Thanks for the support

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Mark Keener
  • 311th Airlift Squadron commander
You may already know that some of the C-21s seen flying around Peterson AFB are a tenant to the 21st Space Wing. The 311th Airlift Squadron has belonged to the 375th Air Mobility Wing at Scott AFB since 2005.

But what you may not know is the rich history of C-21 flight operations at Peterson AFB started in 1984 and the paths of the squadron flying operational support airlift missions and the 21st Space Wing were intertwined long before that.

With the pending C-21 drawdown across the Air Force and eventual closure of the 311th AS in June, I thought I'd share a little of that history and fill you in on the activities of one of the sister units at Team Pete.

Detachment 4, 1401st Military Airlift Squadron began flying OSA missions out of Peterson Air Force Base under the operational control of the Military Airlift Command in 1975. They flew the CT-39 Saberliner. The 375th Aeromedical Airlift Wing at Scott AFB assumed command and management responsibility in March 1978 and the unit transitioned to the C-21 in April 1984. On Dec. 1, 1991, the unit was re-designated Detachment 4, 458th Airlift Squadron, under the 375th Airlift Wing, operating six C-21 aircraft. Then, in April 1993, Det. 4 was deactivated and incorporated into the 21st Space Wing, assuming duties under the 21st Operations Group and receiving its new designation as the 84th Airlift Flight a few months later.

On April 1, 1997, all C-21s based in the continental United States were realigned under Air Mobility Command and control of C-21 flight operations from Peterson returned to Scott AFB and the 375th Airlift Wing. The 84th Airlift Flight was assigned to the 458th Airlift Squadron and continued operations under this alignment until June 13, 2005. On this date, the consolidation of CONUS-based C-21s went from eight to four units and was completed by strengthening the C-21 fleet to 10 aircraft and the standup of the 311th Airlift Squadron.

Since 2005 we've maintained a fleet of anywhere from the 10 aircraft they originally started with to the two we currently have assigned. Again the Air Force has decided to consolidate the C-21 fleet and with that will come the closure of the 311th AS and the removal of the active duty C-21s from Peterson. The closure became public in January when the Fiscal Year 2015 budget was signed and the Secretary of the Air Force approved the inactivation of the 311th as of June 1, 2014.

The 311th Airlift Squadron maintained a proud tradition of excellence and continued to uphold the highest standards of professionalism set by past Airmen. A first-class group of now 19 but as many as 80 active duty military and civilian contractors have formed a cohesive team in support of our mission statement: Excellence, the expectation delivered. At any given time as much as 20 percent of the unit was deployed providing valuable theater airlift in the Southwest Asia area of responsibility, supporting war-fighting efforts in Operations New Dawn, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom as well as Combined Joint Task Force, Horn of Africa. We have provided world-class operational airlift support to our nation's highest ranking civilian as well as senior military leaders including combatant commanders and the Air Force Space Command commander. Additionally, we have supported countless NORAD/U.S. NORTHCOM exercises designed to hone the effectiveness and strengthen our nation's airspace defense network. These are just a couple of examples showing the unparalleled success and extraordinary performance that has become synonymous with the 311th AS.

Now the end is drawing near for the 311th AS. As the last commander, I'm proud to have been part of the history of a fantastic team of men and women who, over the past nine years and beyond, have been operating under the banner of the "Pride of the Rockies." On behalf of these men and women, we thank all the members of Team Pete for your support. We'd like to send a special thanks to the members of the 200th Airlift Squadron. Despite the lack of any formal Total Force integration arrangement, the 200th and 311th have worked together and shared in the success of the C-21 mission at Peterson.

In 2005 it was written in the squadron's activation ceremony program that our goal was to provide outstanding operational support airlift to our nation's leaders and continue the proud tradition of being the premier C-21A unit in the 375th Air Mobility Wing. I am confident we have met those goals. I also hope the members of the 21st Space Wing feel we have served your wing and Peterson AFB with distinction as well. Thank you.