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38th Reconnaissance Squadron [38th RS]

The mission of the 38th Reconnaissance Squadron is to provide RC-135 aircraft and personnel to conduct global reconnaissance for national intelligence agencies, key decision makers and warfighters.

The 38th Reconnaissance Squadron was forged during the turbulent years of World War II. Formed on 15 January 1941 as a pursuit squadron, the Fighting Hellcats carried out bomber escort, strafing, dive-bombing, and photographic reconnaissance missions using P-38s and P-51s from Nuthampstead, England. The squadron received a Distinguished Unit Citation for destroying 37 and damaging 27 enemy aircraft during fighter sweeps from 3-13 September 1944. The 38th Reconnaissance Squadron flew its last combat mission on 21 April 1945 and was deactivated on 20 August 1945.

The Fighting Hellcats were reactivated on 22 September 1947 as the 38th Reconnaissance Squadron, Very Long Range, Mapping. This began the true reconnaissance era for the squadron. Flying B-17, RB-17, RC-45, C-45, and C-47 aircraft, the squadron operated from Clark Field in the Philippine Islands, mapping the Borneo, Celebes Islands, and Formosa until its deactivation on 31 July 1949. The squadron resumed activities on 1 November 1950 as the 38th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, Medium Range, Photo-mapping from Ramey Air Force Base, Puerto Rico. Here, the squadron flew RB-50s from such diverse locations as Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, and Royal Air Force Base Bassingbourne, England until moving to Forbes Air Force Base, Kansas on 30 September 1952.

The 38th Reconnaissance Squadron moved to Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska on 16 August 1966, and began operating both KC-135s and EC-135s conducting Strategic Air Command's Looking Glass mission. On 2 April 1970, the 38th transferred this mission to the 2nd Airborne Command and Control Squadron and was deactivated again.

On 26 October 1979, the squadron reactivated and joined the 343rd Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, flying RC-135 worldwide electronic and scientific reconnaissance missions from locations in Alaska, England, Japan, and Greece. On 1 September 1991, the squadron was redesigned as the 38th Reconnaissance Squadron and aligned under the 55th Operations Group.

The 38th crew members earned the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for their support in the Grenada and Lebanon operations. The 38th also provided reconnaissance coverage for the 15 April 1986 retaliatory strike against terrorist training facilities in Libya and for United States operations in Panama. Throughout Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM, the Hellcats flew over 900 sorties and 10,000 hours.

The mission continues to this day as 38th crews support United States forces in operations throughout the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and the Pacific. The 38th is responsible for worldwide reconnaissance operations in support of Air Force strategic, airlift, and tactical missions. Operating out of four overseas locations, it is not uncommon to have members of the 38th in the air at all times.

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