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72d Air Refueling Squadron
72d Air Refueling
72d Air Refueling Squadron Patch
Active 9 February 1943 - 31 July 1946
1 August 1947 - 1 October 1973
1 July 1978 - Present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Type Aerial refueling
Size 8 KC-135R and approximately 50 Personnel
Part of Air Force Reserve Command
4th Air Force
434th Air Refueling Wing
434th Operations Group
Garrison/HQ Grissom Joint Air Reserve Base
Nickname(s) The Darkside
Colors Blue and Gold
Engagements Operation Overlord
Operation Market Garden
Battle of the Bulge
Operation Plunder
Decorations Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg DUC
Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg AFOUA
Ruban de la croix de guerre 1939-1945.PNG French CdG w/ Palm
French Fourragère
Vietnam gallantry cross unit award-3d.svg RVGC w/ Palm
Lt Col Erik Aufderheide
Aircraft flown
Tanker KC-135 Stratotanker

The 72d Air Refueling Squadron (72 ARS) is a United States Air Force Reserve squadron, assigned to the 434th Operations Group, stationed at Grissom Joint Air Reserve Base, Indiana.


File:Grissom Tankers at dusk.jpg

KC-135R Stratotankers

Douglas C-47A-90-DL, Serial 43-15663 of the 72d Troop Carrier Squadron.

The 72d Air Refueling Squadron's primary mission is to provide Global Reach by force extending through aerial refueling operations for the United States Military and its allies. Additionally the unit is tasked with aeromedical evacuation support, airlift, and passenger transport.


Origins - World War II

The 72d Air Refueling Squadron originated as the 72nd Troop Carrier Squadron on 3 January 1943. The squadron was activated on 9 February 1943 at Alliance Army Airfield, Nebraska assigned to the 434th Troop Carrier Group. In September 1943 equipped with C-47s, the unit moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana at Baer Field, which today is the Fort Wayne International Airport. Shortly thereafter the squadron deployed to the European theatre in support of the Allied Forces in World War II. During its World War II tour in the European Theater of Operations, the squadron staged out of Fullbeck, England, Aldermaston and finally out of Mourmelon-le-Grand, France. It participated in airborne assaults on Normandy, the Netherlands, and Germany and the relief of Bastogne. It was credited with participation in the Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe campaigns. It earned the Distinguished Unit Citation and French Croix de Guerre with Palm for its participation in the airborne assault on Normandy, and later earned the French Fourragere. In addition to the C-47, the squadron also flew Horsa gliders, as well as CG-4 gliders during the war. After the war the 72nd returned to Baer Field, IN in August 1945 and then back to Alliance Army Airfield in September 1945. In October 1945 the unit moved to George Field, Illinois, and finally in February 1946 it moved to Greenville AAB, SC where it was inactivated on 31 July 1946. On 1 August 1947 the unit was re-activated as the 72nd Troop Carrier Squadron in the Reserves at Baer Field, IN. It was assigned to the 434th Troop Carrier Group, equipped with C-47s.

Korean War - 1973

In July 1949 the squadron and group moved to Atterbury AFB, IN, which today is the Columbus Indiana Municipal Airport, where they transitioned to the C-46. Starting in May 1951 as part of the Korean mobilization the unit served under Tactical Air Command's Eighteenth Air Force for the next 21 months where it supported Army paratroop training in Georgia. In addition the 72nd participated in Exercises Southern Pine and Long Horn, as well as conducting routine airlift and troop carrier missions for Tactical Air Command. The squadron returned to Atterbury AFB in February 1953. By 1957 Atterbury AFB had been renamed Bakalar AFB, and in the same year the 72nd converted to C-119 "Boxcars". In 1962 as a result of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the squadron served for 32 days supporting the deployment of Air Force strategic and tactical resources to the Southeast corner of the country and their redeployment there from. In July 1969, wing, group, and squadron were re-designated as tactical air support units and were reequipped with U-3As and O-2As. On 31 December 1969, in connection with the closing of Bakalar AFB, the 434th Wing was inactivated and the 931st Group and its squadron moved to Grissom AFB, IN. First reassigned to the 403rd Composite Wing on 1 June 1970 and then on 15 January 1971 to the 434th Special Operations Wing, concurrently activated and collocated with group and squadron at Grissom. On 1 March 1971, group and squadron converted to A-37s and were re-designated as special operations units. On 15 September 1973, the 434th Special Ops Wing was re-designated as a tactical fighter wing. On 1 October 1973, the 72nd Special Operations Squadron was inactivated in favor of the 46th Tactical Fighter Squadron because at the time another 72nd Tactical Fighter Squadron existed.

Air Force Reserve - Desert Storm

On 18 May 1977 the squadron was re-designated as the 72nd Air Refueling Squadron, Heavy, and was assigned to the Air Force Reserve. HQ Air Force Reserve officially activated the 72nd Air Refueling Squadron on 1 July 1978. In July 1987 the 434th Tactical Fighter Wing was re-designated as the 434th Air Refueling Wing of which the 72nd Air Refueling was a part. In 1990 the 72nd as part of the 434th were recalled to active duty for the Gulf War and helped to form one of the largest tanker task forces ever assembled operating out of western Saudi Arabia. The 72nd and its partners flew more than 7,000 refueling missions, offloading fuel to more than 25,000 coalition aircraft. In June 1992, the 434th Air Refueling Wing with its KC-135s and the 930th Fighter Group with its A-10s merged to form the first ever reserve composite wing to include the 72nd ARS and was designated the 434th Wing. In 1994 the A-10 squadron under the 434th inactivated and the 434th Wing reorganized as the 434th Air Refueling Wing once again.

Kosovo - Present

During the 1990s the 72nd deployed personnel and aircraft numerous times to support "No Fly" operations in the Balkans, as well as Operations Northern and Southern Watch over Iraq. In May 1999, the 72nd and the 434th were activated to provide aerial refueling support to Operation Allied Force deployed out of Rhein Mein AB in Germany as part of the war in Kosovo. In September 2001, just days after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 the 72nd was activated for a year in support of the Global War on Terror. The squadron initially deployed to the Pacific theatre to help provide a western air bridge in preparation for the war in Afghanistan. Later during that year, the 72nd was deployed to a classified Southwest Asian location flying aerial refueling missions over Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf in support of the war. The unit's activation ended in late summer of 2002, but 6 months later in Feb of 2003 the 72nd was again activated for a six month stint in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Most of the unit staged out of Moron AB, Spain, with a smaller elements staging out of RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Although the unit's second activation supporting the Global War on Terror ended in late 2003, the 72nd continues to provide worldwide air refueling and air mobility support by flying missions for Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom.

Campaign Narrative

The 72d participated in airborne assaults on Normandy, the Netherlands, and Germany, assisted in the relief of Bastogne, and conducted aerial transportation of passengers and cargo in the European Theater of Operations during World War II. The squadron performed troop carrier and transport duties from 1947–1969, forward air control training from 1969–1971, special operations training from 1971–1973, and worldwide air refueling missions since 1973. Personnel and aircraft deployed from the 72d to Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War, performing air refueling duties for allied forces from August 1990-March 1991 and periodically deployed since late 1993 to Italy and other western European locations in support of NATO operations over Bosnia.[1]


Embelm of the 72d Troop Carrier Squadron

  • Constituted 72d Troop Carrier Squadron on 30 Jan 1943
Activated on 9 Feb 1943
Inactivated on 31 Jul 1946
  • Activated in the Reserve on 1 Aug 1947
Re-designated 72d Troop Carrier Squadron, Medium on 1 Jul 1949
Ordered to Active Service on 1 May 1951
Inactivated on 1 Feb 1953
  • Activated in the Reserve on 1 Feb 1953
Ordered to Active Service on 28 Oct 1962
Relieved from Active Duty on 28 Nov 1962
Re-designated: 72d Tactical Airlift Squadron on 1 Jul 1967
Re-designated: 72d Tactical Air Support Squadron on 25 Jun 1969
Re-designated: 72d Special Operations Squadron on 1 Mar 1971
Inactivated on 1 Oct 1973
  • Re-designated 72d Air Refueling Squadron, Heavy on 18 May 1977
Activated in the Reserve on 1 Jul 1978
Re-designated 72d Air Refueling Squadron on 1 Feb 1992.




Bases stationed[1]






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

  • Mauer, Mauer (1969), Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II, Air Force Historical Studies Office, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. ISBN 0-89201-097-5

See also

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