BAGRAM AIRFIELD, AFGHANISTAN - In the spring of 1942 the United States filled battle-torn European skies with squadrons of airborne war machines. Among them, two transport squadrons began carrying troops and supplies into the Second World War, beginning a parallel history spanning seven decades and many military conflicts. As if teasing destiny, those histories crossed paths as they celebrated their 70th anniversary together in Afghanistan.
In May 2012 the venerable 50th "Red Devils" and 52nd "Fighting Roos" Airlift Squadrons joined forces once again in the sand and sun of Operation Enduring Freedom as the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. Among currently serving members of the squadrons, no one appreciates their rich history more than Major Lance Johnson, Superintendent of the 774 EAS. Stateside, he holds the same title with the 50th Airlift Squadron in Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Johnson has been with the 50 AS for 13 years, and has been a part of Air Force history since the Bosnian War.
"This unit started in World War Two, and fought in every major conflict since then. We've been continually activated or deployed since September 11, 2001, and we're continuing the tradition here in Afghanistan. This is a good place with good facilities and very interesting flying," said Johnson.
Airman 1st Class Nathan Creighton, who also works in Operations with the 50th, said being with this unit has made his first deployment a good one.
"This really is a good unit, with good people and good flyers. I think it's a great thing, celebrating our anniversaries together," said Creighton.
Lt. Col. Tim Julian commands both the 50th Airlift Squadron and the 774 EAS in Afghanistan. His interest in military history was pivotal in tying the 50th and 52nd Airlift Squadrons back together. In 2009, Julian was in Colorado Springs when the Air Force was activating a new squadron as a part of the Total Force Integration process. Knowing the intertwined history of the two squadrons, he presented the 52nd as a designator. Before long, the Fighting Roos returned to the skies as an active associate with the Air Force Reserve's 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Col.
Julian said he feels personally connected to the 52nd, and was genuinely excited to be with the combined team in Afghanistan for their anniversary.
"As a commander there's no greater thrill than leading the charge into combat with Airmen following such a rich and storied history. I'm extremely excited to serve our Airmen here. To be together with our brothers in arms to celebrate while we support our troops on the ground is a privilege that I can't express in words. But I can say that I'm extremely thrilled to be here to help," said Julian.
Lt. Col. Jason Terry, 52nd AS Director of Operations and 455th deputy Operations Group commander, echoed his deployed commander's excitement to be part of this historic deployment.
"I think it's an amazing coincidence that two squadrons born in the fire of World War II would have this opportunity 70 years later; to both be serving again in combat and both in harm's way doing essentially the same mission. It's an extreme honor to be just a little tiny part of that legacy," said Terry.
Terry has several deployments behind him, and he's excited for the experience his new Airmen will have.
"This is my eighth deployment. For many of my Airmen this is their first time. It's a great honor to help show new Airmen how our nation takes care of the mission we have at hand. They have an amazing opportunity ahead of them, and I'm very envious of them," said Terry.
After the celebration lunch was over, and the cake was cut, the Red Devils and Fighting Roos returned to doing what they do best - making Air Force history.