Flying Squadron’s F-16 finally arrives

Published 8:19 pm Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The smile on his face and the twinkle in his eyes were unmistakable as he talked.

“Several of us went up on Friday morning, and the rest came up Friday night,” C.J. Faulk of Highland Home said, referring to the solid grey F-16 fighter jet parked in the upper parking lot at Highland Home School.

“We got back Saturday evening with it, and then came back Sunday afternoon around 2 and put it back together. Now, we’re getting it ready to paint.”

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Faulk is referring to a dream that, for many in Highland Home, is now coming true. For years, the word has been in the air that the community wanted a plane on the school’s campus, and HHS Principal Joseph Eiland knows firsthand that this is true.

“The morning after I was named principal, I walked into the school and the first thing I was met with was, ‘We’re trying to get a plane—When is it going to get here?’”

Eiland explained that even though everyone wanted a plane at the school, there was an enormous amount of paperwork and bureaucratic red tape to go through in order to finally get it. Finally, with the help of Rep. Charles Newton and several others in the community, things began to move, and last spring, Eiland received the call that an F-16 was available to be donated to the school.

“This whole experience shows what the Highland Home community is really made of,” he said. “We still had construction going on at the beginning of this school year and then the plane needed to be brought here. The next thing I knew, Carl Massey connected with Rep. Newton, and Mr. C. J. Faulk and his construction company then got the ball rolling to get that plane put in place.”

Eiland said that “not a dime” was being spent by the Crenshaw County Board of Education for this project. It was all being done by volunteers.

Eiland also wanted to thank Superintendent Kathi Wallace for the work she had done in the project.

The F-16 fighter jet came from Ft. McClellan in Anniston, Ala., and was flown in 1992 during Desert Storm. After the plane was dismantled in Anniston for the trip to its new home, two large American flags were flown on the back of the trailer all the way back to Highland Home.

The Crenshaw County High School Panthers

After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and the United States entered World War II, information from an old yearbook stated that the school’s entire football team was called for active duty, thus having to end football at the school from 1942 to around 1946 or 1947. During the war, people in the neighborhood selected a spotter, or lookout, to watch for French airplanes to fly over. It was reported that on one particular day, a spotter saw approximately 15 planes fly over, which was the most he had ever seen before. He ran to the school and called out to the football coach to look in the sky.

When the coach saw all the planes, he said, “That’s a whole squadron of them!”

After the war was over, the school, which was formerly known as the Crenshaw County High School Panthers, began to put the football team back together. The decision was then made to change the team’s mascot to the Flying Squadron since the local men who had been at war were involved in the airborne division.

A dream comes true

The F-16 fighter jet will be painted grey with some HHS blue added, and some decaling is being done now, including adding the HHS school crest and “Highland Home Flying Squadron” on the jet’s tail. When everything is completed, it will be mounted on the tall white platform for its final resting place.

“We’ve waited 41 years for this plane,” C.J. Faulk said, smiling softly.