77th Fighter Squadron [77th FS]
The 77th Fighter Squadron "Gamblers" are a combat ready F-16C/D squadron tasked with air-to-air, air-to-surface and Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses missions as directed by the wing or component commander in support of friendly forces.
The squadron maintains and operates Block 50 Mini-D variant F-16 Fighting Falcons in support of complex training and operational taskings, while maintaining proficiency in the employment of a full array of munitions and tactics. The squadron is one of four F-16 units assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., under the direction of Headquarters 9th Air Force/U.S. Central Command Air Forces and Headquarters Air Combat Command.
The squadron was organized Feb. 20, 1918, as the 77th Aero Squadron at Waco Field, Texas. The squadron was demobilized in November 1918, but was reactivated and consolidated with the 77th Observation Squadron in October 1927. In 1929, the squadron was redesignated the 77th Pursuit Squadron and reorganized as one of the first tactical units of the 20th Pursuit Group at Mather Field, Calif., with an officer strength of four.
From 1930 until 1943, the squadron moved back and forth across the country with the 20th, flying several different aircraft, including P-26, P-36, P-38, P-39 and P-40 aircraft. In January 1943, the 77th settled at March Field, Calif., in time to be reassigned to England and the European Theater of Operations during World War II. The 77th, now designated a fighter squadron, arrived at Northhamptonshire, England, in August 1943, flying P-38 Lightning aircraft. The 77th entered combat operations in November 1943, flying combat missions until April 25, 1945, when, armed with P-51 Mustangs, began escorting "heavies" to Pilzen, Czechoslovakia, on one of the last raids of the war.
The 77th was instrumental in the 20th achieving its record "kill" of 432 enemy aircraft, 400 locomotives, 1,555 freight cars, 94 ammunition cars and 536 motor vehicles destroyed. In addition, the 77th received a Distinguished Unit Citation for an April 8, 1944, attack on the German airdrome at Salzwedel. On Feb. 8, 1945, the 77th set an 8th Air Force record for number of aircraft destroyed and damaged. Among those contributing was Capt. Ernest C. Fiebel, the group's top ace with 11 "kills." The 77th produced 10 aces (five or more enemy aircraft destroyed), making it tops in the 20th for aces. The 77th left King's Cliffe, England, in the summer of 1945 and was deactivated in October 1945.
The 77th, along with the 20th, was reactivated in July 1946, at Biggs Field in El Paso, Texas. Between 1946 and 1952, the squadron's history is filled with several moves and aircraft changes before the 77th moved to Shaw Field, S.C. The squadron later moved to Langley Air Force Base, Va., becoming the 77th Fighter-Bomber Squadron and transitioned to the F-84.
The 77th, and the 20th, were again reassigned, finding a new home at Royal Air Force Station Wethersfield, England, in May 1952. Upon their arrival, the 77th joined the United States Air Forces in Europe, becoming an integral part of the North American Treaty Organization's air arm. In 1957, the 77th began transitioning to the F-100 Super Sabre. One year later the squadron was redesignated a tactical fighter squadron, flying "the Hun" for 11 more years in support of its NATO commitment.
In 1969, the 77th, along with the 20th, began moving to Royal Air Force Station Upper Heyford, England, and converted to the swing-wing fighter- bomber version of the F-111, becoming operationally ready in its new aircraft in 1971. The 77th was one of three F-111 squadrons in Europe. The squadron was selected as USAFE's top tactical fighter squadron in 1974.
In keeping pace with the Air Force's restructuring, the squadron reorganized and incorporated 250 maintainers from the group's aircraft generation, equipment maintenance and supply squadrons on Feb. 1, 1992. The 77th was inactivated in October 1993, then transferred and reactivated at its present home, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., on Jan. 3, 1994.
The 77th participated in numerous training exercises in 1994 and flew a total of 4,176 sorties for the year. The squadron received several newer models of the F-16 during January-May 1994. The squadron was also instrumental in the 20th Fighter Wing's being awarded the Air Force Daedalian Award for 1994. A 77th Fighter Squadron flight demonstration team was chosen to perform for President Bill Clinton in late April 1994. The 77th distinguished itself in winning the ACC Long Shot Competition. The operational capabilities of the 77th's F-16s were upgraded in 1994 and significantly improved the war-fighting capabilities of the wing.
The 77th "Gamblers" deployed a dozen F-16CJ aircraft to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, flying 1,021 combat sorties.
Squadron decorations, campaign and service streamers include the Distinguished Unit Citation and Air Force Outstanding Unit Award; American Theater Service Streamer; Air Offensive Europe, Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, Central Europe, Air Combat EAME Theater campaign streamers.
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