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2d Special Operations Squadron
MQ-1 Predator 97-3034 - Nellis AFB.jpg
Nellis AFB based MQ-1 Predator 97-3034
Active 1917-Present
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Role Special Operations
Part of 919th Operations group
Garrison/HQ Nellis AFB, Nevada

World War I War Service Streamer without inscription.png
World War I

  • Toul sector
  • Aisne-Mame offensive
  • Champagne-Marne offensive
  • Meuse-Argonne offensive
  • St. Mihiel offensive[1]
Army Occupation of Germany - World War I streamer.jpg
Occupation of the Rhineland
Decorations French Croix De Guerre Streamer (World War I).jpg
Croix De Guerre (France)
Emblem of the 2d Special Operations Squadron 2d Special Operations Squadron - Emblem.jpg

The 2d Special Operations Squadron (2 SOS) is a United States Air Force Reserve unit, assigned to the 919th Operations Group. Stationed at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, the unit operates MQ-1 Predator Remotely Piloted Vehicles.

The unit is one of the oldest units in the United States Air Force, being formed on 25 September 1917 at Fort Omaha, Nebraska. During World War I, the unit was part of the Balloon Section, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), becoming the first American balloon company to reach the Western Front in France and enter combat. It was part of the Army Balloon and Airship School after the war, being a balloon training unit until the beginning of World War II. It was part of Strategic Air Command during the Cold War.


World War I

The unit was initially formed at Fort Omaha, Nebraska as Company B, 2d Balloon Squadron on 25 September 1917 at the Fort Omaha Balloon School. Its mission was to provide forward observations for the artillery. The unit trained in the fall of 1917, one of the last, as training was rather difficult at Fort Omaha: the weather was bad much of the time, and it was impossible to keep balloons in the air for long periods. The Army decided they needed Balloon Schools, in warmer, more stable environments, and selected Camp John Wise in San Antonio, Texas and Camp Ross, Arcadia, California.[2] On 30 November, orders were received for the unit to proceed to the Aviation Concentration Center, Garden City, Long Island, for preparation to serve overseas.[3]

On 7 December the squadron, now designated as the 2d Balloon Company, boarded a train and proceeded to St. John, New Brunswick, Newfoundland where it boarded the RMS Tunisian for the overseas crossing of the Atlantic. It left on 12 December, and arrived at Liverpool, England on Christmas Day. From there the company traveled by train to Southampton, on the English Channel coast and boarded the steamer Archangle for Le Harve, France, arriving on 28 December. It reported to the American Expeditionary Force Balloon School at Camp de Coetquidan, Morbihan, France, on 3 January 1918.[4]

: Close-up view of an American major in the basket of an observation balloon flying over territory near front lines

At the school, the company received French Caquot (U.S. Type R) observation balloons. It was trained on the equipment my members of the French Army, and on 23 January, the first trail ascents with an observer in the basket was made. The company sent members to the front lines and operated under French control, making artillery adjustments for the 101st, 102, 149th and 150th French Artillery Regiments. Finally, on 29 February, training was ended and the 2d Balloon Company was ordered to report to the First Army at Toul, arriving on 1 March, joining the French encampment of the 90th French Balloon Company at Camp L'Emitage, near Menil-la-Tour. It was the first American balloon company to reach the Western Front and enter combat.[4]

The first observer of the company to be decorated was 1st Lieutenant Sidney Howell, when on 16 March, he was forced to jump from a burning balloon, set on fire by enemy aircraft. He received a Croix de Guerre with palm. During the Chateu-Thierry operations, the company took a very active part, following the advance of Allied troops moving frequently as the front moved up. Frequently the balloons were attacked and set on fire by enemy aircraft, observers jumping and landing safely.[4] The company took part in the St. Mihiel and Muse-Argonne offensives during 1918, making a total of 180 ascensions with 13 observers. The missions being hazardous with 9 balloons being shot down, however no squadron members were killed or wounded in action.[4]

With the Armistice on 11 November 1918, the company was re-assigned to the Third Army of Occupation and ordered to report to Euren, Germany, in the Rhineland and performed occupation duty along the Rhine River. It remained with Third Army until 20 May until being relieved and ordered to return to the United States. After processing at the 1st Air Depot, Colombey-les-Belles Airdrome, France, the unit reported first to a staging area, then to a port for the return home.[5]

The 2d Balloon company arrived at the Port of New York on 22 June 1919 on the USS Patria and transferred to Mitchel Field, New York, c. 23 June 1919, where the men were demobilized and returned to civilian life.[6]

Inter-war period

On 11 August 1919, the designation was transferred to Camp Ross, Arcadia, California without personnel. The unit was re-organized on 1 October 1921 and re-designated as the Air Service Balloon School. However, the Air Service decided to close Camp Ross due to the Santa Ana winds which blew in from the desert. These winds created much havoc with the aerial observation, ground training, and balloon handling. The remaining equipment left over from the war and some men were sent to Brooks Field, Texas.[2] The unit was demobilized on 21 May 1922.[6][7]

Type "R" observation balloon at Arcadia Balloon School, Arcadia, Calif. 1921

A new 2d Balloon Company was constituted in the Regular Army on 18 October 1927, and assigned to the 26th Balloon Group at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The company was assigned to the Army's VIII Corps Area, however it was never organized. The designation was transferred to the VI Corps Area on 1 September 1928 without personnel or equipment and then to the IV Corps Area, being organized at Fort Bragg, North Carolina on 29 May 1930; being attached to Corps Headquarters.[8] The unit was equipped with type C-3 Observation Balloons as well as type A-6 and A-7 Spherical Balloons. It was consolidated with its World War I predecessor unit on 6 August.[7]

At Fort Bragg the unit was re-designated as the 2d Balloon Squadron on 1 October 1933 and re-assigned to the 24th Balloon Group; later being assigned to the 21st Balloon Group on 1 June 1937 and equipped with C-6 Observation Balloons in 1938.[7] It supported activities of the Coast Artillery Barrage Balloon Training Center at Camp Davis, North Carolina, 1940-41.[8] Aircraft reconnaissance technology was making the manned observation balloon obsolete by 1940; the unit was lastly assigned on 1 September 1941 to the I Air Support Command of First Air Force at Pope Field, before being disbanded on 3 February 1942 shortly after the Pearl Harbor Attack.[7]

Strategic Air Command

In its early years, along with its own fighter wings for escorting its bombers, Strategic Air Command (SAC) formed a limited air transport capability to supplement that of the Military Air Transport Service, which provided SAC with the majority of its airlift support.[9] The 2d Strategic Support Squadron was organized and activated on 14 January 1949 at Biggs AFB, Texas, being assigned to the SAC Eighth Air Force.[7]

Initially flying C-54 Skymasters, the squadron carried much classified equipment and personnel to various locations around the world. During the 1950s the squadron operated from several SAC bases in various locations, and was upgraded to the C-124 Globemaster II intercontinental airlifter in 1950. The squadron was inactivated on 15 June 1961 when SAC got out of the transport bushiness.[7]

Modern era

The squadron was reactivated in the reserve in 2009. With its history of being a decorated combat reconnaissance unit, the squadron was assigned modern MQ-1 Predator UAVs. The 2d SOS became the first Reserve squadron to assume command of a UAV combat air patrol - a 24/7 orbit over a critical area of a combat zone.[10] The 2d SOS is a classic associate Reserve squadron with a bit of a twist. It's geographically separated from both its parent unit, the 919th Special Operations Wing at Duke Field, Florida, and its host associate unit, the regular Air Force 3d SOS at Cannon AFB, New Mexico. It's also geographically separated from the aircraft it operates, as all of the aircraft the squadron operates are owned by the active-duty, and all of the aircraft are deployed in combat areas.[10]

Like many other UAV squadrons, the 2d SOS is composed of people with a wide range of experience: AC-130 gunships, MC-130 Combat Talons, A-10s, Harriers, F-14s, F-15s, F-16s, F-18s and Stealth fighters, bombers, tankers, airlifters, and even helicopters.[10]


SAC 2d Strategic Support Squadron

  • Organized as Company B, 2d Balloon Squadron on 25 Sep 1917
Re-designated: 2d Balloon Company on 19 Jun 1918
Re-designated: Balloon School Detachment on 30 Aug 1921
Demobilized on 15 Aug 1922
  • Reconstituted, and consolidated (6 Aug 1930) with 2d Balloon Company
Constituted on 18 Oct 1927
Activated on 20 May 1930
Re-designated as 2d Balloon Squadron on 1 Oct 1933
Disbanded on 3 Feb 1942[7]
  • Reconstituted, and consolidated (19 Sep 1985) with 2d Strategic Support Squadron
Constituted on 31 Dec 1948
Activated on 14 Jan 1949
Discontinued, and inactivated on 15 Jun 1961[7]
  • Re-designated: 2d Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron on 19 Sep 1985
  • Re-designated: 2d Special Operations Squadron on 11 Feb 2009
Activated in the reserve on 1 Mar 2009[7]


2d Balloon Squadron
  • Unkn, 25 Sep 1917-Jul 1918
  • Balloon Wing (later, Balloon Group), I Army Corps, Jul 1918
  • Balloon Group, IV Army Corps, 20 Nov 1918
  • Balloon Group, VII Army Corps, 27 Apr-11 May 1919
  • unkn, May-Aug 1919
  • Balloon School (later, Air Service Balloon Observers School), Ross Field, CA, Aug 1919-15 Aug 1922
  • Sixth Corps Area, 20 May 1930
  • First Army, 30 Dec 1940
  • I Air Support Command, 1 Sep 1941-3 Feb 1942[7]
2d Strategic Support Squadron
Attached to 97th Bombardment Wing, 14 Jan 1949-18 Apr 1950
Attached to 509th Bombardment Wing, 18 Apr 1950-16 May 1951
2d Special Operations Squadron
  • 919th Operations Group, 1 Mar 2009–Present[7]


2d Balloon Squadron

  • Fort Omaha, Nebraska, 25 Sep 1917
  • Aviation Concentration Center, New York, 30 Nov-7 Dec 1917
  • Camp de Coetquidan, Morbihan, France, 3 Jan 1918
  • Camp de l'Ermitage (near Menil-la-Tour), France, 26 Feb 1918
  • Villiers-sur-Marne, Aisne, France, 30 Jun 1918
  • La Goneterie Ferme (near Bouresches), France, 22 Jul 1918
  • Trugny (near Epieds), France, 25 Jul 1918
  • Beuvardes, France, 28 Jul 1918
  • Seringes-et-Nesles, France, 3 Aug 1918
  • Chery-Chartreuve, France, 4 Aug 1918
  • Courcelles-sur-Vesle, France, 12 Aug 1918
  • La Queue de Theinard (near Domevre-en-Haye), France, 23 Aug 1918
  • Bois de Remenauvaux (near Griscourt), France, 29 Aug 1918
  • Bois de la Lampe (near Mamey), France, 12 Sep 1918
  • St Pierre Ferme (near Fey-en-Haye), France, 15 Sep 1918
  • Locheres, France, 22 Sep 1918
  • Varennes-en-Argonne, France, 28 Sep 1918
  • Cheppy, France, 2 Oct 1918

  • Charpentry, France, 10 Oct 1918
  • Apremont, France, 15 Oct 1918
  • Chatel-Chehery, France, 25 Oct 1918
  • Sommerance, France, 2 Nov 1918
  • St Juvin, France, 3 Nov 1918
  • Buzancy, France, 4 Nov 1918
  • Sommauthe, France, 6 Nov 1918
  • Authe, France, 7 Nov 1918
  • Les Petites, Armoises, France, 8 Nov 1918
  • Auzeville-en-Argonne, France, 11 Nov 1918
  • Mercy-le-Haut, France, 21 Nov 1918
  • Euren, Germany, 8 Dec 1918
  • Colombey-les-Belles Airdrome, France, c. 20 May 1919-unkn
  • Mitchel Field, New York, c. 23 Jun 1919
  • Ross Field, California, Aug 1919
  • Scott Field, Illinois, 3 Jul-15 Aug 1922; 20 May 1930
  • Fort Bragg, North Carolina, 19 Jun 1930
  • Pope Field, North Carolina, 1933-3 Feb 1942[7]

2d Strategic Support Squadron
2d Special Operations Squadron


2d Balloon Squadron
  • Type R Observation Balloon, 1918-1919
  • C-3 Observation Balloon, 1930-1939
  • A-6 and A-7 Spherical Balloons, 1930-1942
  • C-6 Observation Balloon, 1938-c. 1941[7]
2d Strategic Support Squadron
2d Special Operations Squadron

See also


  1. United States War Department (1920), Battle Participation of Organizations of the American Expeditionary Forces in France, Belgium and Italy, 1917–1919, Washington, Government Printing Office, 1920
  2. 2.0 2.1 DesChenes, Richard (2013), The Insignia, Uniforms & Equipment of the U. S. Army Balloon Corps: 1917-1922: Second Edition ISBN 0615188389
  3. Series "J", History of the Balloon Section, American Expeditionary Forces. Gorrell's History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917–1919, National Archives, Washington, D.C, pp 126-127
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Gorrell, Series "J", pp 128-130
  5. Series "H", Section "O", Volume 29, Weekly Statistical Reports of Air Service Activities, October 1918-May 1919. Gorrell's History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917–1919, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  6. 6.0 6.1 2d Balloon Company (I); Clay, Steven E. (2011). US Army Order of Battle 1919–1941. 3 The Services: Air Service, Engineers, and Special Troops 1919–1941. Fort Leavenworth, KS: Combat Studies Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-98419-014-0. LCCN 2010022326. OCLC 637712205
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 7.14 7.15 7.16 7.17 AFHRA 2d Special Operations Squadron Lineage and History
  8. 8.0 8.1 Clay, 2d Balloon Company (II)
  9. 1st Strategic Support Squadron History
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Eye in the Sky: New Reserve Predatory squadron operating its own combat air patrol 24/7, 365

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

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