Squadron Chronicle of the glorious 512 Tigers

 

THE BIRTH:

After the Tactical Reconnaissance Wing 51 "Immelmann" was put into commission and the airfield Jagel was handed over from the Navy to the Air Force there came the time when the 2. Reconnaissance Squadron awake to life. The building of the old 2. Navy Squadron became home of the 512 Tigers and in summer 1994 it was renovated with big engagement by the future squadron members.

Lieutenant-Colonel Jürgen Artis, who already served the Staff Flying Group for building up the Recce Wing, was also mainly involved preparing the squadron for service. The offices were painted and equipped. The heart of the squadron, the Tiger-Bar was built up in own effort and was to be opened on the day of the squadron commissioning. The 26.08.1994 was intended for this event. In front of the gathered squadron members the Commander Flying Group, Lieutenant Colonel Arnim Haase, gave the order to put the second squadron into commission. The first Squadron Commander of the 512 in Jagel received the order: Jürgen Artis.

Everybody expected a thorough official opening of the squadron bar, but when the first members arrived in “their” squadron, there was waiting a special surprise for them. Offhand the “First” (squadron) quartered a young pig in the squadron building. Not only that the entrance hall was straw-covered but also the fresh-painted walls were smeared with pig shit. Promptly the young pig got the name “Bernie” and the 511 Squadron Commander had a pink namesake. Bernie (the pig) was reared by an adjacent farmer and fell a victim of the party temper of our squadron on the next “Schlachtfest”.

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SEARCHING FOR GRAVES:

In September 1994 the squadron had to fly special missions:
Inside the military training area Altengrabow, which was in possession of the Russian Armed Forces until summer 1994, dead bodies were assumed to be buried. End of world-war II there had been established a POW-camp in that area and about 100 Italian soldiers died between 1946 and 1949 who were buried there. Now these dead bodies had to be found.

The second squadron flew over that area and covered it with their infrared-sensors. Subsequently the films were exploited in the Recce Ground Station and the exact position of the mass graves was discovered. Not later than three weeks after that the dead bodies found their last resting-places on a soldiers’ cemetery nearby Udine / Italy.

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FLOOD FLIGHTS:

Quickly it was rumoured that the Tactical Reconnaissance Wing 51 “I” was able to do more than flying purely military tactical reconnaissance. On a Friday in Autumn the staff Flying Group discussed the option to support the Federal Agency For Water Management. In a request for administrative cooperation the TRW was asked to take pictures of the flooded areas of river Rhine and Mosel.

At an altitude of 1500 feet the 512-crews and their tornados broke through the clouds nearby Koblenz and took some shots of the “Deutsche Eck” or at least of that, what stood out from the water. The missions went on for almost one week and the Federal Agency was able to evaluate the recorded films. So they were able to determine at which positions reserved flooding basins had to be planned to avoid these disastrous effects in future.

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MISSION OVER BOSNIA:

Spring 1995: First preparations were made for deploying a contingent to Italy. Tactical Recce was requested by UNPROFOR. The leadership of the TRW tried to hush with the words:”…for now everything is business as usual, let’s drink a beer and wait what next week might bring.” But the 512 prepared as well.
In summer things came true as predicted and as prepared. The TRW 51 “I” deployed with six Tornados to Piacenza in Italy.

The former commodore colonel Eckard Sowada poured oil on troubled water by promising: “You ‘re all back home by Christmas.” But it became Christmas 2001 until his promise came true, but more about that later on. In the beginning of UNPROFOR all flyers from Jagel were highly motivated, but they were not allowed to take off. Bosnia was reconnoitred by the Americans with their drones (UAV’s) at that time, and the Recces were not allowed to fly over Italy either. Some ECR-guys from Lechfeld started to call for a reason, why the recces were in Italy, they seemed to be more or less useless at that time. But when the first training flights over Italy were granted the morale of the recce-troops became excellent. As the situation over Bosnia suddenly tapered and the Americans lost two Predators (UAV’s) in short sequence, the Recces from Jagel attracted the attention.

They were sent to the operational area and they made excellent pictures. Crews of the 512 had their share. The unit rep of the 51 TRW in the CAOC in Vicenza was most popular and the pictures were in demand. 30th of August 1995 a French Mirage was shot down over Bosnia and the crew was reported missing since then. The Serbs pretended not to know anything about the Mirage-pilots. When LTC Jürgen Artis, squadron commander of the 512, was on a mission over Bosnia and started a turn, his WSO made some opportunity shots with the cameras. They covered a forest area close to the border of Serbia.
A soldier of the exploitation team of the TRW 51”I” who evaluated the film until late night discovered an unusual point in that forest area. By closer examination it turned out to be the hiding-place of the French aircrew. Negotiations were opened and the aircrew could be redeemed of Serbian captivity. In the following years 1996 until 1998 the situation on the Balkan eased. The Dayton peace treaty was to be supervised by the North-German Recces. Piacenza was routine for the squadron members. Two or three times per year, sometimes even more often, the squadron members were detached to Piacenza, flew there and enjoyed the outstanding hospitality of the Italian people.

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FIRST AND SECOND SQUADRON HANDOVER:

Nameable highlights in the first years were the squadron-handovers. On 31st of July 1996 LTC Artis handed over the 512 Tigers to his former Senior Operations Officer “Rudi” Ossmann. But already on 30th of September 1998 also Rudi, the former Bremgardener, had to clear the chair for a younger squadron commander. LTC Rudi Ossman handed over his squadron to Major “Sepp” Ehrenreich, formerly known as the Operations Officer of the “Chickensquadron” 511. It seemed, this was not to be an easy task for Sepp, but the squadron and he grew together quickly.

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WAR IN KOSOVO:

End of the Year 1998 the situation on the Balkan tapered again. President Milosevic didn’t want the Kosovo to be separated from Serbia. He took military action against the Albanians, offers for negotiations and threats of the whole westerly world stay unheard or were rejected by the Serbian leader.

On 24th of March 1999 NATO attacked Serbia. German Recces were on station in Piacenza, but didn’t fly, they supported the Lechfeld ECRs’ wherever possible. A week later the Recce-Tornados were send back to Schleswig and were set on a 72 hours-readiness state to vacantness parking slots for more ECR-Tornados.

On 26th of April 1999 the Squadron Commander Sepp Ehrenreich called together his 512. Five aircrews were listed out of 511, 512 and staff, who flew to Piacenza one day later. Mission: Recce-flights over the Kosovo and Serbia. All participants, including the leaders, felt uneasy thinking about these orders, but the job had to be done.

The first pictures of destroyed villages in the Kosovo as well as important military targets were shot by an aircrew of the 512 Tigers and copies were also sent to the National Branch in Vicenza. Fortunately all missions were flown without incidents and the crisis was brought to an end more than 70 days later.

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SWEDISH SQUADRON - VISITORS FROM SCANDINAVIA:

Beginning of September 1999 a Swedish Squadron from Aengelholm visited the 512 with Saab Viggens. Joint flights and leisure activities made this squadron exchange to a real enjoyment for both parties. A visit in Sweden in the year 2000 was not planned because the Swedish Squadron was to be disbanded.

With the first working day in the year 2000 the squadron developed a new tradition for the 512. A funny troop started out to “Boßel” from the Non-Commissioned Officers Club, but about 2 hours later they were under cooled and could not finish their trip through the town of Kropp to the destination, due to some orientation problems after fighting the cold and the dehydration with seasonal fluids, like “Glühwein”.

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HELLAS - SQUADRON EXCHANGE IN GREECE:

In Summer 2000 the 512 participated in a squadron exchange with Araxos in Greece. The “bald heads” reported back with their new haircut they decided to wear in Southern Europe. Some results of this squadron exchange are still visible. There are people with nametags in Cyrillic letters or with the widest centre parting between Denmark and “Mittelfranken”.

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LATE REWARD FOR RISKING LIFE AND LIMB:

On 20th of June 2000, one year after end of Kosovo war, the aircrews, who flew during Allied Force over the Kosovo and Serbia, received the medal for the operation. General Back performed the distinction during a parade.

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AT THE GAULS - EXERCISE “ODAX 2001” IN REIMS:

In April 2001 the 512 squadron deployed with a contingent to Reims. Besides the squadron exchange with the French it was intended to participate at the exercise ODAX 2001. The return visit of the Mirage-pilots was cancelled, because after the 11th of September, the French hat to plan their deployment to Afghanistan.

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RETURN FROM ITALY:

On 27th of July 2001 the Combat Wing 1 in Piacenza flew its last SFOR-mission and on 30th of July the Recce-Tornados redeployed to Jagel. After six years of deployment the squadrons were completely back home. In the summer, during GAFTIC 2001, the squadron bar of the 512 received a new outfit. Committed handicraft enthusiasts removed the old relict and designed a new bar (until today we are waiting for the funny footrests, Schicki!).

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SEPTEMBER 11TH AND ONE MORE SQUADRON HANDOVER:

The attack on the World Trade Centre on 11th of September 2001 shocked the Tigers. A visit to an airshow in the USA was cancelled, the GAFTIC deployment had to stay on ground and had to host the aircraft diverting to Canada. Nevertheless the second Goose-Bay-detachment deployed as planned.

That’s the reason why those members could not participate to the squadron handover from Major Sepp Ehrenreich to Major Ulf Schorling. Nevertheless Ulf assumed the squadron leadership on the 1st of October 2001. Finally there was another “Boßel”-event in December 2001: The short distance from the simulator to the destination “512 squadron” was not sufficient to acquire the proper technique; on the contrary: All participants were happy, that they found the destination at all. However in the end nobody was displeased with the result: Two empty buckets of “Punsch” and several empty boxes of beer.

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THE 5TH OF DECEMBER - AN IMPORTANT DAY:

The year 2002 was also very eventful for the squadron. In early summer the ability to deploy the two squadrons operationally was examined in Jever. Not really enjoyable but the result was convincing. In spring of that year the squadron members decided that all new 512-members (Youngsters) had to earn their squadron-patches with imagination, diligence and devotion. By showing this effort they will earn a certain amount of points, resembling the number appearing in the squadron patch. On the 5.12. of 2002 the first new fellow was knighted to a full member by the squadron commander after showing a convincing performance of a recce-mission.

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233 SQUADRON OF FRANCE VISITING SCHLESWIG:

Finally they made it; in the year 2003 pilots and supporting personal of the 233 squadron “Savoie” from Reims (France) visited the 512 Tigers in Schleswig despite of adverse meteorological conditions. Due to very bad weather there were only a few joint missions but nevertheless the French participants had lots of fun. They invited to a “French evening” and they showed that they are really able to party remarkably (ouch).

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