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Airmen from the 8th Fighter Wing in South Korea celebrate a legendary former commander every March by growing "Robin Olds mustaches," named after the famed fighter ace and his signature facial hair.
Airmen from the 8th Fighter Wing in South Korea celebrate a legendary former commander every March by growing "Robin Olds mustaches," named after the famed fighter ace and his signature facial hair. (Marcus Fichtl/Stars and Stripes)
Airmen from the 8th Fighter Wing in South Korea celebrate a legendary former commander every March by growing "Robin Olds mustaches," named after the famed fighter ace and his signature facial hair.
Airmen from the 8th Fighter Wing in South Korea celebrate a legendary former commander every March by growing "Robin Olds mustaches," named after the famed fighter ace and his signature facial hair. (Marcus Fichtl/Stars and Stripes)
1st Lt. Phillip Norman of the 8th Civil Engineer Squadron, 8th Fighter Wing displays his mustache at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Tuesday, March 27, 2018.
1st Lt. Phillip Norman of the 8th Civil Engineer Squadron, 8th Fighter Wing displays his mustache at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Tuesday, March 27, 2018. (Marcus Fichtl/Stars and Stripes)
Senior Airman Adam Clapp of the 8th Operations Support Squadron, 8th Fighter Wing displays his mustache at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Tuesday, March 27, 2018.
Senior Airman Adam Clapp of the 8th Operations Support Squadron, 8th Fighter Wing displays his mustache at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Tuesday, March 27, 2018. (Marcus Fichtl/Stars and Stripes)
Maj. John Jarzabek of the 8th Communications Squadron, 8th Fighter Wing displays his mustache at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Tuesday, March 27, 2018.
Maj. John Jarzabek of the 8th Communications Squadron, 8th Fighter Wing displays his mustache at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Tuesday, March 27, 2018. (Marcus Fichtl/Stars and Stripes)
Lt. Col. John Roberts of the 8th Mission Support Group, 8th Fighter Wing displays his mustache at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Tuesday, March 27, 2018.
Lt. Col. John Roberts of the 8th Mission Support Group, 8th Fighter Wing displays his mustache at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Tuesday, March 27, 2018. (Marcus Fichtl/Stars and Stripes)
Justin Shetter of the 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 8th Fighter Wing displays his mustache at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Tuesday, March 27, 2018.
Justin Shetter of the 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 8th Fighter Wing displays his mustache at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Tuesday, March 27, 2018. (Marcus Fichtl/Stars and Stripes)
Senior Airman Steffan Sullivan of the 8th Operations Support Squadron, 8th Fighter Wing shows off his mustache at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Tuesday, March 27, 2018.
Senior Airman Steffan Sullivan of the 8th Operations Support Squadron, 8th Fighter Wing shows off his mustache at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Tuesday, March 27, 2018. (Marcus Fichtl/Stars and Stripes)
1st. Lt. Joe Demarzo of the 80th Fighter Squadron, 8th Fighter Wing displays his mustache at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Tuesday, March 27, 2018.
1st. Lt. Joe Demarzo of the 80th Fighter Squadron, 8th Fighter Wing displays his mustache at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Tuesday, March 27, 2018. (Marcus Fichtl/Stars and Stripes)
1st Lt. Chad Miles of the 8th Force Support Squadron, 8th Fighter Wing shows off his mustache at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Tuesday, March 27, 2018.
1st Lt. Chad Miles of the 8th Force Support Squadron, 8th Fighter Wing shows off his mustache at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Tuesday, March 27, 2018. (Marcus Fichtl/Stars and Stripes)
Lt. Col. Sila Pang of the 8th Force Support Squadron, 8th Fighter Wing shows off her mustache at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Tuesday, March 27, 2018.
Lt. Col. Sila Pang of the 8th Force Support Squadron, 8th Fighter Wing shows off her mustache at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Tuesday, March 27, 2018. (Marcus Fichtl/Stars and Stripes)
Col. Robin Olds, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing commander, inspects his F-4C Phantom before a mission in September 1967.
Col. Robin Olds, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing commander, inspects his F-4C Phantom before a mission in September 1967. (Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force)

KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — Some airmen in South Korea are celebrating a legendary former 8th Fighter Wing commander the way they do every March — by growing Robin Olds mustaches.

“It just grows on you,” 8th Mission Support Squadron deputy commander Lt. Col. John Roberts said before posing for a photo with his mustache Tuesday. He was standing in the Robin Olds room inside a bar just off Olds Avenue.

“I feel that I could probably take on the whole North Korean army myself right now,” said the 43-year-old from Los Angeles. “You are bulletproof once you grow a mustache — that’s straight from Robin Olds.”

A triple fighter ace, Olds scored his first dozen kills in the skies over Europe flying the P-38 Lighting and the P-51 Mustang during World War II. He was stateside during the Korean War but took command of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing in 1967, when its jets were being hammered by enemy MiG-21s during the Vietnam War.

Olds’ solution was Operation Bolo, where he disguised his F-4 Phantoms as bombers and lured the Vietnamese fighters into a trap. Bolo netted the wing seven kills and initiative in skies.

By the end of his tour, Olds had shot down four enemy jets and grown his distinctive handlebar mustache as an act of rebellion against the Air Force brass.

“It became the middle finger I couldn’t raise in the [public relations] photographs,” Olds once said. “The mustache became my silent last word in the verbal battles ... with higher headquarters on rules, targets and fighting the war.”

Olds’ “cockiness” and “we’re the best” attitude lingers over the 8th Fighter Wing, which came to Kunsan in 1974. Wolfpack airmen’s love of mustaches and pushing the envelope aren’t acts of defiance but rather a swagger, kicking up the base’s metaphorical guitar amp from 10 to 11.

“Nobody drills, nobody trains like Kunsan.” Roberts said. “Our main point here is to be ready to take the fight north to good ol’ Kim Jong Un.”

Kunsan is a time capsule of what the service used to be. People get to know each other here playing sports or mingling in packed squadron bars after work.

“This is how the Air Force was, I think, 20 to 30 years ago,” Roberts said. “It hasn’t changed here, that culture.”

It’s the sort of place where Olds would be at home, he said.

“If he was here, [he would probably be] out on the flight line hanging out with the enlisted crew,” Roberts said. “He’d be everywhere and anywhere but the Olds room until it was Friday night to throw back some beers.”

The first rule to growing out that signature Robin Olds “bulletproof” mustache?

“No. 1, don’t ever, ever trim it,” Roberts said.

fichtl.marcus@stripes.com Twitter: @MarcusFichtl

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