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A-10 pilots remember the fallen before Hawgsmoke

Posted at 11:51 PM, Jun 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-02 02:51:29-04

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - This week, pilots from Air Force bases around the country descended on Tucson for the 2016 Hawgsmoke competition.

It is a tactical gunnery and bombing competition between A-10 squadrons. It is a biennial gathering, this is the 8th and third straight year it has been held at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. The winner of the previous year hosts.

Before pilots take to the air and compete, airmen gather to remember fallen A-10 pilots. It is the first thing they do at every Hawgsmoke competition.

"It is a somber memorial that we give at the beginning of the Hawgsmoke for those pilots that have gone before us," said Lt. Col. Brett Waring.

"Some of those are combat fatalities, some of those are pilots that lost the battle with cancer, some of those are pilots that went down in training accidents," he added.

The last A-10 shot down in combat was in 2003, but each year more names are added to the list. In 2016, four more names were called in a roll call.

"They will obviously not be here and the reply is 'absent'," said Waring.

Every fallen A-10 pilot's name is eventually read off. It is followed by a flyover of in the missing man formation. Four A-10s fly over the ceremony, but one pulls away from the group leaving a hole in the middle of the formation.

Ceremonies conclude with a whisky shot for each pilot in attendance. They take the shot, toast to pilots who have passed, and smash the shot glass in a fire pit.

Competition begins on Thursday and takes place over two days. It includes team and individual scoring of straffing, high-altitude dive-bombing, 30-degree dive-bombing, low-angle high-delivery, Maverick missile precision, and team tactics.

The 47th Fighter Squadron won in 2014.