Tacticool

US pilots don retro ‘Saigon Cowboy’ hats during massive Asia wargame

It’s that time of year, folks.

Buckle your seatbelts and get ready from lots cool images to emerge of US troops in the sea, jungles and skies of Asia battling it out with their Pacific brethren in the latest installment of Cobra Gold.

Sponsored by the Thai and US military, Cobra Gold 2020 brings together around 30 countries with everything from bombers to fighters, SEALs to soldiers, cruisers to carriers and has served for nearly 40 years as a way to coordinate allied military operations in a vast swath of Asia.

Pilots from the US 25th Fighter Squadron wear
Pilots from the US 25th Fighter Squadron wear "Saigon Cowboy" hats commemorating their squadron's deployment to Thailand during Vietnam as they gear up for flights during Cobra Gold 2020. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Austin Fox)

Returning to a part of their Vietnam War lineage, the American 25th Fighter Squadron based in Osan Air Base, South Korea, went retro in this year’s Cobra Gold exercise, donning headwear that harkens back its deployment to Thailand when the squadron flew F-4 Phantoms in Southeast Asia.

[Read More: 5th Special Forces Group went old school with their tiger stripe uniforms during a training exercise]

The latest Pentagon videos coming out of the exercise show A-10 pilots from the 25th gearing up for a flight wearing so-called “Saigon Cowboy” hats, popularized by the fighter jocks of yore.

Vietnam badassery personified. 469th TFS pilots Capts. Bruce Holmes, (left to right) Will Koenitzer and William
Vietnam badassery personified. 469th TFS pilots Capts. Bruce Holmes, (left to right) Will Koenitzer and William "Bart" Barthelmas. Barthelmas was killed in action on July 27, 1965, on the first Air Force airstrike against North Vietnamese surface-to-air missile sites. (U.S. Air Force photo)

These wide-brimmed, cotton hats kept the blazing sun off the faces of U.S. fighter pilots on the hot ramps of Ubon and Udorn before missions. The pilots often festooned squadron patches and other unit designations on the flipped-up brims, giving them an OD Australian look to them.

Taking a page out of the 1960s book, some of the 21st century versions of the Saigon Cowboy hats feature the “Thailand” chevron attached to the brim.

And this isn’t the first time we’ve seen US units going old-school when it comes to highlighting their Vietnam heritage.

In August 2019 we spotted soldiers from the 5th Special Forces Group dropping simulated bad guys wearing Vietnam-era tiger stripe uniforms emblazoned with retro Special Force patches in blue and yellow.

Green Berets instruct Soldiers of C Troop, 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team on vehicle clearing procedures during a joint exercise on Fort Campbell (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Iman Broady-Chin)
Green Berets instruct Soldiers of C Troop, 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team on vehicle clearing procedures during a joint exercise on Fort Campbell (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Iman Broady-Chin)

It’s a seemingly small thing, but when US troops commemorate their previous badassery by wearing gear from their historic exploits, it’s always something that adds a little motivation to any exercise.

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