A Knights Tale: The 308th Honors Heritage

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Elias Carrero
  • 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

“Service is everything,” said retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. David Kling. “My son in law, his father and I served together here at Luke.”

In 1952, Kling joined the Air Force at 18 to become an aerial photographer. Fast forward to 2024, he celebrated his 90th birthday with a tour of his old fighter squadron, the 308th Emerald Knights.

“It is a privilege for us to be able to honor Lt. Col. Kling during this visit,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brett Black, 308th Fighter Squadron commander. “We get the extremely rare opportunity to hear stories from someone who flew as part of the 308th FS in combat during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam and who trained fighter pilots at Luke in the 1960s.”

As one of the oldest living alumni of the 308th FS, Kling had many stories to share with his fellow Emerald Knights. From his journey as an aerial photographer to a pilot in the 1950’s, to his time rooming next to Johnny Cash while in Korea, to his time as the wing commander’s instructor pilot at Luke AFB, Kling shared his story with about 30 members of the 308th.

However, it was not just members of the Emerald Knights that came out to support the retired pilot. During his visit, Kling was surrounded by over 20 family members, seven of which have served or are currently serving in the armed forces.

“I really appreciate the hospitality extended to me and my family by Lt. Col. Brett “Jack” Black and the 308 FS,” said Kling. “The Knights went above and beyond! It made a special day even more special for us all. The best parts of my career were the two assignments as instructor pilot at Luke and the year I spent in Vietnam. At Luke, I was able to develop my flying skills by teaching young lieutenants how to employ the F-100 in combat and then apply them in Vietnam.”

Families with a strong history of service, like Kling’s family, are a shining example of how one’s dedication can have an impact on those who come after. One member of Kling’s family went on to speak about how their “Pop Pop’s” selfless nature has helped shape and guide their extended family for years. 

“Heritage is important to the 308th FS and the Air Force because it unites us around culture and traditions,” said Black. “It builds pride in the unit and reminds us that we stand on the shoulders of those that have served before us.”

Of the 152 fighter squadrons ever active in U.S. Air Force history, the 308th FS is the 10th most highly decorated unit. Throughout his time at Luke, not only did Kling help build that history and impact a generation of Airmen, he has also impacted several more through his family.