The 728th Airlift Squadron (728 AS) is a United States Air Force Reserve squadron, assigned to the 446th Operations Group, stationed at McChord Field, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. It is a corollary unit of the active duty 8th Airlift Squadron, 62d Airlift Wing (62 AW).
The mission of the 728th AS is to provide mission-ready aircrews for operational support for strategic and tactical airlift, combat airdrop and aeromedical evacuation in support of U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserve Command and gaining major command objectives.
The 728th was initially activated June 1, 1943, as the 728th Bombardment Squadron at Geiger Field located near Spokane, WA. The 728th, equipped with the B-17 Flying Fortress, flew its first combat mission to France in 1944 in support of Allied Forces during World War II. The squadron flew numerous bombardment missions during the Battle of the Bulge and supported the airborne assault across the Rhine in March 1945. Following several European post-war missions, the 728th was inactivated in the United States in August 1945.
In April 1947, the 728th was reactivated as a Reserve unit at Long Beach, CA. The squadron began transition training in the DouglasB-26 Invader in February 1949. Ordered to active duty in August 1950, the squadron left its training station at George AFB, CA, and headed for Japan October 12, 1950. The 728th flew its first combat mission of the Korean War on November 12, 1950. The squadron later moved to South Korea in May 1951 to fly close air support, interdiction and reconnaissance missions against North Korea. These combat missions continued until May 1952 when the squadron returned to the United States.
Designated as the 728th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron in June 1952, 728th aircrews began transition training to T-33 and F-80 Shooting Star aircraft. In May 1955, the 728th was re-designated as a tactical bombardment squadron and again flew the B-26 Douglas Invader. In July 1957, the squadron was again re-designated as a troop carrier unit and began to fly C-46 Commando aircraft. One year later the squadron transitioned to the C-119 Flying Boxcar.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis from October to November 1962, the 728th provided airlift support for the Continental Air Command and the Strategic Air Command. In August 1965, the squadron received its first C-124 Globemaster II aircraft and four months later was designated the 728th Military Airlift Squadron in January 1966. The 728th MAS flew regular missions in the Pacific and Far East theaters.
After seven years as a C-124 unit, the 728th MAS was relocated at Norton AFB, CA, and became an associate Reserve squadron in the 445th Military Airlift Wing. In January 1972, the 728th MAS began transition training to fly the C-141 Starlifter. The 728th participated in Operation Homecoming, bringing home the POWs from Southeast Asia, and Operation New Life which supported the evacuation of orphans and other refugees from Vietnam to the United States.
In 1989 the 728th flew many missions in support of Operation Just Cause in Panama and, as a Reserve squadron, voluntarily flew numerous airlift missions into Southwest Asia in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1991.
On January 1, 1992 the 728th MAS was officially transferred from the 445th Military Airlift Wing at Norton AFB, CA, to the 446th Military Airlift Wing at McChord AFB, WA. The relocation of the squadron was a result of the closure of Norton AFB as part of the DOD's Base Realignment and Closure program. The 728th was renamed the 728th Airlift Squadron (AS) on February 1, 1992 following the reorganization of the 446th Airlift Wing and was joined its two sister squadrons, the 97th Airlift Squadron and 313th Airlift Squadron, within the newly formed 446th Operations Group.
Because of its service throughout its history, the 728th has earned numerous awards and decorations. The squadron received 13 campaign streamers and six decorations for its service during World War II and the Korean War. The squadron earned three Distinguished Presidential Unit Citations for 1945, 1951, and 1952. The Republic of Korea Presidential and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm are also key awards highlighting the 728th's dedicated service. The 728th also received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for its contributions from September 1, 1985 to August 31, 1987.
Since arriving at McChord AFB in January 1992, the 728th has participated in numerous real world contingency, peacekeeping, and humanitarian relief missions.
In addition, the 728th provides active support for Phoenix Banner, Copper and Silver missions. The 728th's highest priority missions assist in the support of the president and vice president as well as secret service operations. These frequent missions are ongoing in nature. In January 1997, a 728th AS crew repatriated the remains of five U.S. service members form Beijing, China, members of the B-24J Liberator bomber crew that crashed near Liuchouw, China in August 1944 after returning from a bombing mission.
A new chapter began at the 728th with the squadron’s selection as the first of three Associate Reserve squadrons to transition to the newest aircraft in the Air Mobility Command Fleet, the C-17 Globemaster III. The first C-17 was delivered McChord July 30, 1999. The squadron's first operational C-17 mission in November 1999 was a repatriation mission to Hanoi, Vietnam, where 11 American servicemen, from the Korean War and the Vietnam War, were repatriated at the same time—the first time remains from two separate wars were repatriated on the same mission.
On February 14, 2003, the 728th AS was activated to support Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. From February 2003 until February 13, 2005, 728th aircrews flew numerous combat airlift missions into Iraq and Afghanistan, performing engine running onloads/offloads of troops and equipment and flying aeromedical evacuation missions of critically wounded personnel. Members from the 728th also participated in the combat airdrop of the 173d Airborne Brigade over northern Iraq on March 26, 2003. The 728th AS received the Air Force Meritorious Unit Award for its support of OEF and OIF from February 2003 to February 2005.Constituted as 728th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) on 14 May 1943
Activated on 1 June 1943
Redesignated 728th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy
on 20 August 1943
Inactivated on 28 August 1945
Redesignated 728th Bombardment Squadron, Very Heavy on 11 March 1947
Activated in the Reserve on 19 April 1947
Redesignated 728th Bombardment Squadron, Light
on 27 June 1949
Ordered to active duty on 10 August 1950
Redesignated 728th Bombardment Squadron, Light, Night Intruder
on 25 June 1951
Relieved from active duty, and inactivated, on 10 May 1952
Redesignated 728th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron on 6 June 1952
Activated in the Reserve on 13 June 1952
Redesignated: 728th Bombardment Squadron, Tactical
on 22 May 1955
Redesignated: 728th Troop Carrier Squadron, Medium
on 1 July 1957
Redesignated: 728th Air Transport Squadron, Heavy
on 1 December 1965
Redesignated: 728th Military Airlift Squadron
on 1 January 1966
Redesignated: 728th Military Airlift Squadron (Associate)
on 1 January 1972
Redesignated: 728th Airlift Squadron (Associate)
on 1 February 1992
Redesignated: 728th Airlift Squadron
on 1 October 1994.
445th Military Airlift Wing, 1 July 1973
446th Military Airlift (later, 446 Airlift) Wing, 1 January 1992
446th Operations Group, 1 August 1992 – Present
452d Bombardment Group, 1 June 1943 – 28 August 1945; 19 April 1947 – 10 May 1952
452d Tactical Reconnaissance (later, 452 Bombardment; 452 Troop Carrier) Group, 13 June 1952
452d Troop Carrier Wing, 14 April 1959
942d Troop Carrier (later, 942d Air Transport; 942d Military Airlift) Group, 17 January 1963
944th Military Airlift Group, 1 January 1972