FORT WORTH, Texas --
Mr. Robert Klint is a familiar face to many of the 301st Fighter Wing Reserve Citizen Airmen. Klint, who is one of the wing’s 17 civic leaders selected to serve in the honorary commanders program for 2020–2022 term*, has made history by becoming the program’s first honorary command chief. What one may not know is how history brought Klint to the 301st Fighter Wing.
Klint was originally selected for induction into the 301st Fighter Wing Honorary Commanders Program from 2018-2020 where he served as the 355th Fighter Squadron honorary commander, the wing’s active-associate unit. Klint recalled his introduction to the program.
“I was surprised when the 355 FS commander invited me to come out to visit with him,” he said. “I was told they were looking at possible honorary commander candidates. I knew about the 457th Fighter Squadron [here] but was unfamiliar with the 355 FS. I researched their history and discovered they flew escort missions for the 303d Bomb Group during WWII—the group my father was in.”
Klint’s father, Wilbur ‘Bud’ Klint, was a WWII B-17 bomber pilot who served and accomplished more than 20 aerial combat missions under the 303rd Bomb Wing between August 16, 1943 and February 20, 1944. Many of these missions have been documented in multiple publications and lauded in the aviation community for their success during a major U.S. war.
‘Bud’ passed away in 2009. The legacy his father left him lasts to this day. Klint explained how he felt even more inclined to enter the honorary commanders program in order to be surrounded by the military family, which his father loved and told many of his experiences through life lessons over Robert’s childhood.
“It is important to me and my family to be involved with our Airmen because of the support my father, a WWII veteran, had when he served,” says Klint. “Visiting one-on-one with the Airmen makes me feel good and I was happy to provide them a different mentorship support avenue than those they traditionally get in the military.”
Compassion, duty and an appreciation for life and for others are also values that resonate with him.
“My father mentioned how he was always grateful for what he called the ‘little buddies’; his 355th Fighter Squadron escorts during his missions,” Klint reflects. “My dad always talked about the relief he felt as the fighter escorts drove off those enemy aircraft and how he constantly reminded us that it takes a whole team effort in war.”
In September of 2019, the 355 FS was deactivated and has now since re-activated at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska on Dec 21 as an F-35A Lightning II unit. The 24th Fighter Squadron was activated, after 75 years of inactivation, on Oct 25 and replaced the 355th as the active-associate to the 301st Fighter Wing, while supporting the Air Force-wide initiative of Total-Force Integration. Klint also made the transition and supported the 24 FS until he completed his two-year term.
Currently, Klint serves along-side 301 FW Command Chief Master Sergeant Mike ‘Speedy’ Senigo as his honorary commander. He gets a different look at the 301 FW Airmen from the perspective of the highest ranked enlisted member’s perspective.
“It is a tremendous honor to serve as the first honorary command chief,” says Klint. “I have an opportunity to get a bigger and wider vision of what goes in on within the mission; seeing leadership operate at the top and my experience has helped me to communicate better information with my fellow community members.”
The honorary commander program aims to foster relationships between the wing and the community members it serves. The goal is to improve communication through education, experiences and getting to know the wing’s Airmen.
“I am impressed to see the amount of dedication our Airmen have to their job and when it’s fight time; they are all in,” says Klint. “It doesn’t matter what it is or where they were going. I have witnessed Airmen have this incredible spirit and the drive to accomplish their mission; I am grateful to witness it first-hand.”
Klint concluded with a final reflection.
“As I look at the Airmen serving today, I can see [it]… aligning themselves with a great team and working together to accomplish everyday missions,” says Klint. “I can’t help but think that if not for the team effort between the 355th Fighter Squadron and 303rd Bomb Wing, my dad would not have made it home and I will be forever grateful to the 355th for that.”
Editor’s Note: In addition to this publication, a 3-part video documentary-series is expected to be produced and released in the upcoming months to document, along with highlight stories told by WWII veteran Lt. Klint.
* The program pairs civic leaders with various wing units in order to demonstrate their respective missions while aiming to enhance relationships between the Reservists and their local community. Candidates for the program must be nominated by previous honorary commanders or wing, group or squadron leadership and then selected by the wing commander.