The 181st Airlift Squadron is a unit of the 136th Airlift Wing of the Texas Air National Guard stationed at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas. The 181st is equipped with the Lockheed C-130H Hercules.
The squadron was first activated during World War II as the 395th Fighter Squadron. It served in the European Theater of Operations as a fighter bomber unit, earning a Distinguished Unit Citation and the Belgian Fourragère. After the war it became part of the occupation forces in Germany until it was inactivated in August 1946.
The squadron was allotted to the United States National Guard as the 181st Fighter Squadron and was activated in 1947. It served in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex as a fighter squadron until the early 1960s, when it assumed an air refueling mission, which continued until 1978, and has been an airlift unit since then.
The squadron was first activated in June 1943 as the 395th Fighter Squadron, a Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter squadron. It trained under I Fighter Command on Long Island, New York and in Massachusetts. The 395th moved to England, arriving in January 1944.
The unit began operations with IX Fighter Command on 14 March and flew a fighter sweep over the English Channel coast of France. it made strafing and bombing attacks on airfields, rail and highway bridges, trains, vehicles, flak positions, and V-1 flying bomb and V-2 rocket launch sites to help prepare for Operation Overlord, the invasion of France.
It supported the landings in Normandy in June 1944 and began operations from the Continent later the same month. It aided in the taking of Cherbourg, participated in the air operations that prepared the way for Operation Cobra ,the Allied breakthrough at St Lo on 25 July, and supported ground forces during their drive across France.
The 395th continued to support ground forces, participated in the assault against the Siegfried Line, and took part in the Battle of the Bulge from December 1944 to January 1945 by attacking rail lines and trains, marshalling yards, roads and vehicles, armored columns, and gun positions. It operated with the Allied forces that pushed across the Rhine and into Germany. During its operations the squadron earned a Distinguished Unit Citation and was cited twice in the Order of the day of the Belgian Army, earning the Belgian Fourragère.
After V-E Day, the squadron served with the occupation forces. It was inactivated in Germany on 20 August 1946 and its personnel and equipment were transferred to the 82d Fighter Squadron, which was activated the same day.
The wartime 395th Fighter Squadron was redesignated the 181st Fighter Squadron and allotted to the National Guard the day after it was inactivated in Germany. It was organized at Love Field, Dallas, Texas and was extended federal recognition on 27 February 1947. The squadron was assigned to its World War II headquarters, which had also been assigned to the National Guard as the 136th Fighter Group, and was equipped with North American P-51D Mustangs.
The mission of the squadron was to train for air defense. During the postwar years, the 181st primarily trained over the northern part of the state, while the other two squadrons of the 136th Group, the 111th Fighter Squadron, at Ellington Air Force Base and the 182d Fighter Squadron, at Brooks Air Force Base, near San Antonio, trained in southeastern Texas and the Texas Hill Country.
With the breakout of the Korean War in October 1950, the 136th Fighter Group was one of the first Guard units to be federalized and went on active duty, along with the 111th and 182d Fighter Squadrons and moved to Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. The 181st Fighter Squadron remained in the Texas Air National Guard and was assigned directly to its headquarters. The 181st was re-equipped with the Very Long Range F-51H Mustang, which had been developed to escort Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers in the Pacific Theater. The F-51H would allow the squadron to intercept any unidentified aircraft over any part of Texas. In September 1952, the squadron became the 181st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron
With the 136th Fighter-Bomber Group's release from active duty in July 1952, the squadron was again assigned to it. It became the 181st Fighter-Bomber Squadron the following January. Despite this name change, the squadron remained focused on the air defense mission.
It wasn't until January 1955 that the squadron received its first jets, Lockheed F-80C Shooting Stars. In July it was redesignated the 181st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. On 1 July 1957 the 136th Fighter-Interceptor Wing was reorganized along Air Defense Command's (ADC) regional model, becoming the 136th Air Defense Wing, while the 136th Group became the 136th Fighter Group (Air Defense), and new fighter groups were activated for the wing's other squadrons. The 181st was selected by ADC to man an alert program on an around the clock basis, with armed fighters ready to scramble at a moment's notice. This brought the squadron into the daily combat operational program of the Air Force alongside regular air defense fighter squadrons. The squadron's obsolescent F-80 fighters were upgraded to the radar equipped and Mighty Mouse rocket armed North American F-86D Sabre by the end of the year.
In August 1961, the 181st became the 181st Air Refueling Squadron as Tactical Air Command (TAC) replaced ADC as the unit's mobilization gaining command. The 181st was equipped with Boeing KC-97L Stratotankers, its mission becoming air refueling, primarily of TAC fighter aircraft. The 181st moved from Love Field to Hensley Field, which relieved Love Field from supporting airliners and military aircraft from a field near the downtown area of a major city.
With the transfer of the interceptors and no previously qualified aircrew or maintenance personnel assigned, the 181st went though a year of transition to its new mission. The squadron achieved operational status in the KC-97 in eight months. The previous "normal" time for similar conversions was two years. In 1966 the squadron began a rotational deployment to Ramstein Air Base in support of Operation Creek Party, which provided United States Air Forces Europe an air refueling capability. The Creek Party deployment rotations lasted until 1976, and over the decade the squadron saw millions of pounds of jet fuel off-loaded and millions of miles flown, all accident free. In 1976 the squadron's gaining command became Strategic Air Command, the Air Force's single manager of refueling assets. However, the Air National Guard had begun retiring its KC-97s and by 1978 all had left the inventory.
On 1 April 1978, the 181st became the 181st Tactical Airlift Squadron and its gaining command became Military Airlift Command (MAC), re-equipping with Lockheed C-130B Hercules transports. The new mission was airlift of troops, military equipment, cargo and aeromedical support.
The squadron participated in numerous Cold War military exercises such as Team Spirit, Volant Oak, Red Flag, and Reforger. Other Joint Chief of Staff exercises included Ember Dawn IV in Alaska and Brave Shield in Europe. In 1979, the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve assumed full responsibility for airlift operations in Panama.
In mid-December 1989, squadron aircraft, aircrews, and support personnel deployed for Exercise Volant Oak at Howard Air Force Base, in the Panama Canal Zone It flew combat airlift missions for United States Southern Command during Operation Just Cause, the replacement of Manuel Noriega as the ruler of Panama. More than 100 combat sorties were flown, with no casualties or damage to aircraft.
In August 1986 the Wing received the new C-130H aircraft. By late January 1991, the squadron provided voluntarily and involuntarily activated, to participate in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. Aircraft and air crews from the squadron flew two month-long tours of duty in Operation Volant Pine, a backfill of airlift aircraft to Europe by Air National Guard C-130s.
In 1997, wing members deployed supporting state and federal missions. During the period the unit supported Department of Defense missions deploying to Oman and Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Southern Watch, and in humanitarian airlift. On 1 October 1998 with the closure of Hensley Field, the squadron moved to the former Carswell Air Force Base, now designated as Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth.
As part of the Global War on Terrorism, the unit has deployed numerous times in support of Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation New Horizons, with an average of six deployments per unit member. When the squadron is the primary force provider for an expeditionary unit, that unit is designated the 181st Expeditionary Airlift Squadron.Constituted as the 395th Fighter Squadron, Single Engine on 24 May 1943
Activated on 1 June 1943
Inactivated on 20 August 1946
Redesignated 181st Fighter Squadron, Single Engine and allotted to the National Guard on 21 August 1946
Extended federal recognition on 27 February 1947
Redesignated 181st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron on 16 September 1952
Redesignated 181st Fighter-Bomber Squadron
on 1 January 1953
Redesignated 181st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron
on 1 July 1955
Redesignated 181st Air Refueling Squadron
, Medium on 1 September 1961
Redesignated 181st Tactical Airlift Squadron
on 8 April 1978
Redesignated 181st Airlift Squadron
on 16 March 1992
368th Fighter Group, 1 Jun 1943 - 20 Aug 1946.
136th Fighter Group, 27 January 1947
Texas Air National Guard, 10 October 1950
136th Fighter-Interceptor Group (later 136th Fighter-Bomber Group, 136th Fighter-Interceptor Group, 136th Fighter Group, 136th Air Refueling Group), 10 July 1952
136th Air Refueling Wing (later 136th Tactical Airlift Wing, 136th Airlift Wing)), 8 December 1974
136th Operations Group, 16 March 1992 – Present