Vietnam War Pilots mentor Randolph Pilots

  • Published
  • By Laura McAndrews
  • 12th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
Decorated Vietnam War pilots shared history and knowledge with JBSA-Randolph fighter pilots during an Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals Course graduation Sept. 5, 2014.

Then Capt. Dee Simmonds and Lt. George McKinney, both retired lieutenant colonels, were members of the 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron, now the 435th Fighter Training Squadron here at JBSA-Randolph, when they became the first F-4 Phantom crew to shoot down two MiG-21 aircraft on a single mission Nov. 6, 1967.

"It's not just you, it's all the resources that you have working for you," Simmonds said, reminding the group that you don't achieve success on your own.

"It was the people and resources behind you that helped you get there," Simmonds said. "When we got done we talked to the whole maintenance group and told them 'you guys are a part of this."

McKinney was 23-years-old and 14 months from getting qualified as a pilot when he volunteered from training to go to war.

"Don't ever forget who packed your parachute, that can be the man or lady on the line, it can be your significant other, you wingman, it can be your squadron commander, it can be anybody," McKinney said.

Dee and McKinney advised the group to never pass up training opportunities.

"You folks now have more fighter experience than I had at the time I went to fight combat," McKinney said. "I was perfectly safe in that airplane, as safe as I am sitting right here, right now, because of what that man [Dee] had learned."

Lt. Col. Mark Schmidt, 435th FTS commander, wants the graduates and the rest of the squadron to understand the culture and heritage of the squadron.

"They should be both humble and proud," Schmidt said of the pilots in his squadron. "Humble as far as not only the legacy of the people that they're following in the footsteps of, but also humble to know it's not just that person in the aircraft taking on the enemy."

2nd Lt. Matthew Powell, Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals distinguished graduate, is a family friend of McKinney, and will continue his training at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina.

"It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life," Powell said. "Watching them together telling the story from that day was unbelievable. "