Historic flying units celebrate anniversary, continue making history

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Shawn McCowan
  • 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
In the spring of 1942 the United States filled battle-torn European skies with squadrons of airborne war machines. Among them, two transport squadrons began carrying troops and supplies into the Second World War, beginning a parallel history spanning seven decades and many military conflicts.

As if teasing destiny, those histories crossed paths as they celebrated their 70th anniversary together in Afghanistan.

In May 2012, the 50th "Red Devils" and 52nd "Fighting Roos" Airlift Squadrons joined forces once again in the sand and sun of Operation Enduring Freedom as the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. Among currently serving members of the squadrons, no one appreciates their rich history more than Maj. Lance Johnson, the superintendent of the 774th EAS. Stateside, he holds the same title with the 50th Airlift Squadron in Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Johnson has served with the 50th AS for 13 years and has been a part of Air Force history since the Bosnian War.

"This unit started in World War II and fought in every major conflict since then," said Johnson. "We've been continually activated or deployed since Sept. 11, 2001, and we're continuing the tradition here in Afghanistan. This is a good place with good facilities and very interesting flying."

Airman 1st Class Nathan Creighton, who also works in operations with the 50th AS, said being with this unit has made his first deployment one to remember.

"This really is a good unit, with good people and good flyers," said Creighton. "I think it's a great thing, celebrating our anniversaries together."

Lt. Col. Tim Julian commands both the 50th AS and the 774th EAS in Afghanistan. His interest in military history was pivotal in tying the 50th and 52nd Airlift Squadrons back together. In 2009, Julian was in Colorado Springs, Colo., when the Air Force was activating a new squadron as a part of the total force integration process. Knowing the intertwined history of the two squadrons, he presented the 52nd AS as a designator. Before long, the Fighting Roos returned to the skies as an active associate with the Air Force Reserve's 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.

Julian said he feels personally connected to the 52nd AS and was genuinely excited to be with the combined team in Afghanistan for their anniversary.

"As a commander there's no greater thrill than leading the charge into combat with Airmen following such a rich and storied history," said Julian. "I'm extremely excited to serve our Airmen here. To be together with our brothers in arms to celebrate while we support our troops on the ground is a privilege that I can't express in words. But I can say that I'm extremely thrilled to be here to help."

Lt. Col. Jason Terry, the 52nd AS director of operations and 455th Expeditionary Operations Group deputy commander, echoed his deployed commander's excitement to be part of this historic deployment.

"I think it's an amazing coincidence that two squadrons, born in the fire of World War II, would have this opportunity 70 years later to both be serving again in combat and both in harm's way doing essentially the same mission," said Terry. It's an extreme honor to be just a little tiny part of that legacy."

Terry has several deployments behind him, and he said he is excited for the experience his new Airmen will have.

"This is my eighth deployment. For many of my Airmen this is their first time," said Terry. "It's a great honor to help show new Airmen how our nation takes care of the mission we have at hand. They have an amazing opportunity ahead of them, and I'm very envious of them."

After the celebration lunch was over and the cake was cut, the Red Devils and Fighting Roos returned to doing what they do best -- making Air Force history.