OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --
Beginning with a three-month deployment from Beale Air Force Base, California, 40 years ago, the U-2 Dragon Lady has flown over South Korean skies in countless air operations.
Formerly Detachment 2 from the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, the 5th Reconnaissance Squadron “Blackcats” celebrated this monumental feat with a 40th anniversary ceremony May 6 here.
“First, this is a celebration of the heritage we have at Osan as the Blackcats,” said Lt. Col. Todd Larsen, 5th RS commander. “Second, this is a celebration from the Blackcats to ourselves, as well as Team Osan for the support they provide us every day.”
The 5th RS, the fifth oldest Air Force squadron dating back to World War 1, was reactivated in October 1994 as Det. 2 to assist in the defense of the Republic of Korea through the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission in the Southeast Asia region.
“Whether we were the Det. 2 or the 5th RS, we have always been the Blackcats and we’ll continue to be while we’re here at Osan,” said Larsen.
“We’re as much a part of Team Osan as we are of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing,” he added.
The Blackcats’ mission at Osan is to protect the Korean peninsula as well as support Pacific Air Forces, which wouldn’t be feasible without the Blackcat Airmen to support the U-2.
“We’re a combined maintenance and operations squadron, which there aren’t many left in the Air Force,” said Larson. “Inside our squadron, we have about 200 men and women supporting our four aircraft, which speaks highly to their ability to overcome the obstacles that our mission has.”
Staff Sgt. Milton Keith, one of the 5th RS’ crew chiefs, spoke up about his service to this aircraft and his squadron.
“It brings me great pride to be able to be one of the very small percentages within the Air Force to crew this awesome, old airplane,” said Keith.
After the ceremony concluded, Team Osan members toured the facility and took family pictures with the 5th RS iconic aircraft.