Dormant, not deactivated: 42nd ATKS end of operations

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The 42nd Bomber Squadron poses for a group photo Dec. 25, 1940. The 42nd Bomber Squadron is one of the many names that the 42nd has held since its original activation in 1917. (Air Force photograph)
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The 42nd Attack Squadron ended its combat operations and flew its final sortie down-range out of Creech Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 31, 2020.

Born out of combat necessity, the “Forty-Deuce” was re-activated in 2006 and became the first squadron to fly the MQ-9 Reaper, beginning its combat operations in September 2007.

Thirteen years of non-stop combat operations later, the 42nd ATKS has marked its end of operations with a final sortie in Afghanistan, and is handing its combat lines over to the other squadrons within the 25th Attack Group.

“Our mission here at the 42nd is to save lives,” said Lt. Col. Landon Quan, commander of the 42nd ATKS. “We do that through a number of different mission sets and sometimes that means we have to take life to preserve it.”

The 42nd Attack Squadron reach it’s centennial anniversary June 13, 2017. It’s lineage can be traced back to World War I when it was a training unit before being re-designated in the mid-1930’s as a bombardment squadron. During World War II, the 42nd flew bomber aircraft such as the B-18 Bolo, B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator in six aerial campaigns during World War II over the Pacific theater, including the Battle of Midway. In 1963, the unit inactivated, then briefly returned in 1989 as an air refueling squadron, but soon inactivated again in 1990. In 2006, the 42nd became the first MQ-9 Reaper squadron and continues today providing dominant persistent attack and reconnaissance to the combatant commanders 24/7/365. (Air Force photograph by Senior Airman Christian Clausen)

The origin of the squadron dates back to June 1917, when it originally served as the 42nd Aero Squadron, flying the “Jenny” JN-4.

Since its inception, the 42nd has served its nation through flying, fighting and winning; however, no accomplishment has been greater than the 180,000 hours of combat and 11,246 sorties the Airmen of “Forty-Deuce” have flown out of Creech AFB.

The Airmen of the 42nd ATKS have served pivotal roles in military operations such as Jukebox Lotus, Inherent Resolve, Enduring Freedom and Freedom Sentinel.

“When I first came to the 42nd Attack Squadron I was inspired by our members’ dedication to duty and pursuit of professionalism,” said Master Sgt. Adam, 42nd ATKS superintendent. “People were proud to be in this unit and to take on the mission sets we do every day.”

Airmen of the 42nd ATKS pride themselves in their cohesion as a team. The close-knit unit stopped at nothing to fly their combat lines 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year. As a result of their dominant, persistent attack and reconnaissance they have protected over 70,000 troops in harm’s way.

A 42nd Attack Squadron Airman takes down a Death Dealers patch at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 23, 2020. The 42nd ATKS has flown over 180,000 combat hours and 11,246 sorties out of Creech AFB. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class William Rio Rosado)

“Our legacy is our people and we’re very proud of that,” said Quan. “There are a lot of memories here at the 42nd, and if I had to choose one to recall beyond my time here, it would be all the different people I’ve been able to serve with.”

As Gen. David L. Goldfein, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, said, “The squadron is the beating heart of the Air Force,” and the 42nd has not only shown their capability to adapt and grow within the squadron, but how to remain flexible and hungry for the best new way to accomplish the mission.

From crafting the beginnings of the Remotely Piloted Aircraft enterprise, to the innovating of a device to streamline communications between air-and-ground forces, AKA the “Frankenphone,” to coming together as a unit to celebrate 100 years of a legacy, the 42nd is a team of growth and dedication.

“The 42nd is one of the Air Force’s oldest squadrons and one of the original RPA squadrons in the 432nd Wing,” said Col. Stephen Jones, 432nd WG/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “The Panthers have had a tremendous impact on the battlefield and many years of significant combat successes. It was not an easy decision to place the squadron in a dormant status, however doing so will help our community better prepare our remotely piloted weapons systems to thrive in the contested environments of the future. The “Forty-Deuce” will come back when the enterprise is properly postured and I know they will continue their legacy of excellence!”

Col. James Price, 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing vice commander, signs an MQ-9 Reaper cockpit door at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 31, 2020. The 42nd Attack Squadron held a celebration after their final flight that evening where members were encouraged to sign the door. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class William Rio Rosado)

Adam and Quan both shared their optimism for the future of the 42nd ATKS and 432nd WG/432nd AEW. Both are excited for what is to come, and know Team 432 Airmen will continue to get the mission done.

“The cost of growth is to put the squadron in a dormant status,” Quan said. “We will cease to exist for a little bit but I’m confident we will come back and be stronger than ever.”

It was said well by another former commander of the 42nd, “Whether it’s our pilots, sensor operators, intelligence or any other career field, [42nd ATKS Airmen] are simply amazing and I think previous members of the 42nd would be proud.”

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