The 317th Airlift Group is comprised of the 39th and 40th Airlift Squadrons, 317th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 317th Maintenance Squadron, 317th Operations Support Squadron and the 317th Maintenance Operations Squadron. The group comes under the operational control of 18th Air Force and Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Ill.
For over 65 years, the 317th Airlift Group has championed the cause for tactical airlift, bringing to bear on a hundred nations the compassion and resolve of America and her allies.
The group's humble beginning occurred on February 22, 1942 at Duncan Field near San Antonio, Texas. Eighteen enlisted men and one Captain formed the entire unit. However it wouldn't be long before the 317th tenant squadrons would acquire the venerable Douglas C-47 Skymaster and the familiar drone of rotating props would become forever synonymous with the 317th.
In July of 1942, the Army redesignated the unit the 317th Troop Carrier Group. After receiving several months of training in and around the southern United States, the group had grown into a viable component of America's defense machine. In December of that same year, they departed for Australia in support of World War II.
The Army Air Corp quickly stripped the 317th of their new C-47s upon arrival, and in turn gave them the battered aircraft of the veteran 347th Troop Carrier Group. With an assortment of damaged C-47s, C-60s, and cargo versions of the B-17, the 317th set about their mission.
As the Japanese pounded the airdrome at Wau, New Guinea, the 317th endured monsoon conditions, flying low level supply drops to the Australian Army engaged on the airfield in hand-to hand combat. The mission cost the 317th three aircraft and several men, and for their actions they received their first Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC).
Spear heading a combined airborne-glider offense in June 1945, the 317th released allied elements over northern Luzon (Philippines). Enemy anti-aircraft fire was intense, forcing the group to make repeated passes over the drop zone. Soon the Japanese forces were weakened to the point of defeat. And once again the 317th was awarded the DUC for their outstanding performance.
In 1945 with the war finally at an end, the 317th participated in one of the most widely known humanitarian efforts in history, the Berlin Airlift. From May through July the group air-dropped food supplies to the citizens of the Soviet blockaded city. Once the blockade had been lifted and their mission was complete, the 317th inactivated at Rhein Main Air Base, Germany in September.
In July of 1952, the Air Force reactivated the 317th at Rhein Main as the 317th Troop Carrier Wing. It became the first Air Force unit assigned to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Now flying C-119 "Boxcars", the 317th relocated to Neubiberg Air Base near Munich in 1953. Shortly after their arrival at the Bavarian base, newer C-123 transports arrived to compliment the C-119s.
The 317th continued to fly many humanitarian missions and support NATO airborne units throughout Europe. They airlifted life rafts, tents, and emergency food supplies to flood victims in the Netherlands, and aided thousands of earthquake victims in Italy, Greece, Pakistan and Yugoslavia among many others.
In October of 1957 the 317th moved to Evreux Field, France, sixty miles northeast of Paris. There they consolidated with another C-119 unit from Druex Air Base, France in preparation for the transition to the new turboprop equipped C-130 Hercules.
Several operations kept the 317th occupied in the Middle East throughout the late 1950's. However in 1960, in the midst of a civil war in the Belgian Congo, the 317th flew several peace keeping contingents into some of the world's most primitive airfields. Congolese rebels often fired upon the C-130s from the dense jungle further complicating each mission. Before the blood letting had ended, the 317th had airlifted a large portion of the 20,000 peace keepers used.
Having returned to America after more than 20 years abroad, the 317th became Tactical Air Command's C-130 operations representative. They provided most of the training to the "C-130 world."
In June of 1964, the 317th made the move to Lockbourne AFB, Ohio. Between 1965 and 1971, they provided vital support operations in training and deployment during the Vietnam conflict. They also developed and perfected the use of the Adverse Weather Delivery System (AWADS) becoming the Air Force's pioneer group behind this method of cargo delivery.
In May 1967 the unit became the 317th Tactical Airlift Wing and not long after in 1971, was reassigned to Pope AFB, North Carolina. In that year they provided emergency food and equipment to flood victims in Virginia, and Pennsylvania
In 1983, 317th C-130s led the airborne assault during the U.S. invasion of Grenada dropping Army rangers sent to rescue seven hundred American students threatened by communist forces on the island. Six years later in 1989, the 317th again led the way in Operation Just Cause, the U.S. invasion of Panama.
In 1990 they showcased their abilities by deploying elements of the XVIII Airborne Corps to Saudi Arabia during the first days of Desert Shield. The 317th became the first tactical airlift unit from the states to deploy. Early in 1992 during the final days of Desert Storm, the 317th airlifted U.S. and allied combat troops deep inside Iraq territory. This was in support of General Norman Schwartzkopf's "Hail Mary" flanking maneuver that led to the surrender of Iraq's elite Republican Guard.
Early in 1992 the 317th reorganized under the Air Forces Composite Wing structure. The unit transferred all of its combat support personnel and equipment to Pope's 23rd Wing.
Shortly after the restructuring, the 317th provided the initial U.S. relief to the war torn nation of Bosnia. They air-dropped food supplies while under enemy fire, in harsh weather conditions over rocky terrain where non-combative civilians could find them.
As the Air Force continued to streamline its operations, the 317th was inactivated at Pope AFB in July of 1993.
Four years after the inactivation, in April of 1997, a transfer of all U.S. based C-130 aircraft to Air Mobility Command (AMC) resulted in the reactivation of the 317th. Now known as the 317th Airlift Group, the unit operates out of Dyess AFB, Texas as a tenant unit to the 7th Bomb Wing, Air Combat Command (ACC).
Since Dec 2003, the 317th has been in a continuously deployed status in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, as well as other contingencies around the world.
Today, the men and women of the 317th are proudly carrying on the tradition of professionalism and personal sacrifice into the next century.