TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - The 21st and 22nd Airlift Squadrons honored 75 years of global mobility with a combined anniversary celebration March 30 to April 1 at Travis Air Force Base, California.
Members of the 21st AS, known as BEEliners, operate Travis’s fleet of C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. Mulies, or members of the 22nd AS, operate the C-5M Super Galaxy platform. While the aircraft and corresponding squadrons have unique capabilities and responsibilities, both operate to advance the Travis mission of rapidly projecting American power, anytime and anywhere, through strategic airlift.
Both squadrons also have remained through several aircraft and location changes since their activation in 1942.
“Those of us who currently serve in the 21st and 22nd take great pride in our heritage,” wrote Lt. Col. Robert Lankford, 21st AS commander, and Lt. Col. Cory Damon, 22nd AS commander, in a welcome letter to anniversary attendees.
“Not many squadrons can trace their origins directly to the Army Air Corps in Australia during World War II. Even fewer have survived so many moves, taken part in over 30 global operations or flown an incredible array of 17 different airframes. If you’re wondering what international events our squadrons have directly impacted over the past 75 years, it’s not much of an exaggeration to say you need look no further than the headlines of any newspaper,” the letter said.
The two squadrons kicked off the weekend with a barbeque March 30, followed by operations briefings, squadron and flightline tours and a chance to practice in flight simulators March 31.
“I’m really honored to be here for it,” said 1st Lt. Billy Hafker, 22nd AS and one of the event organizers. “It’s great to see everything running well, (and) all the former members coming back and seeing the history we have here.”
Friday evening, each squadron hosted dinner in its respective hangar with tradition and heritage at the forefront.
Glasses were raised, cheers were heard and time-old customs were honored throughout each meal. Current members led their fellow Airmen and squadron alumni in roll calls, announcements of awards and promotions and remarks from squadron leadership. Several members also were inducted into each squadron’s honorary members program, known in the 21st as the Legion of the BEE and in the 22nd as the Ring of Honor.
“Being at the 75th (anniversary) and hearing from all the people that are coming back and saying this is the best squadron they’ve ever been in... makes me feel very lucky to be here,” said 1st Lt. Nichole Evans, 21st AS. “It’s awesome. The people are great.”
For her and many others, the squadron represents family.
“When I got here (to the 21st AS), I wasn’t expecting it to be so much of a family” said Evans. “Everyone was very welcoming, everybody wants to know who you are, they want to know about your family, they want to know how you’re doing.”
The Mulies shared a similar sentiment.
“I’m very proud to be part of the squadron,” said Hafker. “Hearing stories from past members and their experiences with the squadron and the aircraft makes me appreciate it even more.”
The weekend concluded with local activities and a formal banquet April 1.
As each squadron celebrated its history, members also looked to the future – to the next 75 years – as more experienced squadron leaders and alumni mentored younger, newer members.
“You are the standard,” said Lankford in his closing remarks at the 21st AS dinner. “In this uncertain world, you are the beacon of trust that our nation will look to to always do what is right. You are it. Don’t ever forget it.”