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NEWS | May 16, 2022

173rd Fighter Wing crew chief pays homage to Choctaw lineage

By Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson, 173rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – An F-15C crew chief’s quest to honor military tradition and his Native American heritage paid off with commemorative painting on the aircraft nose, as well as a visit from a tribal chief.

“When I became the crew chief in 2016, it didn’t have any nose art,” Oregon Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Robert Holster said of his aircraft. “I took the opportunity — to not only honor military tradition but also honor my heritage as a Choctaw Native American — to honor the Choctaw Code Talkers.”

Holster is Choctaw and traces his lineage to the Native American Choctaw Tribe, which today is a sovereign nation in Eastern Oklahoma. 

Many are familiar with the Navajo Code Talkers during WWII, but the first use of code talking dates to WWI, when the Choctaw language provided a means to keep the Germans from knowing the location and movements of American and allied troops.

The Germans were able to intercept and translate any radio communications to the front lines and used that advantage to shell Soldiers’ locations repeatedly. After placing six Choctaw code talkers into service, the shelling stopped, showing that although they could intercept telephone and radio communications, they could not translate them.

The moniker Telephone Warriors was adopted, and a military patch was designed to commemorate them.

“The symbol was an arrow with a ‘T’ in it, and that was for the telephone warriors,” Holster said. That patch persists today and is worn on 36th Infantry Division uniforms.

Holster reached out to the head of the Choctaw Nation, Chief Gary Batton, to participate in the nose art dedication ceremony at Kingsley Field. To his surprise, he agreed.

“I was speechless; they came because I asked them to,” Holster said about the visit by Batton and several others.

During his remarks at the dedication, Batton said he’s proud of the service so many Choctaw people render to the U.S. military.

“We want to do our part as Americans to protect our homeland,” the chief said. He praised the Code Talkers for “the great impact they had in ending World War I and the great service that they did for our country.”

The nose art emblazoned on the fuselage of F-15 Eagle aircraft 82-0046 is the arrowhead shape, with a painting of the original Choctaw Code Talkers during WWI with tribal feathers.

There it will stay, representing the contributions of the Choctaw people and the lineage of its Eagle Keeper, Staff Sgt. Robert Holster.