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Hollandia: Fortune favors the bold

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- -- History, heritage and tradition are all words the military cherishes, including the 80th Fighter Squadron, known as the "Juvats." 

  The name Juvat is from their squadron's motto: "Audentes Fortuna Juvat," or Fortune Favors the Bold. That boldness can be seen throughout their history, whether it was during Vietnam flying F-4s or World War II flying P-38 Lightnings. 

  Juvats remember their heritage through songs, burning pianos and in the most recent example, an event called "Hollandia." 

  In the skies above Hollandia, Papua New Guinea, April - May 1944, 80th Fighter Squadron P-38s raced across the sky chasing down Japanese fighter aircraft as American bombers laid waste to airfields Gen. Douglas MacArthur wanted to take control of there. 

  It was apart of "Operation Reckless," and it was four days of operation the 80th Fighter Squadron hasn't forgotten to this day. 

  "The pilots flew outstanding missions, and all 26 aircraft were at their peak with all 26 P-38s participated in the action, performing at least three missions per day, for all 4 days," wrote Retired Col. Jay "Jay Bird" Riedel in his book 80th Fighter Squadron History published March 7, 1996. 

  During those four days they shot down 33 enemy aircraft without a single loss taken. 

  They became the first American fighter squadron to ever score more than 200 kills. During those four days hero's such as Maj. Dick Bong scored his 26th, 27th and 28th kills, surpassing the lead fighter ace at that time, Eddie Rickenbacker and became the new U.S. "Ace of Aces." 

  It's a lot to live up to, but each year they try during an annual, two week air-to-air training event they conduct in celebration of their success during World War II. 

  Each year they invite different squadrons from the Department of Defense to fight them. Some years, like 2003, the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 212 from Iwakuni, Japan came, fought and learned the Juvats mean business. 

  For Hollandia this year, held May 7 - 18, the Juvats sent the invites but the other services couldn't come because of budget cuts. So they went to other Air Force units and successfully challenged A-10s from the 25th FS from Osan Air Base, F-16s from the 35th FS here and C-130s from the 36th Airlift Squadron from Yokota AB, Japan. 

  Throughout the event, the fighter and airlift squadrons would air fight different scenarios. An example would be the F-16s would be charged with guarding a certain point, and the A-10s would have to try to come in and attack it. Other scenarios could include having to attack or defend the C-130s to prevent them from completing their missions. 

  Each squadron would be briefed on the general scenario, but the pilots would have to come up with their plan of attack and try to conduct it successfully. 

  "Although A-10's and C-130's are not traditionally recognized for their air to air prowess, both aircraft have unique air-to-air capabilities that pose challenges our pilots must overcome," said Capt. Chad Lewis, 80th Fighter Squadron weapons officer. "It's invaluable for our young pilots, as they learn to fight other aircraft they are not familiar with and fly at significantly slower airspeeds." 

  According to official Air Force fact sheets, the A-10 flies around 420 miles per hour, while the F-16 normally flies more than three times faster than that - 1,500 miles per hour. 

  "It's definitely a challenge to get the kill," said 1st Lt. Josh Dorr, an electronic combat pilot with the 80th FS and also a new pilot - this is his first assignment after pilot training. "They fly a lot slower and are very maneuverable at those slower speeds." 

  They have different offensive and defensive techniques they employ that make getting them very challenging" the lieutenant said. 

  He said the pilots found it interesting to see how the A-10s would try to lure them down low and slow in their territory so they could take the advantage. They had to find ways to prevent it and turn the tide in their favor. 

  "It was very challenging and good training," he said. "This is a great first assignment and a great tradition to uphold." 

  Although Hollandia only lasts a few weeks a year, the heritage and traditions of the 80th FS live in everyone assigned daily, "it's engrained into everything we do," Lt. Dorr said. "You can talk to anybody and I doubt you'll find a former Juvat that doesn't know our history."