19th Special Operations Squadron [19th SOS]
The 19th Special Operations Squadron, located at Hurlburt Field, Fla., is the Air Force Special Operations Command's largest formal school house. The 19th SOS teaches initial qualification and upgrade courses to provide qualified AC-130H, AC-130U, and MC-130E aircrew members for Air Force Special Operations. The 19th SOS also provides recurring aircrew refresher training for all 16th Special Operations Wing and associate units, and manages, maintains, and operates 16th SOW mission rehearsal assets.
The 19th SOS has a long military history, originating as the 19th Bombardment Squadron, (Medium) Dec. 22, 1939, and activated Feb. 3, 1940, at Langley Field, Va. Aircrews trained in obsolete B-18s until the squadron received its first B-26s in early 1941. Immediately following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the 19th BS moved to Muroc Field, Calif., to fly antisubmarine patrols off the West Coast until sent overseas in late January 1941. A month later, the ground echelon arrived by ship in Australia, but the aircrews flew antisubmarine patrols from Hawaii for several weeks before proceeding in late March to rejoin the rest of the squadron. On April 5, 1942, aircrews flew their first combat missions from Garbutt Field, Townsfield, Australia, against Rabaul, New Britain. In addition to frequent raids against Rabaul, the 19th BS flew against enemy shipping, facilities and troop concentrations in New Guinea and provided close air support for Allied troops fighting there, until withdrawn from combat in January 1943. With refurbished B-26s, the 19th BS moved to New Guinea and returned to combat in mid-July 1943.
In January 1944, the squadron became a heavy bombardment unit (19th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy), equipped with B-24s. The 19th returned to combat status March 10, 1944, with a raid against Manus Island. Most operations were against targets in the Bismarck Archipelago until the 19th BS moved to Owi Island in late July. The squadron flew its first mission to the Philippines Islands September 1, 1944, hitting Japanese installations at Davao, Mindanao. The B-24s blasted enemy facilities in the Celebes and on Mindanao, with an occasional raid against the oil refineries at Balikpapan, Borneo. Raids continued until the squadron moved in early December 1944 to Anguar, Palau Islands. From this station, the B-24s bombed targets throughout the Philippines. The 19th moved in January 1945 to Samar Island, Philippines, before finally relocating in March to Clark Field. Meantime, in mid-February the 19th raided Formosa for the first time, and on March 21, flew its first mission into China. In June 1945, for a week, the B-24s flew from Puerta Princesa, Palawan Island, to hit targets on Borneo in support of Australian forces landing there. The 19th flew its last bombing mission of the war July 18, 1945, to Formosa. The squadron moved in August to Okinawa and flew reconnaissance missions over Japan. The 19th BS ceased operations in October 1945.
Remanned in June 1946, and equipped with B-29s in December 1946, the 19th BS (Heavy) became the 19th BS (Very Heavy) April 30, 1946. The 19th flew training missions in the Far East until being moved to Smoky Hill Air Force Base, Kan., in May 1946. Deploying to England in November 1946, the 19th BS flew training missions to Accra, West Africa, Aden, and Yemen, Arabia, returning in February 1947 to Smoky Hill AFB, only to move in May to March Air Force Base, Calif. The 19th deployed from November 1949 to February 1950 to England where the squadron flew training sorties to Germany and to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The squadron then deployed in July 1950 to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, and flew its first combat mission over Korea July 13, hitting marshaling yards at Wonsan, North Korea. Bombing missions over both North and South Korea followed, with targets, including bridges, industrial facilities and railroads. The squadron flew its last combat mission October 19, and departed for the U.S. Oct. 30, 1950.
Back at March AFB, the 19th trained B-29 crews to be sent to the Far East Air Forces for combat duty in Korea. In February 1953, the 19th received the B-47 jet bomber to replace the B-29. The 19th BS made its last deployment to England between December 1953 and March 1954, flying training missions to Sidi Slimane and French Morocco. Later the 19th deployed from April-June 1957 to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and from there, flew missions to Japan and Korea. In November 1957, the 19th BS received a forward alert obligation, initially sending five B-47s to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, for six months of cold weather training, then rotating a single aircraft with aircrew for two to four weeks at a time. The alert aircraft were sent in November 1958 to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, and then in January 1959 to Andersen AFB, Guam. The 19th BS ceased operational flying in February 1963, ferried its B-47s to other units and inactivated March 15, 1963. Consolidated with the 19th Tactical Airlift Squadron (constituted 19th Air Commando Squadron, Troop Carrier, and activated, Sept. 14, 1964), the 19th Air Commando Squadron was organized October 8, 1964, at Tan Son Nhut Airfield, just outside of Saigon, South Vietnam. The 19th received the C-123B aircraft and personnel in 1964 but did not become operational as a unit until March 1965. Combat missions included cargo drops, flare missions at night in support of hamlets and outposts under attack, transporting troops and supplies to combat areas and air evacuation of wounded and refugees from battle areas. Cargo included munitions, vehicles, spare parts, fuel and various foods. Missions were flown in support of the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines and South Vietnamese forces. A Royal Thai Air Force contingent was attached to the squadron from mid-1966 until inactivation. Redesignated as the 19th Air Commando Squadron, Tactical Airlift, Aug. 1, 1967, several C-123Bs were converted to C-123Ks by the addition of two jet engines, to provide the aircraft with greater power.
Again the 19th was redesignated as the 19th Special Operations Squadron August 1, 1968 and again as the 19th Tactical Airlift Squadron Jan. 1, 1970. During that time, from, whenever Tan Son Nhut Air Base came under rocket and mortar attacks, the 19th would operate temporarily for up to two weeks at a time from Phan Rang Air Base. The 19th also flew increased missions during the Tet Offensive of 1968 and shared in a Navy Presidential Unit Citation for support to U.S. Marines defending Kha Sanh from January to March 1968. In June to August 1970, the 19th flew airlift, airdrop, and evacuation missions in support of Allied forces fighting in Cambodia. On April 19, 1971, the 19th SOS began to transfer the C-123s to South Vietnam and the squadron flew its last combat mission April 30. The 19th ceased all operations in early May and inactivated June 10, 1971. On September 19, 1985, the unit was redesignated and combined with the 19th Tactical Intelligence Squadron.
The 19th SOS was reactivated May 24, 1996, at Hurlburt Field with the 16th OSS Central Training Flight becoming the core of the new unit. The mission is to conduct all formal aircrew training for the AC-130H, AC-130U and MC-130E aircraft. This training includes the initial mission qualification, requalification, aircraft commander upgrade, instructor upgrade and refresher training. The 19th SOS will use advanced aircrew training devices (simulators) as well as training coded aircraft (two AC-130Us, one AC-130H, and one C-130E) for flight and ground training. The Special Operations Forces Aircrew Training System contractor provides the 19th SOS administrative support to training operations, courseware development and maintenance, classroom and flightline instruction and operations and maintenance of training and mission rehearsal devices.
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