The 711th Special Operations Squadron (711 SOS) is part of the 919th Special Operations Wing at Duke Field, Florida. It is an Air Force Reserve Command unit that is operationally gained by Air Force Special Operations Command if called to active duty.
The squadron was first activated during World War II as the 711th Bombardment Squadron. After training in the United States, it deployed to the European Theater, where it engaged in strategic bombardment missions against Germany. 2d Lieutenant Robert E. Femoyer, of the 711th Bombardment Squadron, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during a mission over Merseburg, Germany, on 2 November 1944. The group returned to the United States following the war and was inactivated.
The squadron was activated in the reserves as a light bomber unit in 1949 and served until it was called to active duty in 1951 as a result of the Korean War and its personnel used as fillers for regular units.
In 1955, the squadron was again activated in the reserves as the 711th Fighter-Bomber Squadron. It trained with Lockheed F-80 Shooting Stars and North American F-86 Sabres until being replaced by the 69th Troop Carrier Squadron in 1957.
The squadron activated in 1971 as the 711th Tactical Airlift Squadron at Duke Field, Florida with the mission of intratheater airlift, using Lockheed C-130 Hercules Aircraft. Three years later, it converted to the AC-130 gunship model of the Hercules and became the 711th Special Operations Squadron. In 1995 it converted to a third type of C-130 when it began to fly the MC-130 Combat Talon model. In 2013 it re-equipped with PZL C-145A Skytrucks and its mission became one of providing training and support for friendly nations.
In May 2013 the 711th SOS ended its 42-year mission operating the Lockheed C-130 aircraft to transition to an aviation foreign internal defense mission flying PZL C-145A Skytrucks. In 2015, the 711th SOS shares a building, flightline, aircraft and mission with the active-duty 6th Special Operations Squadron at Duke Field. The 6th SOS moved from Hurlburt Field to Duke Field in 2012, as the 711th transitioned from the MC-130E to the FID role, the two units jointly assuming the new mission. "As the only two Air Force operational squadrons performing this mission, their deployment tempo is best described as continuous averaging around one deployment a month."
The squadron was first activated on 1 May 1943 at Ephrata Army Air Base, Washington as the 711th Bombardment Squadron, one of the four squadrons of the 447th Bombardment Group.
The original mission of the squadron was to be an operational training unit. However, by the time the 447th group reached full strength in October it had been identified for overseas deployment and its key personnel were assigned to the Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics at Orlando Army Air Base, Florida for advanced tactical training. The cadre trained at Brooksville Army Air Field with the 1st Bombardment Squadron, engaging in simulated attacks against Mobile, Charleston and New Orleans. The squadron then trained at Rapid City Army Air Base, South Dakota with the 17th Bombardment Training Wing. In June 1943 the group moved to Harvard Army Air Field, Nebraska for Phase I training. The unit sailed on the RMS Queen Elizabeth on 23 November 1943 and arrived at the Firth of Clyde on 29 November 1943. The squadron's B-17s began to move from the United States to the European theater of operations in November 1943.
The squadron was stationed at RAF Rattlesden, England, from December 1943 to August 1945. It flew its first combat mission on 24 December 1943 against a V-1 missile site near Saint-Omer in Northern France.
From December 1943 to May 1944, the squadron helped prepare for the invasion of the European continent by attacking submarine pens, naval installations, and cities in Germany; missile sites and ports in France; and airfields and marshaling yards in France, Belgium and Germany. The squadron conducted heavy bombardment missions against German aircraft industry during Big Week, 20 to 25 February 1944.
The unit supported the invasion of Normandy in June 1944 by bombing airfields and other targets. On D-Day the squadron bombed the beachhead area using pathfinder aircraft.
The squadron aided in the breakthrough at St. Lo, France, and the effort to take Brest, France, from July to September 1944. It bombed strategic targets from October to December 1944, concentrating on sources of oil production. It assaulted marshalling yards, railroad bridges and communication centers during the Battle of the Bulge from December 1944 to January 1945. In March 1945 the group bombed an airfield in support of airborne assault across the Rhine. The unit flew its last combat mission on 21 April 1945 against a marshalling yard at Ingolstadt, Germany.
On 2 November 1944, 2d Lieutenant Robert E. Femoyer, a navigator with the squadron, was flying a mission to Merseburg, Germany. His B-17 was damaged by flak and Lt. Femoyer was severely injured in his back and side. He refused morphine to relieve the pain of his injuries in order to keep his mind alert to navigate the plane out of the danger from heavily defended flak areas and then to a place of safety for his crew. Because he was too weak to climb back in his seat, he asked other crew members to prop him up so he could read his charts and instruments. For more than two hours he directed the navigation of his plane back to its home station with no further damage. Shortly after being removed from his plane, Lt. Femoyer died of his injuries.
The 711th redeployed to the United States during the summer 1945. The air echelon ferried their aircraft and personnel back to the United States, leaving on 29 and 30 June 1945. The squadron ground echelon, along with the 709th squadron sailed 3 August 1945 on the SS Benjamin R. Milam, from Liverpool. Most personnel were discharged at Camp Myles Standish after arrival at the port of Boston. A small cadre proceeded to Drew Field, Florida and the squadron inactivated on 7 November 1945.
The squadron was redesignated as a light bomber unit and activated in the postwar reserve at Long Beach Municipal Airport and assigned to the 448th Bombardment Group. It had no tactical aircraft assigned, but flew twin engine trainers and trained with the 2347th Air Force Reserve Training Center. The squadron was called to active duty for the Korean War in 1951. The squadron's personnel were reassigned to other organizations, then the unit was inactivated a few days later as a paper unit.
The squadron was redesignated the 711th Fighter-Bomber Squadron and again activated as a reserve unit in 1955 at Hensley Field, Texas when the 448th Fighter-Bomber Wing replaced the 8709th Pilot Training Wing at Hensley Field, Texas. The wing took over the T-28 Trojan aircraft of the 8709th, but soon re-equipped with Lockheed F-80 Shooting Stars. The squadron flew the F-80 until 1957, when it began converting to the North American F-86 Sabre. However, later that year, the 711th and the remainder of the 448th wing were inactivated when reserve operations at Hensley converted to the airlift mission and the 69th Troop Carrier Squadron moved to Hensley from Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.
The unit reactivated in 1971 at Duke Field, Florida as the 711th Tactical Airlift Squadron, a reserve intratheater airlift squadron equipped with the Lockheed C-130A Hercules. Its mission was the airlift of personnel and cargo as well as airdrop support for Army paratroopers during exercises.
In late 1974, the squadron began transitioning to the AC-130A Spectre aircraft and when transition to gunships was complete the squadron was redesignated as the 711th Special Operations Squadron in the summer of the following year. Close air support of conventional and special operations ground forces became the unit's primary duty, but additional capabilities included the ability to perform armed interdiction, reconnaissance, and escort, forward air control and combat search and rescue in conventional or unconventional warfare settings.
Because the Spectres' advanced sensors were useful in range reconnaissance and range clearing tasks, the 711th also provided missile range support to the Air Force's Eastern Range at Cape Canaveral AFS from 1979 to 1989 and space shuttle support to National Aeronautics and Space Administration at Kennedy Space Center from 1981 to 1988.
The 711th flew pre-strike reconnaissance, fire support, escort, and air base defense sorties during Operation Just Cause, the United States intervention in Panama from 8 December 1989 to 7 January 1990, for which it earned an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.
The 711th again flew combat missions during Operation Desert Storm in Southwest Asia from February through March 1991. The squadron deployed five aircraft and eight aircrews to King Fahd International Airport, near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, arriving on 7 February and flying its first sortie two days later. On 26 February three of the squadron's AC-130As attacked the Jahra to Basra road, which was being used by fleeing Iraqi troops. Fighter aircraft had struck the road, and numerous vehicles were backed up on the road, struggling to make their way north. Ghost 10 was the first squadron aircraft to attack, but it had to depart the area after destroying five vehicles due to its low fuel situation. It was replaced by Ghost 06 and Ghost 07, which destroyed an additional 29 vehicles, including four armored personnel carriers. The squadron flew 59 sorties during the war, and performed airlift as well as gunship missions. It departed the theater on 12 March and arrived at Duke on 19 March.
The squadron's primary mission changed in late 1995 as the unit transitioned to the MC-130E Combat Talon I aircraft. In its new role, the squadron provided long-range clandestine delivery of special operations forces and equipment. It periodically deployed personnel and aircraft to support special operations contingency operations worldwide, as well as numerous humanitarian missions. Beginning on 1 October 1997, the 711th also provided the flight portion of MC-130E Combat Talon I training for both Air Force Special Operations Command and Air Force Reserve Command.
After September 2001, the 711th frequently deployed aircraft and personnel to Iraq and Afghanistan in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
The squadron ended forty-two years of operating with the Hercules in 2013, when it transitioned into the PZL C-145 Skytruck short takeoff and landing aircraft. The unit's new mission is aviation foreign internal defense. Aviation foreign internal defense is a special operations forces mission employing airmen as combat aviation advisors to assess, train, advise and assist foreign nations in aviation. It supports friendly nations to assist the United States in achieving strategic political and military goals. In this mission the squadron is a reserve associate unit operating and maintaining aircraft of the 6th Special Operations Squadron a colocated regular unit.Constituted as the 711th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) on 6 April 1943
Activated on 1 May 1943
Redesignated 711th Bombardment Squadron
, Heavy on 20 August 1943
Inactivated on 7 November 1945
Redesignated 711th Bombardment Squadron, Light on 10 May 1949
Activated in the reserve on 27 June 1949
Ordered to active service on 17 March 1951
Inactivated on 21 March 1951
Redesignated 711th Fighter-Bomber Squadron on 12 April 1955
Activated in the reserve on 18 May 1955
Inactivated on 16 November 1957.
Redesignated 711 Tactical Airlift Squadron on 17 June 1971
Activated in the Reserve on 30 July 1971
Redesignated 711 Special Operations Squadron
on 1 July 1975
447th Bombardment Group, 1 May 1943 – 7 November 1945
448th Bombardment Group, 27 June 1949 – 21 March 1951
448th Fighter-Bomber Group, 18 May 1955 – 16 November 1957
919th Tactical Airlift Group (later 919 Special Operations Group), 30 July 1971
919th Operations Group (later 919th Special Operations Group), 1 August 1992 – present