The 315th Operations Group is a United States Air Force Reserve unit assigned to the 315th Airlift Wing. The unit is stationed at Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina. The 315th Group controls all operational McDonnell Douglas C-17 Globemaster III flying squadrons of the 315th Airlift Wing. It was activated in 1992, when Air Force Reserve Command implemented the Objective Wing organization.
|315th Operations Group|
|Active||1942–1945; 1947–1948; 1952–1955; 1962–1966; 1992–present|
|Branch||United States Air Force|
|Part of||Air Force Reserve Command|
|Garrison/HQ||Charleston Air Force Base|
|Motto(s)||Adveniam Latin I Will Arrive|
|Engagements||European Theater of Operations|
|Decorations||Distinguished Unit Citation|
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Combat "V" Device
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
|Colonel Stephen L. Lanier|
|315th Operations Group emblem[note 1]|
|315th Air Commando Group emblem|
|315th Troop Carrier Group emblem (approved 22 May 1942)|
The unit was first activated during World War II as the 315th Troop Carrier Group, a Douglas C-47 Skytrain transport unit assigned to IX Troop Carrier Command in Western Europe. The group received a Distinguished Unit Citation for its combat parachute infantry drops during the Invasion of France (Operation Overlord); the airborne invasion of the Netherlands (Operation Market-Garden); and the airborne crossing of the Rhine River, (Operation Varsity).
The group was reactivated in Japan during the Korean War in 1952, replacing the 437th Troop Carrier Group, a reserve unit that had been called to active duty for the war, when the 437th was returned to reserve status. It was inactivated three years later, when US flying operations at Brady Air Base ended. The group again was activated in 1962, when it replaced the Combat Cargo Group, Provisional 6492d in managing airlift operations during the Vietnam War. After being redesignated the 315th Air Commando Group in 1965, the group was inactivated and replaced by the larger 315th Air Commando Wing in 1966, when airlift operations in Vietnam expanded.
The 315th Operations Group includes the following units.
The group was constituted as the 315th Transport Group on 2 February 1942 and activated at Olmsted Field, Pennsylvania twelve days later as part of Air Service Command. Its original elements were the 33d, 34th and 35th Transport Squadrons. One month later, the 6th Transport Squadron at Camp Williams, Wisconsin was added to the group. In April, the group became part of I Troop Carrier Command and began training with Douglas C-47 Skytrain and Douglas C-53 Skytrooper aircraft.[note 2]
In June, the 315th moved to Bowman Field, Kentucky, an I Troop Carrier Command base. The move to Bowman was accompanied by a shuffling of assigned units. The 6th Squadron in Wisconsin was reassigned, as was the 35th, which moved to Westover Field to prepare for an early move overseas. Their place was taken by the 43d Transport Squadron, which was activated at Bowman and the 54th Transport Squadron, which moved to Bowman a few days after its activation at Hamilton Field. The group and its squadrons became Troop Carrier units in July. Before the group departed for England upon completing its training in October, the 33d Squadron was detached from the group in September, with most of its elements serving in New Caledonia, although it remained assigned to the group for two more months. The 54th Squadron was moved to reinforce Eleventh Air Force in Alaska, and only the 34th and 43d Squadrons moved with the group to Europe.
To replace the lost squadrons, the 61st Troop Carrier Squadron was activated at Bowman Field in October and the 62d Troop Carrier Squadron at Sedalia Army Air Field in December 1942, However these squadrons remained in the United States to be trained and were reassigned in March 1943 without ever joining the wing.
While flying the North Atlantic ferry route, the air echelon encountered bad winter weather, causing it to remain in Greenland for about a month. While there it searched for missing aircraft and dropped supplies to downed crews. The ground echelon arrived in England in November 1942 for service with Eighth Air Force.
After the air and ground echelons were united in December, the group began ferrying cargo in the British Isles and training with airborne troops and gliders. In May 1943 a detachment comprising almost all the group aircraft, aircrews, and most support personnel, deployed to North Africa to support Twelfth Air Force and other Mediterranean Theater of Operations organizations during Operation Husky, the invasions of Sicily and Operation Avalanche, the invasion of Italy. Although the group did not participate in the airborne phase of the invasions, it did support those operations by transporting supplies in the theater. In March 1944 the detachment returned to England and rejoined the group, which had been reassigned to the Ninth Air Force in October 1943.
On 7 February 1944, the group moved to RAF Spanhoe. It became part of the 52d Troop Carrier Wing of IX Troop Carrier Command. The group prepared for the invasion of the Continent. As part of its preparation, the group was brought up to full strength for the first time since arriving in England in April 1944, when the 309th and 310th Troop Carrier Squadrons were assigned to the group shortly after arriving in theater. In April the group began formation flying training and a month later began paratroop-dropping exercises. The group continued training until 26 May. Operating alongside the 316th Troop Carrier Group for the Normandy landings, 47 aircraft of the 315th Group dropped 844 paratroops of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment's Headquarters and 1st Battalion at Drop Zone O, near Sainte-Mère-Église early on 6 June. The group earned a Distinguished Unit Citation for its actions. The group also dropped 82d Airborne Division commander Matthew Ridgway and his staff. During the drop, the group did not lose any planes as German anti-aircraft fire was sporadic and ineffectual.
The group dropped paratroops of the 82d Airborne Division's 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment near Overasselt on 17 September 1944, losing one plane. The mission was part of Operation Market Garden, a series of Allied airborne attacks in the Netherlands. The group flew reinforcement missions on succeeding days. On 18 September, 27 aircraft in two serials of the group and 36 aircraft from the 314th Troop Carrier Group dropped paratroopers of the British 4th Parachute Brigade at Drop Zone Y on Ginkel Heath. Several aircraft were lost to flak. On 21 September, the 314th and 315th Groups dropped elements of the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade near Driel, after numerous weather-caused delays. Five aircraft from the group were lost in the drop. On 23 September, the group dropped without loss the 560-strong remainder of the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade on Drop Zone O near Overasselt. The group landed at Grave on 26 September to unload paratroops and supplies. It airlifted gasoline and other critical supplies to Antwerp and Liège during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 and January 1945.
For Operation Varsity, the Allied airborne assault across the Rhine in March 1945, the group staged out of RAF Boreham as a result of the need for shorter flying distances. The group released British paratroops of the 5th Parachute Brigade near Wesel on 24 March. During the operation, the group suffered its heaviest losses of the war, losing nineteen aircraft, with another 36 badly damaged. Following each airborne operation, the group resumed transport activities, hauling cargo and evacuating wounded personnel. The group moved to France in April 1945.
The group transported cargo and evacuated released allied prisoners of war until after V-E Day. It moved to Trinidad in May 1945 and transported troops returning to the US. The group was inactivated on 31 July 1945.
The group was reactivated in Japan at Brady Air Base on 10 June 1952 after being redesignated as the 315th Troop Carrier Group, Medium. It was assigned to the Far East Forces, for duty during the Korean War. The group took over the Curtiss C-46 Commando transports of the 437th Troop Carrier Group, a reserve unit that had been called up for the war and was being inactivated. The group flew troop and cargo airlift and airdrop, leaflet drops, spray missions, air evacuation, search and rescue, and other aerial missions between Japan and Korea. During US Army exercises in Japan between 1952 and 1953, it transported units. In March 1953, all C-119s in the theater were grounded as a result of malfunctioning propellers and the group's C-46s were made responsible for moving all personnel between southern Japan and Korea up to the end of the war. The group airlifted the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team along with other XVI Corps units to Korea in June and July 1953. For its actions, the group received the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation. It remained in the Far East after the war to fly transport missions and paratroop training flights. The group flew missions in Japan, Korea, French Indo-China, and other points until December 1954. The group was inactivated in Japan on 18 January 1955.
The group was organized at Tan Son Nhut Airport, Vietnam in December 1962 as the 315th Troop Carrier Group, Assault. It replaced the Combat Cargo Group, Provisional, 6492d at Tan Son Nhut. The group was initially composed of a provisional transport squadron, an aerial port squadron and a maintenance squadron and was part of the 315th Air Division. Its flying squadron, the Tactical Air Force Transport Squadron, Provisional, 2, was the successor to Operation Mule Train, which had been providing logistics support for US and Vietnamese military elements since January. The provisional squadron was manned primarily by deployed crews from the 464th Troop Carrier Wing's 346th Troop Carrier Squadron, from Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina.
The group exercised control over USAF airlift resources in Vietnam, primarily flying the Fairchild C-123B Provider. It also provided combat evaluation of YC-123 aircraft between February and April 1963. By April 1963, operations had expanded to the point that the 464th Wing deployed an entire squadron, the 777th Troop Carrier Squadron, to Da Nang Air Base, and it was attached to the 315th Group. In July 1963, operations had expanded further, and the group was assigned permanent squadrons. On the 1st, the 777th Squadron was assigned to the group and joined by a second squadron from the 464th Wing, the 778th. A week later, the 2d was discontinued, while the 777th and 778th were returned to the 464th Wing on paper, and their personnel and equipment were transferred to the newly activated 309th, 310th and 311th Troop Carrier Squadrons.
The commander of the group was also the director of the Southeast Asia Airlift System and maintained an airlift control officer in Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV)'s air operations center. The system managed "common use" airlift in both Vietnam and Thailand. Under this system, the group controlled one of the two companies of US Army de Haviland Canada CV-2 Caribou aircraft located in Vietnam between July and December 1963.[note 3] In the fall of 1963 MACV directed a reduction of 1000 personnel in Vietnam, which included the elimination of the 61st Aviation Company and its Caribous. In addition to airlift resources in Vietnam, two Bristol 170 transports of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, located in Thailand also fell within the system's control. The fall of 1963 also saw the group's C-123s beginning to augment Vietnamese Air Force C-47s on flare drop missions, using a box on the ramp of their C-123s that was fabricated by the group's maintenance men to dispense the flares. In the first half of 1964, group Providers flew 239 night flare sorties.
Despite planned drawdowns in other areas in 1964,[note 4] American commanders in Vietnam were requesting more airlift capability. In August, RAAF Transport Flight Vietnam, a Royal Australian Air Force CV-2 detachment at Vung Tau Airport, arrived and was placed under the group's control. In September, the Army also moved an additional Caribou company into the country, but these transports remained outside the control of the group. The group had conducted inspections of its C-123s in May that disclosed that all 37 aircraft that had been in country since 1962 showed visible damage, and 11 required major repair. By October, however, sufficient additional C-123s had been withdrawn from Air Force Reserve units in the United States to form a fourth Provider squadron, the 19th Air Commando Squadron. In December, half of the 310th Troop Carrier Squadron moved to Nha Trang Air Base to replace C-47s that had been operating from that base. The remainder of the squadron would follow in June 1965.
Until July 1964, the UC-123Bs of Operation Ranch Hand, spraying defoliants, had operated with Tactical Air Command crews on temporary duty. At that time. the three planes were transferred to the group on permanent status, becoming Detachment 1, 315th Troop Carrier Group. Shortly after the transfer, Ranch Hand began crop destruction missions in addition to the defoliation missions it had flown since 1962.
The group began 1965 by airlifting the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) 1st and 3d Airborne Battalions to Vung Tau, where ARVN forces were engaged in a battle with Viet Cong units. Later that month, the group's Ranch Hand aircraft began a massive defoliation program in War Zone D designed to expose a main Viet Cong base by eliminating cover over 48 square miles of forest. On 8 March, the group was redesignated the 315th Air Commando Group. The group began to operate deployed Lockheed C-130 Hercules transports, which had more cargo capacity than the Provider, in 1965. The group was inactivated in March 1966 and its flying squadrons were transferred to the 315th Air Commando Wing, which was activated in its place.
Since 1968, the Air Force Reserve had stationed associate units at Charleston Air Force Base, where the 315th Military Airlift Wing operated the Lockheed C-141 Starlifters of the regular Air Force 437th Military Airlift Wing In August 1992, Air Force Reserve Command implemented the Objective Wing organization for its flying units and the group was activated as the 315th Operations Group to control the airlift operations of the 315th Wing. The group continued to operate the Lockheed C-141 Starlifter until around 2000, flying contingency operation, humanitarian airlift missions, and exercises worldwide.
Since June 2017, the group has been commanded by Colonel Stephen L. Lanier.
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