The 537th Airlift Squadron is an inactive squadron of the United States Air Force. The unit was last active at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Alaska, where it was inactivated on 13 September 2013.
The squadron was first established during World War II as the 537th Fighter Squadron. It served as a Replacement Training Unit for Republic P-47 Thunderbolt pilots until it was disbanded in a major reorganization of the Army Air Forces in 1944 designed to streamline training organizations.
In 1952, the squadron was redesignated as the 537th Troop Carrier Squadron, and activated at Atterbury Air Force Base to replace elements of the 923d Reserve Training Wing. The following year the squadron was inactivated and replaced at Atterbury by the 73d Troop Carrier Squadron.
The unit was activated again in Viet Nam as a C-7 Caribou squadron assigned to the 483d Tactical Airlift Wing the squadron was awarded three Presidential Unit Citations for its actions during the Viet Nam War.
In 2011, the unit was re-activated and designated the 537th Airlift Squadron.
The squadron was first established as the 537th Fighter Squadron and was activated in November 1943 at Richmond Army Air Base, Virginia, as one of the four original squadrons of the 87th Fighter Group. The squadron began operations with Republic P-47 Thunderbolts as a Replacement Training Unit (RTU). RTUs were oversized units which trained aircrews prior to their deployment to combat theaters and assignment to an operational group. In January 1944, the squadron and the 546th Fighter Squadron moved to Millville Army Air Field, New Jersey, and the 87th group's headquarters and other squadrons transferred to Camp Springs Army Air Field, Maryland.
However, the Army Air Forces found that standard military units, based on relatively inflexible tables of organization were proving less well adapted to the training mission. Accordingly, a more functional system was adopted in which each base was organized into a separate numbered unit. while the groups and squadrons acting as RTUs were disbanded or inactivated. This resulted in the squadron being disbanded in the spring of 1944 and being replaced by the 135th AAF Base Unit (Fighter), which assumed its mission, personnel, and equipment.
In 1952 the squadron was redesignated as the 537th Troop Carrier Squadron, became part of the newly constituted 87th Troop Carrier Wing under the wing base organization system, and was activated at Atterbury Air Force Base. The 87th wing replaced the 923d Reserve Training Wing at Atterbury when reserve flying operations resumed there. The squadron operated Curtiss C-46 Commandos to train reservists. In February 1953 the 434th Troop Carrier Group was released from active duty and activated in the reserves, and its 73d Troop Carrier Squadron assumed the mission, personnel and equipment of the 537th.
The squadron was activated in 1967, and took over DeHavilland Canada C-7A Caribou aircraft that were formerly operated by the 17th Aviation Company of the U.S. Army in South Vietnam, adopting the tactical airlift mission. The squadron initially maintained a detachment at An Khe, which had been the 17th's base. It operated from Phù Cát Air Base. The 537th earned a Navy Presidential Unit Citation, as well as an Air Force Presidential Unit Citation for airlift support of Khe Sanh and other forward bases from January to May 1968. It earned a second Air Force Presidential Unit Citation for action between April and June 1970 when it participated in the aerial resupply of Dak Seang Special Forces Camp, evacuation of over 2000 refugees from Cambodia, and transportation of the Presidential Southeast Asia Investigation Team to various remote locations in South Vietnam.
The squadron was redesignated as the 537th Airlift Squadron and activated at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska in 2011 to augment the 144th Airlift Squadron of the Alaska Air National Guard. Its primary mission was to support Army airborne forces training. The squadron was inactivated due to cuts in the Department of Defense budget resulting from sequestration.Constituted as the 537th Fighter Squadron (Single Engine) on 24 September 1943
Activated on 1 October 1943
Disbanded on 10 April 1944
Reconstituted and redesignated 537th Troop Carrier Squadron (Medium) on 26 May 1952
Activated in the reserve on 15 June 1952
Inactivated on 1 February 1953
Redesignated 537th Troop Carrier Squadron and activated on 12 Oct 1966 (not organized)
Organized on 1 January 1967
Redesignated 537th Tactical Airlift Squadron
on 1 August 1967
Inactivated on 31 August 1971
Redesignated 537th Airlift Squadron on 30 Mar 2011
Activated on 29 April 2011
Inactivated on 11 September 2013
87th Fighter Group: 1 October 1943 – 10 April 1944
87th Troop Carrier Group: 15 June 1952 – 1 February 1953
Pacific Air Forces: 12 October 1966 (not organized)
483d Troop Carrier Wing (later 483d Tactical Airlift Wing): 1 January 1967 – 31 August 1971
3d Operations Group: 29 April 2011 – 11 September 2013
Richmond Army Air Base, Virginia, 1 October 1943
Millville Army Air Field, New Jersey, 7 January 1944 – 10 April 1944
Atterbury Air Force Base, Indiana, 15 June 1952 – 1 February 1953
Phu Cat Air Base, Vietnam, 1 January 1967 – 31 August 1971
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, 29 April 2011 – 11 September 2013
Capt John C. Yancey, 6 Oct 1943 – 10 Apr 1944; Lt Col Charles C. Smith, 1 Jan 1967; Lt Col John F. Yelton, c. Apr 1967; Lt Col Harold J. Zweifel, 22 May 1967; Lt Col Robert C. Olson, c. Jul 1967; Lt Col Gayle C. Wolf, 1 May 1968; Lt Col George C. Marvin, 18 Feb 1969; Lt Col Donald J. MacFarren, 14 Nov 1969; Lt Col Walter H. Perris, c. Jun 1970; Lt Col Ray Barton, 16 Nov 1979 – c. Aug 1971Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, 1943–1944
Curtiss C-46 Commando, 1952–1953
DeHavilland Canada C-7A Caribou, 1967–1971
Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules, 2011–2013