By Staff Sgt. Patrice Clarke
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
The 50th Space Wing has a storied legacy. The 50 SW and its predecessors trace their history back to 1941 when the 50th Pursuit Group activated at Selfridge Field, Mich. During World War II, the group served at a number of European bases from which crews flew fighter, escort and bombing missions. Crews of the 50th Fighter Group also participated in the D-Day invasion and the Battle of the Bulge.
During the Cold War, now called the 50th Tactical Fighter Wing, the fighter group served primarily at Hahn Air Base, Germany, operating a number of weapons systems including the F-84 Thunderjet, F-4 Phantom and the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
But, Capt. Sean “Dirt” Ianacone, doesn’t really remember any of this. He just remembers looking up to his dad, (then) Maj. Bruce “Rooster” Ianacone, who was the chief of the 50th Tactical Fighter Wing’s Weapons and Tactics Division.
Recently, Ianacone followed in his father’s footsteps becoming the 50th Space Wing’s Weapons and Tactics Flight commander, more than 30 years after his dad held the same position.
According to Bruce, the 50 TFW was a unit that any member of the Air Force would be proud to call home.
“The 50 TFW was always on the leading edge of offensive air capability,” said the senior Ianacone. “At Hahn we flew every single tactical mission: air-to-air combat, offensive counter-air, precision air-to-ground with the maverick missile (wire/television guided) and laser guided bombs, battlefield air interdiction (a new concept being implemented when I was chief, weapons and tactics division), and nuclear strike.”
Besides, acquiring the call sign “Rooster,” Bruce, had many successes at Hahn. He earned the Wing Top Gun honors four times, recognized by 17th Air Force as the Top Aircraft Commander twice and his best accomplishment, the birth of his son.
“He was born at Hahn, the 50 TFW, he was somewhat predestined to follow in my footsteps,” said Bruce.
Sean’s memories of Hahn are those of a very young child in a family-oriented unit.
“It doesn’t occur to you as a child, but now that I think back on it, the unit was always close,” said Sean. “Whether it was holidays or squadron picnics, I remember always being around his coworkers. It was a family.”
Sean recalled a holiday season where they would dress up Santa and put him in the navigator’s spot of the F-4 and have all the families on the flightline to welcome Santa when he landed.
“They would land and Santa would hop down and someone would hand him a bag of presents to pass out to everyone,” he said.
Sean’s first example of an Air Force officer was his dad, but he and his brothers were free to pursue their dreams.
“I have vivid childhood memories of watching F-16s fly over our village in tactical formation,” he said. “Growing up, I always wanted to be a fighter pilot, but was never forced to explore a career in the Air Force. As my borther and I began to mature and understand the importance of our father and gradfathers’s service to the country, it seemed like the natural progression to become third generation Air Force officers.”
As a space operator, Sean knew he would at some point in his career end up at Schriever, but didn’t really put together the significance until later.
After attending the U.S. Air Force Weapons School and doing time in the 22nd Space Operations Squadron, Sean was recommended and appointed as the Weapons and Tactics Flight commander for the wing.
The senior Ianacone couldn’t be more proud of his son.
“It’s absolutely great, and it’s great that he earned the Weapons School patch, an accomplishment I never achieved,” said Bruce. “I was chosen to take the weapons and tactics job because of my flying successes and the kudos I received for leading the wing through a highly successful U.S. Air Forces in Europe standards and evaluation inspection while serving as acting chief of the division. Since I wasn’t a Fighter Weapons [School] grad, I was assigned with an entry-level duty Air Force Specialty Code, S1451.”
Lt. Col. Jack Fulmer, 50th Operations Support Squadron commander, Sean’s current commander said that Sean was the number one choice for the position.
“He is the type of officer with the personality traits needed to fill this position,” said Fulmer. “I believe he will take the foundation that the flight is currently on and build a stronger flight upon it.”
Fulmer also added that knowing that Ianacone’s father held this position previously sheds light on how much the 50th has had an impact throughout the years.
“To know that this wing has been a part of this family for so long and that the son is now holding the father’s position really shows the legacy that the 50th has throughout this family’s history and the history of the U.S. Air Force,” said Fulmer.
Bruce remembers the good times at the 50 TFW with one phrase, “Sierra Hotel,” and has short words of advice for the younger Ianacone and his new position.
“The only advice I have for him is to always strive to do your best, no matter what the task,” said Bruce. “The 50 TFW will always remain my best assignment in the Air Force and I hope Sean will look back on his time at 50 SW and say the same thing.”