The 548th Combat Training Squadron is a United States Air Force squadron assigned to the 57th Operations Group at Fort Polk, Louisiana. It is a Geographically Separated Unit (GSU) from the 57th OG, its headquarters being at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. At Fort Polk, the squadron controls multi-service close air support and forward air control aircraft and tactical air control assets in realistic combat exercises with the US Army Joint Readiness Training Center.
The unit was originally formed as the 548th Night Fighter Squadron in 1944. After training, it was deployed to Seventh Air Force and ordered to the Mariana Islands in the Central Pacific. Its mission was the air defense of Twentieth Air Force B-29 Superfortress airfields on Saipan and also on Iwo Jima. It also provided night escort for the B-29s in case of Japanese interceptor attacks. It later served on Okinawa where it was inactivated in December 1945.
The squadron was re-activated in 1969 during the Vietnam War as part of the 1st Air Commando Wing. Its mission was to train South Vietnamese Air Force aircrews in the operation of C-47 Skytrain "Puff The Magic Dragon" gunship operations to interdict North Vietnamese supply convoys and personnel movements along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The squadron was inactivated in 1973 as part of the withdrawal of United States forces from the Vietnam War.
The 548th Combat Training Squadron provides Air Combat Command-directed support to the U.S. Army’s Joint Readiness Training Center located at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
The 548th CTS accomplishes air liaison duties for the JRTC commander, exercises operational control of deployed fighter units to Barksdale, provides deployed unit maintenance and munitions support, schedules and controls exercise airspace, controls close air support missions, builds exercise scenarios, provides observers and controllers to evaluate tactical air control operations and replicates Air Force command and control from division through Joint Task Force level.
The 548th CTS serves as host to active Air Force, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, Marine and Navy units in stressful, realistic combined arms training for both Army and Air Force contingency forces under conditions of low- to mid-intensity conflicts. Squadron members assist in the planning of Air Force operational support and participation in each exercise.
The Air Force supports deployments of personnel and equipment with strategic airlift and sustainment of forces in their operational area by theater airlift. Tactical aircraft provide the close air support to the Army contingent on the ground. Important to maintaining the ability to fight and win is tough, demanding force-on-force training. The events occurring in Iraq, Bosnia and Afghanistan is representative of the kind of realistic training experience our combat units receive, and it is what the 548th CTS and the JRTC are all about.
The squadron was established on 23 March 1944 as the 548th Night Fighter Squadron at Salinas Army Air Base, California. It was part of the final group of dedicated night fighter interceptor squadrons formed by the Army Air Forces, being programmed to deploy to the Central Pacific. It was at Salinas that the squadron adopted its emblem, "Skopie" as in "radar-scope", that it still carries today. The squadron trained at various airfields in the San Joaquin Valley and was ready to deploy into combat by early September.
The Squadron moved by train to Seattle, Washington where it boarded the USS General W. F. Hase, bound for Honolulu in the Hawaiian Islands. Arriving after a two-week crossing, it remained at Hickam Field, until its aircraft and equipment arrived in Hawaii. At Hickam, it was assigned to Seventh Air Force, and its P-61s were sent though the Hawaiian Air Depot to modify the aircraft for operations in the Pacific Theater. After being part of the defense forces of Hawaii for several weeks, a detachment was sent to Isely Airfield, Saipan on 15 December to provide night interceptor coverage of the new bases on Saipan and Guam for the Twentieth Air Force, which was going to use the airfields to carry out very long range strategic bombing of the Japanese Home Islands with the new B-29 Superfortress.
At the end of January 1945, the ground echelon of the squadron departed Hawaii, bound for newly captured Central Field, on Iwo Jima. Arriving in late February, the detachment on Saipan re-joined the squadron. The 548th was the first night-fighter squadron to arrive on Iwo Jima (on D+8). and even after its capture, Iwo Jima remained vulnerable to long range Japanese attacks, and its mission was to defend the new American airfields being built there.
A large percentage of the squadron's missions consisted of long-distance patrols over water, many of which involved interceptions of Japanese Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" bombers. Its presence, although rarely shooting down any enemy aircraft, did cause the bombers to jettison their loads and beat a hasty retreat from the area. The squadron moved to Ie Shima on 12 June just 3 miles off the coast of Okinawa to provide night interceptor patrols over Okinawa. It finished out the war doing night penetration raids and weather observations to support the B-29s bombing the Japanese home islands. It was during this time that the squadron scored its first two "kills" were scored by squadron pilots on enemy aircraft on 21 June. Two more "kills" were scored on 14–15 August, the last two aerial victories by American pilots in the Pacific War.
With the war over, the squadron's ground echelon were transferred to Occupied Japan to serve as part of the Army of Occupation in September, its aircraft being sent to storage depots on Okinawa and at Clark Field, Philippines. The 548th was inactivated as an administrative organization at Fort Lewis, Washington in December 1945.
The squadron was re-activated in October 1969 at England AFB, Louisiana as the 548th Combat Training Squadron. Its mission was to train South Vietnamese Air Force pilots and crews on the AC-47 Spooky gunship, which the United States was transferring to South Vietnamese control in the conflict. First configured in 1965, the AC-47 was equipped with three 7.62mm miniguns could selectively fire either 50 or 100 rounds per second. Cruising at 120 knots in a 3,000 foot circular orbit over its target, the AC-47 could put a bullet into every square yard of a football field-sized target in 3 seconds. And, ammunition holding out, it could do this intermittently while loitering over the target for hours.
The squadron trained Vietnamese crews on the Spooky until 1973 when it was inactivated with the end of American involvement in the Vietnam War and as part of the general inactivation of USAF special forces units.Constituted as: 548th Night Fighter Squadron on 23 March 1944
Activated on 10 April 1944
Inactivated on 19 December 1945
Activated and Redesignated: 548th Combat Training Squadron on 15 October 1969
Inactivated on 31 July 1973
Reactivated on 1 July 1994
Inactivated on 30 September 1997
Reactivated on 4 October 2007
P-70 Havoc, 1944
P-61 Black Widow, 1944–1945
Controlled USAF, Navy and Marine aircraft, 1994–1997