The Early History of Hawgsmoke

Hawgsmoke was initially conceived by Col. Cliff Latta in 1996 who was the Operations Group Commander of the 110th Fighter Wing in Battle Creek Michigan and he was looking for a way to showcase his unit to the other Air National Guard A-10 units at the time.

The first Hawgsmoke was actually held in 1996 in conjunction with the annual Air National Guard A-10 Operations Group Commander meeting held in Battle Creek Michigan.  The winner of the event was the 175th Fighter Wing – Martin State, Maryland.  In return, 175th Fighter Wing was supposed to host the next competition at the next Operations Group Commander meeting. Their plaque still adorns the current Top Team Hawgsmoke trophy.

The first Hawgsmoke didn’t include many of the events we now consider as part of the competition as we know today. Formation flights were flown as 2-ships not 4-ships, there was no Crud and no reading of the Fallen A-10 pilots.  

In early 2000, when it was clear that Hawgsmoke might be forgotten and that the Air Force gunnery competition may also not be revived. Cliffy decided to reinvent Hawgsmoke to include every A-10 unit in the Air National Guard, Active Duty, and Air Force Reserves.  It helped that most A-10 Squadron and Wing commanders, at the time, were friends from Cliff’s earl Suwon and RAF Bentwaters days.  All were highly enthusiastic participants. 

It was hoped that Hawgsmoke 2000 might serve three purposes.  First, the competition would emphasize flying parameters and tactics that may have been relegated a back seat pre-LASTE.  For example, teams and individuals would lose points for releasing below a realistic abort altitude. Before LASTE, many pilots released lower to increase their chance of getting a better bomb score. In Hawgsmoke 2000, pilots were also penalized for exceeding 5 seconds on final and for not performing the proper safe escape maneuver.  Hawg friendly tactical events, which would have never made it into Gunsmoke, such as 6000’ cease fire Long Range Strafe and low altitude Maverick attacks were also included.  

The second purpose for Hawgsmoke 2000, was to establish a biennial event where former A-10 pilots could meet to relive their glory days by watching the new generation keeping the “Fighter Pilot” traditions alive and to honor their fallen comrades in the now famous “Reading of the List” Ceremony.   

Finally, accordingly to Cliffy, “Hawgsmoke was established to allow current Hawg Pilots an opportunity to show their stuff.  The goal was to have a low key fighter pilot weekend with the comrades…that just happened to have a competition attached.”  

Hawgsmoke 2000 had 15 units participate including the overseas units of Osan, Korea and Spangdahlem, Germany.  The Overall team winner was the 118th Fighter Squadron from Bradley, Connecticut.  

The Founder of Hawgsmoke Col Cliff “Cliffy” Latta

A 1983 United States Air Force Academy graduate, and member of the Unites States Air Force parachute team Wings of Blue.  He attended pilot training at Sheppard AFB class 84-07.  He made one more takeoff than landing while a student in Fighter Lead-in at Hollomon AFB, NM.  

Col Cliff “Cliffy” Latta – Kuwait 2002/2003

His first operational A-10 assignment was the 25th Fighter Squadron, Suwon ROK (pilsung).  He then spent four years in United States Air Force Europe (USAFE) at RAF Bentwaters and Woodbridge, 1986-1990, serving with the 91FS, 511FS, 78FS, and 92FS.  Like all USAFE A-10 pilots at the time, he spent a considerable amount of time flying in Germany out of both Leiphiem and Sembach Air Bases.  He was also the A-10 Display pilot for Europe in 1988 and then attended Fighter Weapons school in 1989.  From 1990-1992 he was at the 422 Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellie AFB, NV where he participated in LASTE and the early Night Vision Goggle testing.  

In 1992, Cliffy left Active Duty to escape serving a staff tour and instead joined the newly minted A-10 unit, the 172 Fighter Squadron “Cereal Killers,” Battle Creek, Michigan.  In 1995, after the unit suffered two tragic class-A accidents, he was made the Squadron Director of Operations, and was then promoted to the Operations Group Commander (OG/CC) position.  During his tenure as OG/CC (1995-2000), the unit received the Top Fighter Squadron in the AF and the top Fighter Squadron in the Air National Guard awards and also received an Outstanding Rating on an Air Combat Command administered Operational Readiness Inspection.  

Cliff served in most of the Bosnia Herzegovina conflicts to include combat time over Kosovo. He also has numerous combat deployments to Kuwait/Iraq to include Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2002/2003.   In 2006, he graduated from the Naval War College and much to his chagrin, ended his career with seven years of non-flying staff tours to include the Joint Staff, Air Staff, and National Guard Bureau.  Cliff retired in April 2013 with over 4000 hours of Hawg time. 


Hawgsmoke traces its heritage back to Gunsmoke. Gunsmoke, officially known as the Air Force Worldwide Gunnery Competition, was a biennial air-to-surface gunnery meet for conventional weapons, hosted by the United States Air Force. It was held beginning in 1949 and has been succeeded by Hawgsmoke.

Hawgsmoke is a biennial United States Air Force bombing, missile, and tactical gunnery competition for A-10 Thunderbolt II units. It is hosted by the winners of the previous competition and provides both skills competition and an opportunity to share in the camaraderie and fellowship within the A-10 community.

The inaugural Hawgsmoke was held in 2000 at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in Michigan. It was hosted by the 172nd Fighter Squadron from Battle Creek Michigan. Colonel Clifford “Cliffy” Latta of the 172nd Fighter Squadron is credited with initiating the first ever Hawgsmoke event.

Hawgsmoke opens with a remembrance ceremony for fallen comrades. Following the reading of the names of all fallen A-10 pilots, a missing-man formation flies overhead. At the conclusion, the participants drink a shot of whiskey then smash the shot glasses, in honor and remembrance of old friends and colleagues.

Remembrance Ceremony – 2000
Remembrance Ceremony Missing Man – 2000

WINNER: The 118th Fighter Squadron Bradley ANG – Connecticut. 


Hawgsmoke 2002 was hosted by the 118th Fighter Squadron at the Fort Drum Forward Operating Location in New York State. There, 17 teams and 62 aircraft competed, with the overall winner being the four member team from the 47th Fighter Squadron at Barksdale AFB, LA. The 47th had come in second in 2000 and were determined to make up for unfinished business. Hawgsmoke 2002 focused on accurately dropping BDU-33s practice bombs, firing the AGM-65 “Maverick” missile, and strafing proficiency with the 30 mm Gatling gun. Much emphasis was placed on target acquisition as well.

WINNER: The 47th Fighter Squadron Barksdale AFB – Louisiana. 


Hawgsmoke 2004 was hosted by the 47th FS “Dogpatchers” and held at England Air Park, formerly England AFB,in central Louisiana. 18 teams and over 70 aircraft made the trip in anticipation of the competition, camaraderie, and celebration of the world’s premier CAS aircraft.

Unfortunately, the competition was undone by forces of Mother Nature and the bad weather resulted in Hawgsmoke 2004 becoming known as “Hawgwash 2004.” Nevertheless, it was declared a success for the opportunity of the Hog community to get together, share experiences and party like rock stars.

WINNER: None – “Hawgwash 2004” 


With no winner from “Hawgwash 2004”, the 355th Fighter Wing picked up the slack. Hawgsmoke 2006 was held March 22-25 at Davis Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona. Adding even more to the luster of Hawgsmoke. The 2006 installment marked the 30th Anniversary of the A-10 and served as a homecoming for all Hawgdrivers due to the fact initial A-10 training is carried out at DM. With over 140 aircraft are on the ramp, the event went off without a hitch.

WINNER: The 303d Fighter Squadron Whiteman AFB – Missouri


The 303rd Fighter Squadron from Whiteman AFB, MO hosted Hawgsmoke 2008.

WINNER: The 190th Fighter Squadron – Boise, Idaho 


The Hawg Drivers from Boise took the title in 2008, so they hosted an outstanding event in 2010. Practicing at their home range for months on end, they were able to walk away victorious yet again, but not without the 354th Bulldogs hot on their heels. By regulation 11-202V69, the hosting team is not allowed to host twice in a row, so the Bulldogs hosted in 2012.

WINNER: The 190th Fighter Squadron – Boise, Idaho


The Bulldogs brought the fight back to the desert in 2012. Upping the level of difficulty, the Bulldogs decided to withhold the schedule of bombing and shooting events until the day prior to flying. Teams would then have to train to all disciplines: CCIP and HARS bombing and shooting, Maverick, and a timed low-level event. Emerging victorious in 2012 were the Instructor Pilots of the 357th Fighter Squadron.

WINNER: The 357th Fighter Squadron Davis-Monthan AFB – Arizona


Hawgsmoke in 2014 hosted by the 357th Fighter Squadron it was a mystery to the webmaster, so until someone sends him the results or some more information, all we have is this patch…however, the 47th Fighter Squadron “Terrible Termites” kept the trophy in the desert and was victorious in 2014.

WINNER: The 47th Fighter Squadron Davis-Monthan AFB – Arizona


Hosted by the 47th Fighter Squadron the “Terrible Termites” secured yet another victory in 2016! This was the second time in Hawgsmoke history that a team won back-to-back Hawgsmoke events.

WINNER: The 47th Fighter Squadron Davis-Monthan AFB – Arizona


In 2018 the 303rd Fighter Squadron from Kansas City MO hosted Hawgsmoke 2018 with great success. Competitors were able to refine their manual weapons delivery skills by flour bombing. Good KC BBQ was enjoyed and the squadron limousine went out with a bang.

WINNER: The 74th Fighter Squadron Moody AFB – Georgia


Hawgsmoke 2020 was delayed a year due to COVID-19 but saw its return in 2021 after a 3-year hiatus. The 190th Fighter Squadron barely won their 3rd Hawgsmoke event while winning Top Tactical, Top Strafe, and Top Bombing team awards.

WINNER: The 190th Fighter Squadron – Boise, Idaho


Hawgsmoke 2022 was hosted by the 190th Fighter Squadron the “Skullbangers” of Idaho. 14 teams competed in this years event which included a crud tournament, golf scramble, and shooting up Operation “Blue Steel” – a.k.a Papa’s truck. The competition scenario was difficult and teams had to be on their “A-Game” to complete their profile successfully. Teams went out with 300 rounds of 30mm, 3xBDU-50’s and 2xTGM-65 mavericks. The opening ceremony started of with a warbird flyover which included a P-40 and P-47 followed by honoring the Fallen Hawg Pilots with a piano burn and toast. The 104th Fighter Squadron – Baltimore brought it strong at the crud table taking the best overall crud team. The boys at AATC took the best overall golf team.

WINNER: The 190th Fighter Squadron – Boise, Idaho


The 47th Fighter Squadron will host the upcoming Hawgsmoke from 11-15 September. Teams are reminded to send their best and – as always – don’t bring it weak. ATTACK!