355th Fighter Squadron [355th FS]
The 355th FS is tasked to provide mission ready OA-10s and A-10s, and search-and-rescue capability, in Alaska and deployed sites worldwide. Its primary missions include air strike control, close air support, target interdiction, joint air attack team, combat escort, and combat search and rescue.
With a dual role A/OA-10 squadron commitment and night vision goggles, the squadron has the ability to deploy forward air controllers with attack aircraft for a complete day and night capability.
The unit also supplies several Army battalions with air liaison officers who deploy, train and operate with their assigned ground force, thus providing air liaison officers for the 1st Separate Infantry Brigade of the 6th Infantry Division (Light), providing advice on the use of tactical fighters and the tactical employment of close air support assets as ground forward air controllers.
The 355th Fighter Squadron was activated November 15, 1942, at Hamilton Field, CA, flying the P-39 Airacobra. The unit trained in California, Nevada, Oregon, and New York before transferring to the 9th Air Force in England in November 1943. There, the "Pugnacious Pups" received the first P-51 Mustangs flown in combat by the USAAF in Europe and began, almost immediately, to fly combat missions. Initially these missions consisted of escorting bombers to targets such as Frankfurt, Leipzig, Augsburg, and Schweinfurt. In April 1944, the squadron shifted from bomber escort to ground attack duties flying dive-bombing and strafing missions against targets such as marshaling yards, bridges, and enemy airfields. After D-Day, in support of General Patton's 3rd Army, the unit helped establish the model for the joint air support operations it conducts today. During the critical first days of the Ardennes Offensive, the 355 FS was one of the few units to provide the air support which blunted German armored spearheads -- only days after transitioning to a new aircraft, the P-47 Thunderbolt. After the German surrender, the unit was inactivated March 31, 1946.
Reactivated as the 355th Fighter Day Squadron at Myrtle Beach AFB, SC, November 19, 1956, the renamed "Fightin' Falcons" flew the F-100D Super Sabre. The 355 FS supported NATO training with numerous deployments between 1958 and 1965 and, in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis in late 1963, deployed to McCoy AFB Fla. The unit answered the call to Southeast Asia and deployed to Phu Cat Air Base, South Vietnam, in 1968, flying close air support, interdiction, search and rescue, and helicopter escort missions from 31 January 1968 to November 1970. The unit flew over 14,000 combat sorties in the F-100D.
When the Vietnam conflict erupted, the unit deployed to Phu Cat AB, South Vietnam, January 31, 1968, eventually flying more than 14,000 close air support, interdiction, search and rescue and helicopter escort combat sorties. Some 85 percent of the 355th Tactical Fighter Squadron -- on paper a regular Air Force unit -- were Air Guardsmen. They performed superbly according to Gen George S. Brown, the Air Force Commander in Vietnam.
Returning to Myrtle Beach AFB in November 1970, the unit transitioned to the new A-7D Corsair II aircraft on 14 December 1970 before re-deploying to Southeast Asia, to Korat RTAFB, Thailand, in the fall of 1972 as the first A-7 unit to fight there. In 10 weeks of combat before the end of that conflict, the squadron participated in the Linebacker II campaign, generated more than 4,000 sorties, and was credited with 22 rescues of downed airmen. The unit returned to Myrtle Beach in April 1974.
In February 1978, the 355th transitioned to the new A-10 Thunderbolt II close air support aircraft, becoming the second operational squadron in the nation's first A-10 wing.
Duty called again in August 1990 when the unit deployed to Dhahran AB, Saudi Arabia in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM. There, the squadron's pilots inflicted heavy damage to Iraqi armor and artillery emplacements, helped cut off enemy supply lines and conducted search and rescue missions. The squadron contributed greatly to the 4,200 artillery, tank and other vehicle kills credited to A-10s during the war.
Inactivated at Myrtle Beach AFB, March 31, 1992, the 355th was reactivated at Eielson AFB, August 20, 1993 flying the A/OA-10 aircraft.
The unit's primary missions now included Air Strike Control, Close Air Support, Interdiction, Joint Air Attack Team, Escort, and Combat Search and Rescue.
In October 1995, the 355 FS became GUNSMOKE '95 Worldwide Weapons Competition Champions, capturing Top Scoring Team, Top A-10 Team, and member of the overall winning PACAF Team. The unit also won first place in PACAF's premier weapons loading competition, SABRE SPIRIT '96. In January 1997, the unit deployed to Aviano AB, Italy, in support of Operation DELIBERATE GUARD, supporting NATO contingency taskings over war-torn Bosnia. This was the first contingency deployment in Eielson's history.
In October 1998, the 355th Fighter Squadron deployed to Southwest Asia supporting Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. Only two months later, the Fightin' Falcons saw their second tour of combat duty over Iraq while participating in the December 16-19, 1998, Operation DESERT FOX strike missions. In two and a half months, the 355th flew 597 combat and combat support sorties leading up to, then conducting, National Command Authority directed strikes on Iraqi military facilities and suspected weapons of mass destruction storage areas where they achieved a 100 percent target hit rate.
The 355th Fighter Squadron deploys, employs, and controls the employment of all types of air-to-ground conventional and precision guided munitions, both day and night, to provide combat air power, any place, any time. The unit employs night vision goggles and air commander pointers in conjunction with laser eye protection, providing greatly enhanced combat capabilities in night operations.
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