Wednesday, September 18, 2013

537th Airlift Squadron inactivates

by Airman 1st Class Tammie Ramsouer,  JBER Public Affairs

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The 537th Airlift Squadron inactivated Wednesday in a ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

The inactivation was a result of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which determines the Department of Defense budget for 2013.

The squadron was notified of their fate last year. Inactivation, as opposed to deactivation, means the squadron could be reactivated at some point.

"Although our time here was short and our manning levels topped out at only four of the intended 12 crews, we feel we have made an impact in Alaska and around the world," said Air Force Maj. Ryan Hendrickson, 537th AS director of operations. "In this short time, we reinvigorated the Long Range Radar Site resupply missions. This is a highly challenging mission only flown by a handful of skilled and certified Airmen."

Shortly after the squadron members learned about their inactivation, personnel received reassignments and inbound personnel were diverted.

The 537th AS was inactive for more than 40 years before being activated as the Air Force's newest Total Force Unit operating C-130 Hercules in April of 2011.

"The unit was designed to bring four C-130s to Alaska and 12 fully capable combat crews to complement the eight C-130s and crews the [Alaska] Air National Guard's 144th [Airlift Squadron] possessed," Hendrickson said.

The squadron originally stood up during World War II as the 537th Troop Carrier Squadron - an Air Force Reserve unit flying P-47 Thunderbolts. It later became the 537th Tactical Airlift Squadron, flying C-7 Caribou and providing mission support to all branches of the military in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

Once activated on JBER, the mission was primarily to support Army airborne training, along with the 144th Airlift Squadron.

"The C-130 was built to be in Alaska," Hendrickson said. "The terrain, airspace, close proximity to Army airborne assets and training opportunities make it an unbeatable training ground for the C-130 aircrews. Airmen who have spent any amount of time operating the C-130s in the Alaska environment are confidently prepared to deploy to the harshest environments in the world at a moments notice with ease."

Together, the two units flew C-130s that carried government and emergency equipment, supplies and food.

The squadron has fulfilled more than half of U.S. Army Alaska's annual jump requirements for this fiscal year, engaging in combat support operations in the Philippines - all while having less than 50 percent manning. The missions the 537th AS supported will now fall on other JBER units.