Living dangerously on Goodfellow
By Dr. John Garrett, 17th Training Wing historian
/ Published August 15, 2008
GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
On the north wall of the Norma Brown Building is the historic emblem of the 17th Training Wing. Perched atop the emblem is the mythological griffin, a fearsome creature formed from an eagle and a lion to achieve the perfect union of agility and strength. The griffin is our mascot. In the scroll beneath the emblem is our motto, Toujours Au Danger - "Ever Into Danger," literally; or "Living Dangerously," in a looser translation.
If "Living Dangerously" is not the motto you normally would associate with a training base, that may be so because the motto did not originate on Goodfellow but moved here with the wing in 1993. At that time, the end of the cold war had left the United States needing a much smaller military force. A smaller force required fewer bases to support it and, organizationally, fewer units to hold it.
For the Air Force, as it set about eliminating excess bases through Base Realignment and Closure and eliminating excess wings through inactivations, it quickly became apparent that some of the wings it was standing down had an awful lot of important heritage associated with them.
"If we're not careful," then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Tony McPeak warned, "we'll whittle away at our legacy, we'll create a new kind of hollow Air Force - one that's lost its heritage, its heroes, its famous campaigns, its core values."
So the Air Force set about restoring its "most distinguished flags" by starting at the beginning. "We decided first to preserve our 13 oldest wings," McPeak explained.
One of these original 13 was the famous 17th. This was the unit that flew the daring Doolittle Raid in World War II. It was the first U.S. air unit to sink an enemy submarine during that war and was the first to sink subs along both U.S. coasts. It was one of its bombers, crippled during a mission, that inspired the well-known phrase, "Comin' in on a Wing and a Prayer."
As the celebrated "Black Knights" of the Korean War, it flew B-26 Invaders on nighttime interdiction missions smashing enemy trucks and trains. Later it flew B-52s on strategic alert and recorded one of the only two MiG kills ever made from a BUFF. In the 1980s it became the first and only TR-1 wing and provided strategic reconnaissance during Desert Storm before inactivating in 1991.
Arriving at Goodfellow two years later, the 17th Training Wing retained the bright yellow emblem with the distinctive column of black crosses. Recently, the wing painted that same bright yellow color on the bollards outside its gates and lined them with the same distinctive column of black crosses, reminding us every morning as we drive by these bollards on our way to work that, though we may not be "living dangerously" here on Goodfellow in the manner of Doolittle's Raiders, we nevertheless hail from the same organization, share the same heritage, and draw on the same core values as fellow members of the famous 17th.