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Hunstanton Turnstone column: USAF 67th Special Operations Squadron which began at RAF Sculthorpe has change of command

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There was a significant change of command last Wednesday when Lt Col Jared M Williams handed over command of the USAF 67th Special Operations Squadron to Lt Col Michael W Bien, in a ceremony at RAF Mildenhall, presided over by Col Edmund X Loughran, Commander of the 752d Special Operations Group.

It is always sad when the friends you have made return to their homeland, but thanks to the internet it is easier to keep in touch these days than it was when the 67th began life at RAF Sculthorpe in 1952.

This reminds me of an initiative by Mr Lowery, my teacher at Hunstanton Primary School.

USAF flypast over Hunstanton on June 1.
USAF flypast over Hunstanton on June 1.

He identified schools in each state throughout the USA in towns with similar populations to our own, and invited them to provide a pen friend for each of us.

This was in the late 1940s, before our town came to be known as Little America!

One by one, letters began arriving from our American counterparts.

My allocated school was in Menomonie, Wisconsin, but when my friend Edgar received 30 replies to my none, I persuaded him to give me the address of his school in Nazareth Pennsylvania! This was how I ended up writing to Robert Lindsay, in Wisconsin, and Connie Toth, in Pennsylvania.

In both cases contact was eventually lost, but not before Connie was on her second marriage!

When my home town successfully twinned with the 67th SOS in 2016, it seemed as if Mr Lowery’s ambition to foster a better understanding between this country and the USA had finally been achieved.

It is now more than 10 years since RAF Flight Sergeant Mark Service introduced himself to me as the official historian of the USAF 67th SOS. He is now retired from the RAF, but in his capacity as an Honorary Commander of the 67th, he ensures that all new recruits arriving in this country are made fully aware of the squadron’s 70-year history and its special relationship with ‘Little America’.

On June 1, Lt Col Williams paid his respects by leading a formation of four Commando II aircraft over our town on their way back from an exercise.

While at ground level the following day, a small group of volunteers from the 67th gave Hunstanton’s south beach a thorough clean-up before the long weekend got underway.

Hopefully, this group will form the nucleus of a larger party, which will enter a float in the carnival at the end of June. This idea was certainly endorsed by the new town mayor, Maureen Howard, when she attended last week’s Change of Command ceremony, in a party of 17 from Hunstanton comprising four former mayors and the elected officers and committee members of Hunstanton and District Civic Society.

Another party, led by Ian Brown, Curator of RAF Sculthorpe Heritage Centre, was a reminder that the 67th was activated there in 1952 and the Heritage Centre is rapidly going from strength to strength.

John Maiden

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