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185th Special Operations Squadron

  (Redirected from 185th Air Refueling Squadron)

The 185th Special Operations Squadron (185 SOS) is a unit of the Oklahoma Air National Guard 137th Special Operations Wing located at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The 185th is the only National Guard unit (and only US Air Force unit) to be equipped with the MC-12W. While commonly known as "Liberty" the aircraft does not have an official nickname and AFMC's Project Liberty Office was closed upon transfer of the aircraft to the Project Javaman Office for support to US SOCOM. Liberty was named after the WWII Liberty Ship rapid shipbuilding project while Javaman was named after a declassified WWII Naval project involving remote control attack boats controlled by retrofitted bomber aircraft. The unit is known as the "SOONERS." Famous unit alumni include former VietNam POW Brig. Gen. James Robinson "Robbie" Risner and Astronaut Captain Fred Wallace Haise Jr., Apollo 13 Lunar Module Pilot.

185th Special Operations Squadron
MC-12 in flight.jpg
MC-12W 09-0623 in flight
Country United States
Allegiance Oklahoma
BranchUS-AirNationalGuard-2007Emblem.svg  Air National Guard
RoleSpecial Operations
Part ofOklahoma Air National Guard
Garrison/HQWill Rogers Air National Guard Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Motto(s)“Air Guardsmen, fit to lead, highly trained and ready to conduct special operations … anyplace … anytime.”
185th Special Operations Squadron emblem185th Special Operations Squadron.jpg



World War IIEdit

Established in early 1943 as a dive bomber squadron, trained under Third Air Force. In August 1943, re-aligned as a tactical fighter-bomber squadron, re-equipped with P-39 Airacobras, later P-47 Thunderbolts. Moved to England, March— April 1944. Assigned to Ninth Air Force's 84th Fighter Wing, IX Tactical Air Command. It flew the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.

506th Fighter Squadron - P-47 Thunderbolts Photo likely taken at Kelz Airfield (Y-54) or Fritzlar Airfield (Y-86), Germany, spring 1945

The squadron began operations by bombing and strafing targets in France. The squadrons provided top cover for landings in Normandy on 6 and 7 June 1944. On 6 July the 404th moved across the Channel to its Advanced Landing Ground at Chippelle (ALG A-5), France.

On the continent, the 506th operated in close support of ground troops until the end of the war, supporting the Allied breakthrough at Saint-Lô in July 1944, the drive through Holland in September 1944, Allied operations during the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944 – January 1945), and the establishment of the Remagen bridgehead and the subsequent crossing of the Rhine in March 1945.

The squadron also flew interdiction and escort missions, strafing and bombing such targets as troop concentrations, railroads, highways, bridges, ammunition and fuel dumps, armored vehicles, docks, and tunnels, and covering the operations of B-17s, B-24s, and B-26s that bombed factories, airdromes, marshaling yards, and other targets.

Reassigned back to United States and assigned to Third Air Force, being programmed for deployment to Okinawa to take part in planned Invasion of Japan. Training plans discontinued after Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the sudden end of the Pacific War. Most personnel either separated or reassigned to other units, with a skeleton staff arriving at Drew Field, Florida on 1 September. Unit inactivated on 9 November 1945.

Oklahoma Air National GuardEdit

The wartime 506th Fighter Squadron was re-designated as the 185th Fighter Squadron and allotted to the Oklahoma Air National Guard, on 24 May 1946. It was organized at the University of Oklahoma Westheimer Airport, Norman, Oklahoma, and was extended federal recognition on 18 December 1947 by the National Guard Bureau. The 185th Fighter Squadron was bestowed the history, honors, and colors of the 506th Fighter Squadron and all predecessor units. The squadron was equipped with F-51D Mustang Fighters and was assigned to the Oklahoma ANG 137th Fighter Group.

The Norman-based 137th Fighter Group provided command and logistical support for both the 185th and the 125th Fighter Squadron, based in Tulsa. The 125th performed air defense training missions over Northern Oklahoma and the panhandle; the 185th trained over Southern Oklahoma to the Texas border.

In April 1949, a tornado struck the Airport at Norman. The damage was considered too extensive for economical repair and the decision was made to move the 137th Fighter Group and its 185th Fighter Squadron to Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City. The move was accomplished on 6 September 1949. Fortunately, none of the unit's F-51D aircraft were destroyed due to all being checked out by pilots for training flights away from base.

Korean War FederalizationEdit

The 185th's parent 137th Fighter Group was federalized and ordered to active service on 10 October 1950. The squadron was then assigned directly to the Oklahoma Air National Guard, continuing its Air Defense Mission. However, on 1 February 1951, the squadron was switch to being operationally gained by Tactical Air Command (TAC). It was re-equipped with RF-51D Reconnaissance Mustangs, and began training for tactical air reconnaissance and flying aerial photography missions.

The 185th TRS was also federalized and ordered to active service on 1 April 1951. It was assigned to the 363d Tactical Reconnaissance Group and moved to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina on 5 January 1952 where it replaced the 162d Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron which was deployed to Itazuke AB, Japan to fly photo-reconnaissance missions over Korea. At Shaw, it joined the 16th and 18th TRS flying reconnaissance training mission.

Their RF-51Ds were sent to Korea along with many of their pilots and joined the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Group where they served in combat, flying hazardous unarmed reconnaissance missions over enemy-held territory. The remainder of the squadron were equipped with RF-80A Shooting Star Reconnaissance jets. On 1 January 1953 the 185th was returned to Oklahoma state control and returned to Will Rogers Airport.

Fighter-Interceptor missionEdit

Reforming after their active duty service, the 185th was re-designated as a Fighter-Bomber squadron and was again assigned to the 137th Fighter-Bomber Group on 1 January 1953, becoming Tactical Air Command (TAC) gained. The squadron was equipped with F-51D Mustangs again, due to the shortage of jet aircraft in the United States (almost all were in Korea). In the spring of 1953 they received reworked F-80A Shooting Star aircraft, brought up to F-80C standards. On 1 May 1958 the Oklahoma Air National Guard was given a fighter-interceptor mission in Air Defense Command (ADC), and the 185th became a Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, equipped with F-86D Sabre Interceptors. Their F-80s were transferred to the civilian Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for various experimental testing activities.

With the Fighter-Interceptor mission assignment, the 185th also assumed ADC runway alert program on full 24-hour basis - with armed jet fighters ready to "scramble" at a moment's notice. This event brought the 137th into the daily combat operational program of the USAF, placing us on "the end of the runway" alongside regular USAF-Air Defense Fighter Squadrons. In June 1959 the squadron traded their F-86Ds for the upgraded F-86L Sabre Interceptor with uprated afterburning engines and new electronics.

Strategic airliftEdit

In April 1961, the 137th FIG was reassigned to Military Air Transport Service (MATS), trading in its Sabre interceptors for 4-engined C-97 Stratofreighter transports. With air transportation recognized as a critical wartime need, the unit was re-designated the 137th Air Transport Wing (Heavy) with the 185th Air Transport Squadron. The 185th ATS augmented MATS airlift capability worldwide in support of the Air Force’s needs. Throughout the 1960s, the 125th flew long-distance transport missions in support of Air Force requirements, frequently sending aircraft to the Caribbean, Europe, Australia, Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, and during the Vietnam War, to both South Vietnam, Okinawa and Thailand.

Part of the 137th Air Transport Group mission was a specially equipped C-97E, 51-0224, the "Miss Oklahoma City" also known as the "Talking Bird". From 1961 though 1963 the aircraft was used as an airborne command post to maintain constant secure communications between the nation's capital and President John F. Kennedy during his visits to foreign countries.

The C-97s were retired in 1968 and the unit was transferred to Military Airlift Command (MAC), being re-equipped with C-124C Globemaster II heavy transports. The Group continued to fly long-distance intercontinental airlift flights until the Globemasters were retired in 1975.

Tactical airliftEdit

A U.S. Air Force Lockheed C-130H-LM Hercules aircraft (s/n 78-0812) from 185th Airlift Squadron, 137th Airlift Wing, Oklahoma Air National Guard (ANG), flies over snow blanketed New Mexico en route to deliver hay to cattle stranded in remote fields after a major blizzard hit the area in December 1997.

In 1975 the 137th Military Airlift Wing became the 137th Tactical Airlift Wing when the 185th MAS was re-equipped with the C-130A Hercules tactical airlifter. In June 1979 the 185th Tactical Airlift Squadron was the first Air National Guard unit to receive C-130H aircraft, receiving new aircraft direct from Lockheed.

In subsequent years the 137th Tactical Airlift Wing served in humanitarian missions worldwide. During the 1990s the 185th provided Counter-drug support coordinated through the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. As of mid-2001, numerous drug enforcement operations have resulted in the destruction of 7.2 million marijuana plants, estimated 4.1 billion dollars in destroyed drugs, 814 arrests, 165 seized weapons, and 1.1 million dollars in currency and assets seized.

Following the Oklahoma City bombing in April 1995, Air Guardsmen provided site security and medical, rescue, and recovery personnel, assisting in every aspect of the disaster rescue and recovery effort.

The 137th Airlift Wing provided operational support during the 1991 Gulf War, and contributed logistical assistance in Bosnia in the late 1990s.

Personnel from the 137th Airlift Wing aided New Mexico ranchers faced with livestock devastation after severe winter storms covered the grasslands with snow. 137th aircrew delivered much needed hay to starving livestock, averting near disaster to New Mexico's livestock industry.

Air RefuelingEdit

In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to realign Will Rogers AGS by relocating the 137th Airlift Wing (ANG) to Tinker AFB and associate with the 507th Air Refueling Wing (AFR). The 137th's C-130H aircraft would be distributed to the 136th Airlift Wing (ANG), NAS JRB Fort Worth, TX (4 aircraft), and 139th Airlift Wing (ANG), Rosecrans Memorial Airport AGS, MO (4 aircraft). The other elements of the 137th's Expeditionary Combat Support would remain in place at Will Rogers.

Beginning in October 2008, the 185th Air Refueling Squadron aircrews jointly operated the KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft at Tinker AFB with the aircrews of the Air Force Reserve 465th Air Refueling Squadron.

Current StatusEdit

As a result of the National Defense Authorization Act 2015, the 137th Air Refueling Wing transitioned from Air Mobility Command as a KC-135R unit at Tinker AFB, to Air Force Special Operations Command as a MC-12W unit, returning flight operations to Will Rogers Air National Guard Base at Will Rogers World Airport. The unit ceased operations as an associate unit flying 507th Air Refueling Wing owned KC-135s, stationed at Tinker AFB, in the summer of 2015. The unit started receiving its MC-12W aircraft in July 2015 and first deployed in support of US SOCOM taskings in October 2017.


World War II 506th Fighter Squadron emblem
185th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - Emblem
185 Air Refueling Squadron emblem
  • Constituted 620th Bombardment Squadron (Dive) on 25 Jan 1943
Activated on 4 Feb 1943
Re-designated: 506th Fighter-Bomber Squadron on 10 Aug 1943
Re-designated: 506th Fighter Squadron on 30 May 1944
Inactivated on 9 Nov 1945
  • Re-designated 185th Fighter Squadron, and allotted to Oklaholma ANG, on 24 May 1946
Extended federal recognition on: 18 December 1947
Re-designated: 185th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, 1 February 1951
Federalized and ordered to active service on: 1 April 1951
Released from active duty and returned to Oklahoma state control, 1 January 1953
Re-designated: 185th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 1 January 1953
Re-designated: 185th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 1 May 1958
Re-designated: 185th Air Transport Squadron, 1 April 1961
Re-designated: 185th Military Airlift Squadron, 8 January 1966
Re-designated: 185th Tactical Airlift Squadron, 1 July 1975
Re-designated: 185th Airlift Squadron, 16 May 1992
Re-designated: 185th Air Refueling Squadron, 1 October 2008
Re-designated: 185th Special Operations Squadron, 1 October 2015


Gained by: Eastern Air Defense Force, Air Defense Command
Gained by: Tactical Air Command, 1 February 1951




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

  • 137th Air Refueling Wing History
  • Maurer, Maurer. Combat Squadrons of the Air Force: World War II. Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Office of Air Force History, 1982.
  • Rogers, B. (2006). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. ISBN 1-85780-197-0
  • Cornett, Lloyd H. and Johnson, Mildred W., A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization 1946 - 1980, Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center, Peterson AFB, CO (1980).
  • Rosenfeld, Susan and Gross, Charles J (2007), Air National Guard at 60: A History. Air National Guard history program AFD-080527-040
  • 137th Air Refueling Wing

External linksEdit