HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — The last operational Hill AFB F-16 Fighting Falcon, set to leave in September, will depart for reassignment to Holloman AFB with a new tail design commemorating the jet’s 38 years here.
Tech. Sgt. Shawn Delaware and Staff Sgt. Brandon Turner, both aircraft structural maintainers assigned to the 388th Maintenance Squadron, recently completed work on the tail in preparation for the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings’ Viper Out ceremony.
Delaware, who has been at Hill AFB for three years and in the paint barn for only a year and a half, designed the emblem.
“They wanted to paint the tail,” he said. “They gave me some criteria and I ran with it.”
The design had to incorporate ‘38’ for the number of years the F-16 was in service at Hill AFB, and the years it was here, 1979-2017.
“Everything else was my design,” Delaware said.
Turner also played a major role in the project, which resulted in the distinctive tail.
“We sanded it down, we got it prepared with a top coat, and we applied base coat and stencils,” he said. “It was the same process as usual but with different variations of our stencils.”
The F-16 won’t fly with this commemorative design forever.
“We have one year to fly it. After that one year we have to take it down,” said Delaware. “It will fly until [Holloman AFB] has the availability in their paint barn to remove it.”
Delaware, whose last day in the Air Force was Aug. 8 after serving 12 1/2 years, is grateful for the opportunity to complete the project.
“This has been my baby,” he said. “I designed it and I want to see it out…it is my going away present… I want it to be my last hoorah, my last gift to the Air Force.”
Turner commented on the significance of the tail design and its role in the Viper Out ceremony.
“This is the last that Hill will see the F-16, so [spectators] should see it and give it respect,” he said. The tail “shows that we have done our 38 years of flying and missions and maintenance. It shows that Hill was honored to do so. Even though we are transitioning to the F-35, the F-16 isn’t going away unsung.”
Delaware hopes his design on the aircraft invokes a sense of pride.
“[The aircraft] represents 38 years and Hill AFB was the first combat-ready base,” he said. “The F-16 represents a lot and I hope [people] see the pride, dedication, and work that we have put into it.”
The 388th and 419th FWs’ Viper Out ceremony, commemorating 38 years of F-16 operations at Hill AFB, will be held Friday, Sept. 8. The ceremony begins at 1 p.m. in Hangar 37. Military dress is uniform of the day; civilians may dress in business casual attire.