Published in the Offutt Base Newspaper before the PWG Reunion, 8-10 Sept 2005:

Open Ranks
Chief Master Sergeant Steven Staycoff
97th Intelligence Squadron

I’m enamored of history, especially topics relating to my beloved Air Force.

Since my first dose of reconnaissance when I was an 18-year-old rookie cryptologic linguist, I’ve always had a great respect for those who preceded me – those who put the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance community in the history books.

Although I was fortunate to start out in jets (RC-135V/W), most of the guys I learned the ropes from had plenty of hours in the “turtles in the sky” such as the propeller-driven EC-47s and C-130s of the Vietnam era.

The Prop wash Gang, honorably named for the hurricane effects aft of rotating propellers, will be here soon for their annual reunion. This visit of 80 plus of the 700-member group presents the Offutt community with a golden opportunity to learn a bit about the men and the missions that led to the treasured fleet of reconnaissance aircraft on Offutt’s ramp today.

Retired Senior Master Sergeant Larry Tart, co-author of The Price of Vigilance, a book that outlines the trials and tribulations of airborne reconnaissance since its infancy with B-24s in the 1940s, founded the group and initiated annual reunions. While the group has reunited in Laurel, Md., (home of the National Security Agency on Fort Meade) and San Antonio, Texas, (home of the Air Intelligence Agency on Lackland AFB), their greatest connection is to the men and women at Offutt that continue the airborne reconnaissance tradition.

Since many of the group’s members have ties to the 97th Intelligence Squadron, their visit here for the organization’s ninth reunion is long overdue. We plan to host these ISR heroes for a mission brief and a tour of an RC-135 so they can see firsthand the technological advancements that have increased our reconnaissance capabilities.

With a good part of the 55th Wing mission focused on reconnaissance, I thought it prudent to announce the arrival of the Prop Wash Gang – a group with a wealth of history under their hats and in their hip pockets. It’s my hope that many of our Airmen, especially those who fly on the RC-135, will get the chance to meet these legends. They might find some differences in the jargon, but the mission remains the same – to maintain America’s world advantage by finding, fixing, and eliminating the enemy.