197th Air Refueling Squadron [197th ARS]
The 197th Air Refueling Squadron traces its lineage to the 412th Fighter Squadron, a unit that had earned extensive combat flying honors in Europe and which was redesignated as the 197th Fighter Interceptor Squadron and became on December 12, 1946 the first unit of the Arizona Air National Guard.
The squadron was called to active duty on February 1, 1951 as a rsult of the Korean War, though it remained in the United States. Stationed at Luke AFB, it served as a training unit for F-84 squadrons deploying to the zone of conflict.
The squadron was recalled from active duty in November 1952, and was reorganised at Phoenix-Sky Harbor airport. The 197th then transitioned to the F-86A Sabre aircraft. In the early 1960s, the Air Force selected the 197th to be one of three ANG units to be equiped with the F-104A Starfighter. This resulted in the expansion of the squadron's parten unit to group status, becoming the 161st Fighter Group (FG).
As a result of the Berlin crisi, the unit was called to active duty and, in November 1961, deployed 22 F-104s to Germany.
With world tensions easing so came another change of role for the Copperheads, trading in their jets for Boeing C-97 Stratofreighters, the unit was re-designated the 161st Air Transport Group (ATG) with resultant Squadron level change to the 197th Air Transport Squadron (ATS) on October 1, 1962, coming under control of the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) command. As part of the world-wide MATS service, the 'Strats' roamed far and wide and were eventually drawn into yet another theatre of war, to operate passenger airlift missions from and to combat bases in Vietnam and Thailand between March 1966 and September 1967.
In February 1967 the unit proved its value to the state and emphasized its dual state and federal mission. A national television audience watched crews and planes fly around the clock, airdropping 430 tons of food and supplies to stranded ranchers and their snowed in cattle, after one of the worst winter storms on record blanketed northern Arizona.
The Phoenix Air Guard was re-designated in August 1968 as the 161st Aero Medical Airlift Group. With continued use of the workhorse C-97, the mission for the new organization was medical air evacuation from overseas bases to U.S. hospitals.
In August 1972, the mission of the 197th was changed to an air refueling one as its parent organization was reorganized as the 161st Air Refueling Group and placed in USAF Tactical Air Command.
Flying an air tanker version of the C-97, the squadron began providing daily service to USAF and other military craft over the western U.S. Four times per year the unit shifted operations for two-week periods to refuel U.S. and NATO aircraft out of Rhine-Main Air Base, Germany.
On July 1, 1976, 13 Air Guard refueling units were placed into the Strategic Air Command. This was the first time the massive bomber command integrated part-time units into its forces and mission. SAC also announced that Air Guard refueling units would begin to integrate a new craft into their inventories: a military version of the Boeing 707 airliner named the KC-135.
During operation Desert Shield, the 197th ARS was amongst the first tanker units to be called up for duty in the Gulf, where it remained throughout the hostilities operating from bases in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates as well as Moron AB, Spain. In 1999 members from the 197th, along with six aircraft were activated for deployment in response to the developments in Kosovo.
The 197th ARS is the only refuelling unit in the south-western USA between Texas and California, and is routinely tasked with providing Air-to-Air refuelling (AAR) support for the numerous F-16 units operating from nearby Luke AFB.
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