Gorillas of the Past

A week-long reunion of former and current members of the 58th Fighter Squadron at Eglin AFB, Fla., enabled the airmen, who will see the end of the F-15 unit as an operational squadron as it gives way to the base’s new F-35 joint training mission. From June 14-20, airmen of the unit known as the Gorillas recalled the unit’s combat successes, including the fact that it was the top scoring unit in 1991’s Operation Desert Storm. Lt. Col. Mark O’Laughlin, 58th FS commander, said: “We had 16 kills in Desert Storm, the most of any fighter squadron in the Air Force. Gorillas lead the way in air superiority.” Attending the reunion was retired Col. Cesar Rodriquez, who scored two of the Desert Storm victories and another during Operation Allied Force over Kosovo in 1999, giving him a total of three (only one other present-day fighter pilot has that distinction—Capt. Robert Wright scored three in an F-16 during 1994’s Operation Deny Flight over Bosnia). Rodriquez commented on “the unique relationship with young fighter pilots to be the best and to live up to tradition.” The unit got its start just before World War II as the 58th Pursuit Squadron, and it was during operations in the Mediterranean that it earned the nickname “Gorillas.” (Eglin report by Chrissy Cuttita; 58th FS fact sheet)