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First MQ-9 squadron looks good for 100

CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) -- From training to operational--bombers to remotely piloted aircraft, the Panthers of the 42nd Attack Squadron have been a key part of United States airpower for the past 100 years.

On June 13, 2017, the squadron celebrates its centennial anniversary with a lineage as the 42nd Aero Squadron, part of the U.S. Signal Corps. Back then, the unit trained aviators during World War I and continued until the mid-1930’s when it was redesignated as the 42nd Bombardment Squadron and placed under the operational control of Reserve personnel.

With the onset of World War II, the 42nd Bombardment Squadron was reactivated in 1940 as a regular Army unit at Hickam Field, Hawaii, where it suffered 31 casualties and lost all, but two of its aircraft during the attack on Oahu the following year. The unit flew bomber aircraft such as the B-18 Bolo, B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator in six aerial campaigns during World War II over the Pacific theater including the Battle of Midway.

After WWII the unit continued its bomber mission with the B-29 Superfortress, B-36 Peacemaker and B-52 Stratofortress until it was inactivated in 1963. The 42nd briefly returned in 1989 as the 42nd Strategic Squadron providing air refueling with the KC-135 Stratotanker, but soon inactivated again in 1990.

In November of 2006, the 42nd was called upon as the 42nd Attack Squadron to serve as the first MQ-9 Reaper unit at Creech Air Force Base.

“When the unit stood up, it was the only MQ-9 Reaper squadron in the world,” said Lt. Col. Ronnie, the 42nd ATKS commander. “At the time, it was responsible for training aircrew members while also delivering combat effects.”

The new mission harkened back to the squadron’s legacy of training young aviators before transferring into an attack role leading cutting-edge remotely piloted aircraft technology.

“I think that tie-in is interesting because in the past, the 42nd executed various missions with significant impact in the Pacific theater by island hopping,” he said. “Now with the MQ-9 we accomplish major operations in multiple areas of responsibilities. We aim to carry the legacy and bring determination with grit and impact.”

The 42nd ATKS has played a major role in operations in the Middle East such as Iraq, Syria and Libya by providing persistent attack and reconnaissance.

“Without a doubt the origin of the current U.S. Air Force MQ-9 construct started here with the 42nd,” Ronnie said. “Now we see the similarities across the wing and air expeditionary wing, which have been taken to other units and improved upon.”

He also explained with upcoming changes on the horizon, the 42nd ATKS will embrace them and continue forward as they have done over the past few years by continuing to push the envelope of MQ-9 weapons advancement, such as the use of new Hellfire variants, and more recently, joint direct attack munitions.

“I can’t say or speak highly enough of what the men and women of the 42nd ATKS do (24/7 year-round),” he said. “They are 160 of America’s finest…taking the fight to the enemy and doing a phenomenal job executing the mission. Whether it’s our pilots, sensor operators, intelligence or any other career field, they are simply amazing and I think previous members of the 42nd would be proud.”