a strategic impact. You've got to go into the fight prepared for that and you've got to act accordingly.
"The time we spent over there -- I think the Rams did it right as we've been doing it through history," Blauser stated.
After honoring their experiences at Bagram, the Rams gathered to begin the solemn duty of furling their flag and inactivating their squadron and the 34th AMU, even though the 34th AMU is under the 388th Fighter Wing.
"The 34th AMU deploys with the 34th FS whenever and wherever they go," said Col. Scott Zobrist, commander of the 388th Fighter Wing. "They're an inseparable team."
Zobrist and Lyons both thanked the 34th FS and 34th AMU for their outstanding service to their nation and teammates and the families of the Airmen for their continuing support of the Rams team. They also thanked past members of the Rams.
"Thank you also to the Rams who have paved the way for us," Lyons said. "In our final deployment we continued your tradition of excellence."
"But all good things must come to an end ... for a while," Zobrist said. "While this may be the end of the Rams history in the F-16, we hope it's only the beginning of the next chapter ...
"So when (Col.) 'Detroit' (Lyons) and I furl the Ram flag in a few minutes, don't worry, we won't furl it too tightly," he continued. "Expect to see that flag flying again in a few years in front of a similar group of ops-maintenance warriors joined as one team like the one you see in front of you today.
"To the men and women of the 34th FS and our herculean AMU, I stand in awe of you and your accomplishments," Lyons stated. "This day is really your day and as we furl this flag in just a few moments, I hope that you will take a moment to reflect on your services to our great nation... It is no overstatement to say that this squadron is a national treasure. The 'Rude Rams' have ... risked it all for America time and time again."
Though its flag is now furled and this chapter of the 34th FS "Rude Rams" history has ended, each Airman -- no matter what rank -- can be proud of the work they've done and the tradition they've carried on.
"I couldn't be more proud of each and every one of these 'Rude Rams,'aa" Lyons said. "They are truly America's finest."