517th Airlift Squadron [517th AS]
The 517th Airlift Squadron is one of five flying squadrons assigned to the 3rd Wing, Elmendorf Air Force Base, AL. With its C-130H Hercules and C-12F/J Huron aircraft and aircrews, the "Firebirds" fly some of the most demanding missions in Alaska.
The Squadron provides airlift in support of two major missions. The first involves the squadron's 18 C-130's which provide support to airborne training for the army's 6th Infantry Division (Light) at Fort Richardson and Fort Wainwright. Secondly, the 517th provides airlift support for Pacific Air Forces and the 11th Air Force including logistical re-supply of long range radar sites in Alaska, Special assignment airlift missions for Alaskan and Canadian Distant Early Warning stations, and fighter deployment support.
In addition, the squadron maintains a full time deployment of aircraft and maintenance personnel to Yokota Air Base, Japan, in support of missions throughout the Far East and South Pacific. The squadron's three C-12's provide logistic support to radar sites and Distinguished Visitor support throughout Alaska.
Constituted on November 20, 1940, as the 17th Transport Squadron, the unit was operational by Dec. 11 of that same year at McClellan Field, CA. On July 4, 1942 the 17th TS was re-designated the 17th Troop Carrier Squadron. The squadron moved its operations and C-47 aircraft to 15 different locations in the Mediterranean and China-Burma-India theaters.
During that period, while operating in the CBI theater of operations, a C-47 crew assigned to the 17th Troop Carrier Squadron of the 64th Troop Carrier Group was credited with downing a Japanese fighter aircraft in combat. The C-47, under the command of Capt. Hal M. Scrugham, upon sighting of enemy aircraft, went into a steep dive and into the path of an incoming Zero. The C-47 was damaged, with seven feet of the rudder and vertical stabilizer of the aircraft ripped off, but managed to return safely to base. The Japanese Zero itself crashed into a mountain as a result of the collision. Photographs of a C-47, back in Italy after the Burma deployment, show the plane with a Japanese "kill" flag painted on the left side of the nose.
The 17th TCS participated in airborne assaults and provided aerial transportation in France, North Apennines, Po Valley and India-Burma. When World War II ended, the 17th deactivated on July 31, 1945.
On July 14, 1952, the squadron reactivated at Donaldson Air Force Base, SC, as the 17th Troop Carrier squadron flying C-82's and C-119's until its second deactivation on July 21, 1954.
The 17th reactivated October 24, 1960, at Dyess Air Force Base, TX, to re-supply the Distant Early Warning radar stations on the Greenland Ice Cap. The DEW Line relied totally on C-130D aircraft equipped with newly developed ski pads for re-supply. Within a year, the squadron had reaffirmed its Firebird title as a result of rocket-assisted ski takeoffs on the 9,000-foot crest of the Greenland Ice Cap.
On June 15, 1964 the 17th moved to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska as the only airlift squadron in Alaska. In 1966 and 1967, the 17th took part in the massive buildup in South Vietnam. It was re-designated the 17th Tactical Airlift Squadron on Sept 8, 1967.
From July 9, 1969, to June 30, 1975, the squadron maintained a detachment at Sondrestrom Air Base, Greenland, in conjunction with its airlift support on the Ice Cap for radar stations and also scientific studies of the Arctic.
On Dec. 1, 1969, the 17th acquired two C-124A Globemasters to augment its C-130 force and provide support to remote Alaskan sites. Joining the Military Airlift Command on March 31, 1975, the 17th converted to conventional C-130E aircraft (not modified with skis). In 1987 they converted to the more modern C-130H aircraft which they still fly.
On April 1, 1992, the squadron was re-designated the 517th Airlift Squadron, moving from a subordinate unit of the 616th Military Airlift Group to a unit of the 3rd Wing's operations group. The squadron gained C-12 aircraft and 160 people as its structure changed to parallel those of its sister fighter squadrons -- the 19th, 54th, and 90th -- by incorporating its maintenance corps into the squadron.
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