PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Iron Mike the Knight has been the face of the 21st Space Wing dating back almost to its stand up. But where did he come from? Whose idea was it and where did he get his knightly apparel?
Dr. David Bullock, 21st Space Wing chief of the office of history, didn’t have to look too hard to discover Iron Mike’s beginnings. He said there was a wing-wide competition to choose a mascot in late 1995 so it would be ready in time for the Guardian Challenge, a competition that recognizes the best space and missile crews in the Air Force Space Command. The mascot was to be part of Wing heritage into future years.
Iron Mike, created by Bullock, was selected as the wing mascot over six other entries and has represented the wing ever since. He said the history office won because Bullock located a previous mascot called Iron Mike that served a squadron in the 21st Composite Wing operating in Alaska in the 1960s. That wing was a lineal ancestor of the current 21st SW, Bullock said.
But there were more connections to a knight mascot. Another squadron in the 21st Fighter-Bomber Wing, also a lineal ancestor of the 21st SW, had a mounted knight on its emblem while serving in France in the 1950s.
“These themes dovetailed with the sword on 21st SW's emblem strongly suggest that a knight should be our mascot,” Bullock said.
So Brig. Gen. Gerald F. Perryman, Jr., 21st SW commander, chose "Iron Mike" and he, Bullock and the 21st Operations Group began to develop the familiar knightly theme ranging from the Golden Knight Award, to unit coins, and other items. The new Mike the Knight mascot was incorporated into banners, logos and slogans for key wing events.
Through the rest of the 1990s and into the mid-2000s Bullock stayed heavily involved with Mike’s evolution he said. He created, procured and advised on all things Iron Mike, including clothing, logos, weapons, and various accouterment such as scarves and coins.
Eventually everything related to Iron Mike assumed a life of its own, he said. People may not realize Bullock’s role in creating the well-known mascot, but it is something that makes him proud.
“It’s one of the few things I've done in life that will outlive me and that is satisfying in itself,” said Bullock.
Bullock shared some little known, yet interesting facts about Iron Mike:
• The first costume and weapons were created for 70 dollars.
• The second costume comes from Scotland and Bullock’s friend, Laird Jeffrey Burn (who lives at Old Buittle Castle on the Scottish-English border) and his castle artisans made everything according to Bullock’s designs.
• The second costume was tailor made to fit Bullock.
• Laird Jeffrey painted the shield (he's an internationally renowned
military history artist).
• A large comic book-style poster, a special rendition of Iron Mike, the eternal warrior, was painted by a Lieutenant Redden for the Guardian Challenge Competition of 1996. The original painting still hangs in the History Office in the wing headquarters building, Peterson AFB.
Mike the Knight represented the wing at every Guardian Challenge Competition from 1996 until the last one in 2010, Bullock said. He continues, in his entire knightly splendor, to serve at wing commander's calls and other wing events like the 21st Anniversary of the 21st SW Banquet in 2013 and the recent 25th Anniversary of the 21st SW.