First to fight: Panton’s celebrate 100th anniversary

35th Tactical Fighter Squadron pilots pose for a group photo in front of the Squadron Building Just Prior to Departing Kunsan AB, Korea. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force pilots, assigned to the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron pose for a group photo at Kunsan Air Base, Korea. The storied squadron provided maintenance support in World War I and air support via fighters and bombers in the Korean War. They were also credited with 124 kills – including the war’s final kill – in the South Pacific during World War II. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force F-80's fly over Korea. courtesy photo)

U.S. Air Force F-80's assigned to the 35th Fighter Squadron, fly over Korea. The storied squadron provided maintenance support in World War I and air support via fighters and bombers in the Korean War. They were also credited with 124 kills – including the war’s final kill – in the South Pacific during World War II. (Courtesy photo)

A U.S. Air force pilot assigned to the 35th Fighter Squadron shows unit pride while on the flightline. (Courtesy Photo)

A U.S. Air force pilot assigned to the 35th Fighter Squadron poses for a photo at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea. The 35th FS specializes in airspace control with force application roles including counter air, strategic attack, interdiction and close-air support missions; in addition to employing a full range of the latest state-of –the-art precision ordnance, in all weather, day or night. (Courtesy Photo)

Pilots from the 35th Fighter Squadron conduct a training mission over the South Korean peninsula. Pilots assigned to the 35th FS utilize training missions to simulate actual conditions they may face in combat and keep their war-fighting skills honed. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt Quinton T. Burris)

Pilots from the 35th Fighter Squadron (FS) conduct a training mission over the South Korean peninsula. Pilots assigned to the 35th FS utilize training missions to simulate actual conditions they may face in combat and keep their war-fighting skills honed. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt Quinton T. Burris)

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 8th Fighter Wing, 35th Fighter Squadron, take-off during at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea. We train to employ airpower to deter aggression, preserve the Armistice and defend the Republic of Korea. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Colville McFee/Released)

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 8th Fighter Wing, 35th Fighter Squadron, takes off from Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea. The heritage of the 35th FS dates back to June 12, 1917, when the unit was activated as the 35th Aero Squadron. Initially, it began as a maintenance squadron, then transformed over the next 100 years from a fighter squadron, to a bomber squadron and finally back to a fighter squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Colville McFee)

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --

Members of the 35th Fighter Squadron gathered at Kunsan Air Base on June 12 to observe a historical base fly-over commemorating 100 years of their squadron’s history in the defense of American and now South Korean interests.

The heritage of the 35th FS dates back to June 12, 1917, when the unit was activated as the 35th Aero Squadron. Initially, it began as a maintenance squadron, then transformed over the next 100 years from a fighter squadron, to a bomber squadron and finally back to a fighter squadron.

Throughout its existence, the 35th has played an active role in many major international conflicts.

According to Lt. Col. Christopher Eberth, 35th Fighter Squadron commander, the storied squadron provided maintenance support in World War I and air support via fighters and bombers in the Korean War. They were also credited with 124 kills – including the war’s final kill – in the south pacific during World War II.

“We are the guardians on the peninsula,” said Eberth. “We are the first to fight, the last to fight and now we maintain readiness for any contingency in South Korea.”

During its tenure as one of the Air Force's oldest fighter squadrons, the 35th underwent multiple changes. With three renaming events; inactivation for nearly 13 years in the late '20s to ‘30s; and lays claim to flying a long lineage of aircraft such as the P-40 Warhawk, P-51 Mustang, F-105 Thunderchief and F-4 Phantom, the 35th touched many facets of Air Force heritage.

Today, known simply as the Pantons, they provide combat-ready F-16 C/D fighter aircraft to conduct air operations throughout the Pacific theater as tasked by U.S. and coalition combatant commanders.

The squadron specializes in airspace control with force application roles including counter air, strategic attack, interdiction and close-air support missions; in addition to employing a full range of the latest state-of –the-art precision ordnance, in all weather, day or night.

“The motto of the 35th Fighter Squadron is “first to fight”, which was approved in 1980,” said Eberth.

 “We celebrate history everyday by training, learning and never forgetting our past and where we came from. I salute [all] those men and women who put in the hard work.”