A WWII airdrome squadron from Kan., lives on at Incirlik

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Eboni Reams
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
The 39th Operations Support Squadron has an eventful history starting in the early 1940s and still going strong today as the unit which simultaneously inactivated the 39th Operations Squadron and activated the 39th OSS in a ceremony here Aug. 1.

The Air Force decided to re-designate the last remaining Operations Squadrons left in Guam, Lajes and Incirlik Air Base, to make them the same as every other wing in the Air Force.

"In the Air Force Instructions, operations squadrons don't exist; the proper title is Operations Support Squadron," said Douglass Miller, 39th Air Base Wing historian.

The name has changed but the squadron celebrates a storied legacy and history.

The 39th OSS was originally activated February 1, 1943, at Pratt Army Airfield in Pratt, Kan. as the 39th Airdrome Squadron (Special). During WWII, Airdrome Squadrons were designed to provide the minimum cadre to run an air base for a limited time. In July 1943 the base received the first (then considered) top secret B-29 Superfortress to train and prepare the aircrafts for combat.

The 39th OSS was very active maintaining the base for the Bombardment Groups going through training in the B-29, essentially being stood up to support the war. The squadron was then disbanded, April 1, 1944 toward the end of the war.

Nearly 50 years later, the squadron was reconstituted and re-designated as the 39th Operations Support Squadron, Aug. 19, 1993.

Keeping with training traditions of WWII, the squadron made an overseas move to Incirlik Air Base.

"The 39th OSS was activated Oct. 1, 1993 at Incirlik AB as a squadron under the then 39th Operations Group," explained Miller. "There were no aircraft assigned to the 39th Air Base Wing, but the 39th OSS was in charge of several weapons training detachments."

The detachments were from various United States Air Forces in Europe fighter squadrons. The squadrons came to Incirlik AB to utilize the nearby training range in Konya, Turkey as well as enjoy good flying weather when the inclement weather at their home stations didn't allow a proper flying schedule.

The squadron was a temporary home to many different fighter squadrons from USAFE as well as continental United States units.

The 39th OSS was also the flying support squadron while Incirlik AB headquartered Operation Northern Watch which began Jan. 1, 1997. The Combined Task Force was charged with enforcing the no-fly zone north of the 36th parallel in Iraq and monitoring Iraqi compliance with UN Security Council resolutions 678, 687, and 688. During the operation, the 39th OSS supported a variety of aircraft to include: EA-6B Prowler, E-3 Sentry AWACS, F-15C, F-15E, F-16CJ, F-16CG, HH-60, HC-130, KC-135 Stratotanker, UH-60 Blackhawk, EP-3, C-12, British GR-3 Jaguar, Nimrod and VC-10 Tankers. Aircraft unit patches from different services and countries can be found painted on the walls of the aircraft hangars and barriers on the Incirlik flight line from the six-year-long operation.

ONW ended March 19, 2003. The 39th OSS was inactivated four months later on July 16, 2003, and activated the 39th OS concurrently.

"When we lost the operations group the base consolidated those functions into the 39th Operations Squadron to operate the airfield without any assigned aircraft," said Miller.

Eleven years later and present day, the AFI defines no difference between operations squadrons owning aircraft and those with none assigned.

With this new clarification, the 39th OS is now the 39th OSS once again, returning to a proud legacy, full of memories and tales which began at an airfield in Pratt, Kan. and continued on to supporting the flying mission at Incirlik AB, Turkey.