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303rd Fighter Squadron

303rd Fighter Squadron Embossed

The official emblem of the 303rd Fighter Squadron.

The 303rd Fighter Squadron was constituted on May 28, 1943 and activated September 1, 1943, as the 303d Troop Carrier Squadron, one of four squadrons assigned to the 442nd Troop Carrier Group at Sedalia Army Air Field, now Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.

The 303rd, with its parent unit, was created to provide airlift support of Allied forces in Europe during World War II using cargo aircraft and gliders. Following their state-side training, the squadron arrived at Fulbeck, England, March 23, 1944, where it made final preparations for the pending invasion of Europe.

On June 6, 1944, just nine months after the unit came into existence, the 303rd's assignment on D-Day was a paradrop of the 82nd Airborne Division four hours in advance of the first seaborne landings at the Normandy beaches.

The squadron went on to participate in other major operations in Italy, France, Holland and Germany throughout the remainder of the war in Europe.

Following VE-Day on May 8, 1945, the squadron remained in Europe as part of the Occupation Forces until it was inactivated in 1946.

In 1949 the 303rd TCS was reactivated at Fairfax Field, Kansas City, Kan., with its parent unit, the 442nd Troop Carrier Wing, and assigned to the Air Force Reserve.

Following another active-duty tour during the Korean Conflict, the 442nd, with the 303rd, eventually relocated to Grandview Airport, Kansas City. The airport was renamed Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base in 1957 for Lt. John F. Richards and Lt. Col. Arthur W. Gebaur, Jr., two Kansas City fliers who died in military combat.

The squadron was recalled to active duty for the Berlin Crisis in 1961 and, from 1966 through 1971, provided support for ongoing activities in Southeast Asia.

The mission of the 303rd changed to fighter aircraft in 1982 when the unit received the A-1O Thunderbolt II and the unit was re-designated the 303rd Fighter Squadron.

In 1991 the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission recommended the closure and inactivation of Richards-Gebaur AFB. It was later announced that the 442nd FW, with the 303rd FS, would relocate to Whiteman AFB, Mo., and, on schedule, in June 1994 the unit completed its move to Whiteman.

After returning to its original home at Whiteman, the squadron deployed to Italy to support the No-fly Zone over Bosnia-Herzegovina four times for Operations Deny Flight and Decisive Edge and, with the 442nd FW, received an Excellent rating during an Operational Readiness Inspection.

In 1998, the squadron deployed to the Persian Gulf area for 45 days to support Operation Southern Watch, the United Nation's effort to deny Iraqi military access to southern Iraq.

Making Air Force history in November of 1999, the 303rd FS served in the first of ten Aerospace Expeditionary Forces. AEFs are part of the Air Force's way of managing the operations tempo associated with supporting contingency operations worldwide in a new concept called the Expeditionary Aerospace Force.

While the 303rd's commitment to the AEF continued in 2000, the squadron's responsibility shifted from Operation Southern Watch to flying Combat Search and Rescue missions for Operation Northern Watch from Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.

303rd FS operations and maintenance members, along with two A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft deployed to Afghanistan from April to July of 2002 to take the fight to terrorists in that country following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

In March 2003, 60 years since the 303rd was first brought into existence for World War II, squadron members and aircraft were once again called to arms and deployed to Iraq to support the war effort in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The squadron made Air Force history when it became the first Air Force fighter squadron to forward deploy into Iraq, soon after arriving in the area of responsibility, and based at Tallil AB in the southern part of that country. The squadron made Air Force history again when it became the first Air Force fighter squadron to forward deploy a second time into Iraq, this time to base at Kirkuk AB in northern Iraq. The 303rd returned home from Iraq in November 2003 following a highly successful eight-month deployment with no aircraft damage and no combat injuries.

The 303rd FS deployed again in May 2006 to fly combat sorties over Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom. Flying missions from Bagram Airfield, the squadron set Air Force records to that point for the number of bombs dropped and bullets fired as pilots supported three U.S. and Coalition offensives in Afghanistan. The squadron re-deployed back to Whiteman AFB in September.

In July 2008, the squadron deployed to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan a third time for a 50-day rotation to provide close air support, combat search and rescue and forward-air-control capability for the Air Force's 455th Air Expeditionary Wing.

The aircraft flown during the history of the 303d Fighter Squadron have been the C-47 Skytrain, the Waco CG-4A Hadrian glider, the C-53 Skytrooper, the C-46 Commando, the C-119 Flying Boxcar, the C-124 Globemaster II, the C-13OA and C-130E Hercules and the A-10 Thunderbolt II. 

(Current as of April 2009)