Air Force Total Force Integration Plan

An old name and a famous paint scheme are returning to the skies above central Alabama.

The commanding general of the Air Force is reactivating the 100th Fighter Squadron as part of Montgomery's 187th Air National Guard Wing.

The 100th Fighter Squadron was the unit the Tuskegee Airmen flew with in World War II.

And now, more than 60 years later, integration is bringing back the 100th.

It stands the proudest rooster in the yard - a vivid red tail on a modern Air Force F-16. And soon, central Alabamians will see the red tail a lot more often.

"We intend to re designate the 160th Fighter Squadron out at Dannelly, which is part of the air National Guard's 187th Wing, in honor of the famous 100th squadron of the Tuskegee Airmen," said Air Force Chief of Staff Michael Moseley.

The news brought a smile one old pilot's face. Walter Palmer's airplanes carried the same red tail when he flew in World War II with the Tuskegee Airmen.

"I saw combat in the P-39, the P-47 and the P-51," said Palmer.

The Air Force said it brought back the old designation to increase combat readiness. Nowadays, when the air force talks about integration, it's not referring to race, but bringing together National Guardsmen with reserve and regular air force airmen. The idea is to increase efficiency.

"It means that wing could take an aerospace expeditionary force rotation as a wing itself and not have to combine with other wings as we do now," said Lieutenant General Craig McKinley, the National Director of the Air National Guard.

Montgomery's air guard unit will add six more F-16s to the 18 it currently has, and with them about 150 more people. Governor Bob Riley says that provides security to keep the 187th as an active unit here in Alabama.

I was going to say it's a red letter day for Alabama, but it's not. It's a red tail day, folks," said Governor Riley.

Which pleases the old Tuskegee pilot...even more.

"At least we know the squadron will stay on permanently," said Palmer.

Both Governor Riley and Senator Jeff Sessions are trying to make sure of that permanent status. They're pushing for the Air Force to provide the 187th with the newest plane in the inventory - the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. General Moseley wouldn't commit to that - saying the plane isn't fully deployed yet.

In the past, the 187th Fighter Squadron has provided air support in both Gulf Wars and in the no-fly zones.

Air Force commanding general Michael Mosely wouldn't say if he expected to provide more no-fly zone aircraft when the United States leaves Iraq sometime in 2008 or 2009, but says if the president ordered such a plan, the Air Force - and the 187th would be ready to go.