By Michael Golembesky
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The Peterson landscape is constantly evolving with the addition and loss of missions and airframes to meet the needs of the Air Force.
That landscape is seeing more change with the closure of the 311th Airlift Squadron, one of the 21st Space Wing’s many tenant units. With it goes three of the C-21 aircraft stationed at the north end of the flight line. The 311th AS closure is effective June 1.
“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,’” said Lt. Col. Mark Keener, 311th AS commander.
The 311th’s heritage can be traced to May 1, 1943, when the 84th Troop Carrier Squadron was activated. Through the end of World War II, the Korean and Cold wars, the 84th went through a series of inactivation, reactivation and location moves until November 1993, when it was once again reactivated as the 84th Airlift Flight under the 21st Operations Group here.
In June 2005, the 84th Airlift Flight was again inactivated and the unit was re-designated as the 311th Airlift Squadron. The men and women of the now 311th Airlift Squadron continued the mission they were doing as the 84th Airlift Flight; that of “seasoning” young pilots and providing airlift to senior military and civilian leaders around the globe.
The inactivation of a unit can be a very emotion and reflective time, but knowing that it is for the greater good of the Air Force keeps everything in perspective.
“Bitter sweet; the 311th is a tightknit family,” 1st Lt. Jeffrey Shield, 311th Airlift Squadron C-21 pilot, said of the inactivation. “It was truly a great honor to have been a part of it and I am sad to see it go, but that’s the way the winds are changing these days, the Air Force is trying to save money where it can.”
“It has been great here at Peterson, living in Colorado Springs, flying a Learjet for a living, it really doesn’t get any better than that,” he said.
The 311th AS maintained a proud tradition of excellence and continued to uphold the highest standards of professionalism set by past Airmen. The squadron, which at one time was as many as 80 active duty military and civilian contractors, included 19 Airmen who worked to form a cohesive team in support of its mission statement — Excellence, the expectation delivered.
“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 (which will remain at PAFB) and 311th have worked together and shared in the success of the C-21 mission at Peterson,” said Keener.
While the unit may be gone, the legacy and heritage remains. Keener said that unparalleled success and extraordinary performance has become synonymous with the 311th Airlift Squadron.
“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-21 unit in the 375th Air Mobility Wing,” said Kenner. “I am confident we have met these goals. I also hope the members of the 21st Space Wing feel we have served your wing and Peterson AFB with distinction as well.”