The 50th TCS
The 50th Airlift Squadron is among the United States Air Force's premier flying units. It is a recognized expert at providing airdrop and airland theater combat delivery around the world at a moment's notice. Equipped with the powerful, state-of-the-art C-130H3 Hercules and elite, combat ready aircrews fully trained to "max perform" its capabilities, the 50th remains at the tip of the spear, steadfast and confident. Built on over fifty years of tradition, the "Fighting Five-O" has seen action in every major campaign since World War II.
THE 1940's: Birth of a Legacy. The tradition was born at Drew Field, Florida, on 15 June 1942 where the 50th Troop Carrier Squadron was first activated. Dubbed the "Red Devils," the unit would soon undergo a baptism-by-fire as they charged their C-47 Skytrains into combat in May 1943. Launching aircraft from field "J" in Tunisia, they airdropped a battalion of 82d Airborne paratroopers during the invasion of Sicily, receiving their first Presidential Unit Citation. The 50th quickly earned its second Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism, determination and esprit-de-corps by flawlessly coordinating all troop carrier aircraft operations during Operation OVERLORD, the allied invasion of the European Continent, on June 5th, 6th and 7th, 1944 (D-Day). The unit continued to distinguish itself in various other European campaigns until its deactivation in 1946. Proving the best can never be held down, the 50th Troop Carrier Squadron was reactivated and armed with new C-119 Packets in October 1949.
THE 1950's: Veterans of Combat. Upon reactivating in 1949, the "Red Devils" leaped headfirst out of the frying pan and into the fire, fangs dripping and engines blazing. Within 6 months, the 50th earned a third Presidential Unit Citation for gallantry and heroism while performing resupply missions to US Army and Marine units near the Chosin Reservoir, Korea in December 1950. Even after heavy involvement in the Korean War, the 50th was continuously called upon for worldwide peacetime missions. In 1957, these missions welcomed the new and mighty C-130 Hercules; an aircraft that would prove both reliable and heroic in the 1960's and beyond.
THE 1960's: Endurance. In January 1966, the increased involvement in Vietnam brought the 50th Tactical Airlift Squadron to CCK Air Base, Taiwan. The "Red Devils" flew 134 combat sorties and airlifted over 9,500 troops and 300,000 pounds of cargo during Operation GREEN LIGHT, in crucial support to the 25th Army Division. On 22 February 1967, the squadron participated in Operation JUNCTION CITY, one the first large-scale personnel airdrops in Vietnam. The 50th also helped supply 4 million pounds of runway equipment and supplies to the Marines at Khe Sahn. Less than a month later, with the base under siege, the "Red Devils" heroically aided in emergency resupply efforts. Many crews were decorated for heroism and airmanship for successfully accomplishing these missions in the face of intense ground fire and severely damaged aircraft. The "Fighting Five-O" continued supporting US combat missions in Vietnam until the squadron's deactivation at CCK Air Base, Taiwan in the spring of 1973.
THE 1970's: "Rock" Solid. The squadron was reactivated at Little Rock AFB, Arkansas, in September 1973. In 1974, while on rotation at Rhein Main AB, Germany, the 50th airlifted the first wave of United Nations troops into Cyprus and continued their support through several resupply and humanitarian sorties. The following April of 1975, the squadron switched hats from combat support to humanitarian relief. Now mobilized and deployed to Clark AB, Philippines, the 50th participated in Operation NEW LIFE, the airlift of Vietnamese refugees for resettlement. During the same deployment, four aircrews rescued the crew of the cargo ship SS Mayaguez, dropping a 15,000 pound bomb on Koh Tang Island as part of the operation. In January 1979, crews deployed overseas on 2-hours notice in support of the Tehran, Iran evacuation. Staging out of Incirlik, Turkey, they flew numerous "bladder" missions to Tehran and logistical support missions throughout Turkey. The 1970's proved to be a decade of strengthening, endurance and performance. With this level of experience under its belt, the 50th Tactical Airlift Squadron launched into the 1980's as one of the most respected and relied upon airlift units in the world.
THE 1980's: Only the Best, Please. In February 1984, years of consistency and hard work paid off as the 50th was awarded the 100,000 hour accident free flying safety award, and in 1987 the unit surpassed 150,000 accident-free hours. For superior performance throughout 1987, HQ Military Airlift Command selected the "Red Devils" for the prestigious Tactical Airlift Squadron of the Year Honors. In 1989, world events once again presented the squadron a chance to show its capabilities when the 50th contributed immeasurably to the success of Operation JUST CAUSE, the US invasion of Panama. During the initial strike, 6 aircrews from the 50th airdropped 384 combat troops and equipment from the 73d Ranger Battalion as part of a 15-ship assault on Rio Hato. Two follow on airland missions provided resupply and air evacuation for ground forces. The 50th performed heroically while under extreme hostile enemy ground fire. The "Fighting Five-O" would continue their standards of excellence into the 1990's, a decade of global presence.
THE 1990's: Global Presence. In August 1990, in response to Iraqi aggressions in Kuwait, the 50th deployed to the United Arab Emirates. Throughout the 7½-month deployment in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM, the squadron was at the forefront of coalition activity and distinguished itself by being the most mission productive airlift unit within the theater of operations. With the war over, the job for the 50th was renamed, but did not end. Operation SOUTHERN WATCH kept the 50th deployed at varied intervals. In theater, aircraft and personnel continued the airlift mission supporting the enforcement of the no fly zone over Iraq. In the fall of 1992, the 50th deployed to Mombassa, Kenya, in support of the Joint Task Force Operation PROVIDE RELIEF, providing the first humanitarian airlift in Somalia. One "Red Devil" crew was awarded the Lieutenant General William H. Tunner award for outstanding Air Mobility Command aircrew for their heroic actions. A USAF combat control team coming under fire from hostile Somali gunman was provided emergency extraction by this brave crew. The 50th continued its support of US and United Nations forces in Somalia during Operation CONTINUE HOPE. As the leaders in worldwide tactical airlift, the 50th was selected to lead the C-130 world into the future by employing the Air Force's then newest weapon system, the C-130H3. Receiving its first H3 in October 1993, the 50th set to the task of bringing GPS, glass cockpit instrumentation, color radar and counter threat systems to the tactical airlift arena. During the transition from E to H aircraft, squadron maintenance personnel defined excellence by winning the 1994 ACC Maintenance Effectiveness Award. This spirit was taken on the road as the new H3s deployed in support Operation SEA SIGNAL, the Haitian relief effort based at Guantanamo Bay NAS, Cuba. In the fall of 1995, the Red Devils deployed to Roosevelt Roads NAS, Puerto Rico, in support of Operation CARIBBEAN EXPRESS, an intense relief effort aiding the victims of Hurricane Marilyn. Later that year, and throughout the remainder of the 1990's, the "Red Devils" were the first stateside squadron deployed to Ramstein AB, Germany, in support of Operations JOINT ENDEAVOR/JOINT GUARD, the allied peace-keeping effort in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
THE NEW CENTURY: New Challenges, New Triumphs. Following the terrorist attacks in September 2001, the 50th was one of the first C-130 squadrons forward deployed in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM, the war on terrorism in Afghanistan. The development of new technologies, and the demands of desert combat against a terrorist army, necessitated the ability to operate at night under "blacked-out" conditions. The 50th Airlift Squadron was directed by AMC to develop a training program to qualify all crewmembers in the use of Night Vision Goggle (NVG) technology. The 50th developed a training program and had all fliers NVG "Air/Land" qualified ahead of schedule. Now, NVG operations, including landings, takeoffs, taxing and onloading/offloading are a routine function of squadron training and deployments. This new capability soon proved its value again as the entire squadron deployed in March of 2003 in preparations for OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM. The 50th was the first squadron to fly C-130 "Slick" combat supply missions into Iraq in March of 2003. Since January 2002, the 50th has maintained a constant presence in the Iraq/Afghanistan theaters. With its presence known all across the globe, the "Fighting Five-O" continues to stay strong, swift, sure and focused on the future.
THE FUTURE: Never Looking Back. Any time, anywhere, anyone. The 50th Airlift Squadron of today is built upon over 60 years of blood, sweat and tears. Solid as a rock, it continues to provide to the world THE superior model for tactical airlift and airland operations. Whether in peacetime or wartime, night or day, in the thick of flack or over stretches of ocean, the men and women of the "Fighting Five-O" continue to stand on the tip of the spear: equipped, trained and confident to perform in a moment's notice. Around the clock and around the world, they proudly uphold the motto they wear-TRANSPORTATUM CERTE IN CAELO: "Transportation Assured!"
The above information was gleaned from the: http://www.littlerock.af.mil/tenants/463ag/50as/ssi_50history.shtm
Send mail to
with questions or comments about this web site.