Thursday, December 4, 2008

COMMENTARY>>The 62nd Airlift Squadron: Founded in Tradition … Focusing on the Future

By Lt. Col. Aaron Maynard
62nd Airlift Squadron commander

The long and distinguished history of the 62nd Troop Carrier Squadron began 66 years ago today on Dec. 5, 1942, when the unit was activated at Sedalia Army Air Base, Knob Noster, Mo. A short five months later, on May 12, 1943, equipped with a full complement of shiny, new C-47s, the 62nd TCS departed for North Africa to begin combat operations in World War II.

Since World War II, the 62nd Airlift Squadron has proudly borne the nickname and patches of the “Yacht Club.” Rumor is that at a group level meeting, a fellow squadron commander chastised Major Tappan, the then 62 TCS commander, with the comment “You’re running your squadron like a country club. Better still, a Yacht Club!” As news of this conversation made its way around, these words became a source of pride among the troops, and the name stuck.

A glider pilot, Armand Prosperi, designed the original squadron logo during that era. It featured a sailboat superimposed on the center of a playing card symbol, the black club. The squadron motto, “Primus in Toto” (First in Everything) was scribed below the hull of the boat. Carrying the nautical theme a step further, the commander, Major Tappan, was often referred to as “Commodore.”

In early 1944, after serving with distinction in the Mediterranean Theater of operations, the 62nd moved with the 314th Troop Carrier Group to Saltby, Lincolnshire, England, where unit members began intensive training in preparation for D-Day. The 62 TCS spearheaded the airborne portion of the June 6, 1944 invasion of Normandy, as part of the largest invasion force ever assembled in modern warfare.

In February 1945, the squadron relocated yet again – this time to Poix, France, where they valiantly flew in Operation VARSITY.

This was the first combat mission in which the squadron towed CG-4A gliders. The squadron was ordered home to the U.S. in February 1946.

The 62nd was re-equipped with the new airlift workhorse, the Lockheed C-130A “Hercules” on May 19, 1957. Four years later, in September 1961, the C-130B arrived, and the squadron became combat-ready in the new aircraft in fewer than 90 days.

Less than one year later, the Blue Barons tested their combat posture when they deployed to Clark Air Base, Republic of the Philippines to support the U.S. response to the Laotian crisis.

In December 1964, in order to bring all unit personnel up to combat-ready status, the 62 TCS formed an aircrew training flight.

The program was so successful that it was quickly expanded to train all aircrew personnel in the wing. The concept of concentrated, focused training and continuity paved the way for the development of the first Replacement Training Unit to train C-130 aircrew members worldwide.
The ensuing years until the present time has held constant activity and change for the 62nd. The squadron was re-equipped once again, as the newest Hercules in the inventory, the C-130E, arrived in February 1965, just a few short months before the 62nd made its first combat airdrops in support of the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam conflict. In 1966, the unit supported Operation RAPID STRIKE, a test and evaluation project which refined old procedures and helped pave the way for the new developments in C-130 operations and training.

In May 1967, the 62nd was redesignated as the 62nd Tactical Airlift Squadron.

Two years later, in March 1970, the unit transferred from Sewart AFB, TN, to Little Rock AFB, AR. In June 1971, Headquarters Tactical Air Command issued orders designating the 62nd as the formal C-130 aircrew RTU.

The 62nd Airlift Squadron annual Yacht Club Reunion began on Thursday and runs through Saturday. This is the 37th consecutive reunion. The tradition began with Lt. Col. (ret) Dave “Commodore” Mondt when he held the first reunion in Kansas City, Mo., in 1971. In 1983, the reunions moved to Little Rock Air Force Base and have been held here ever since.

The point of contact for this year’s event is Maj. Monica D. Landrum, an instructor navigator with the 62nd. There are 6 original “Yacht Clubbers” attending this year – retired Lt. Col. Jack Downhill, retired Lt. Col. Gerald Wikle, retired Lt. Col. Bruce Merryman, retired Lt. Col. Ben Setliff, retired Maj. Bill Hyden and Ted Walters. Overall, 33 Yacht Club members and their families are in town for the reunion, including Ray Bennett, who has joined us from England.

We have a full itinerary planned for our Yacht Club members this year including flying the C-130 simulator, a tour of the Old State House Museum and an ornament exchange and coffee for the spouses. This year’s reunion, as in the past closes with our annual holiday party at the Wyndham Hotel in North Little Rock.


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