Yacht Club reunion

Lt. Col. Charles Brown, 62nd Airlift Squadron commander

Lt. Col. Charles Brown, 62nd Airlift Squadron commander

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- While the surrounding communities of Little Rock AFB enjoyed the Thunderbirds screaming overhead, the Golden Nights silently falling from the sky as our National Anthem played, and a multitude of other attractions that came with this year's "Thunder Over the Rock" airshow, behind the scenes another time honored tradition took place.

On Oct. 8, the 62nd Airlift Squadron hosted the annual "Yacht Club" reunion. Originating in 1971 as a means to bring the members of the 62nd Troop Carrier Squadron together, it has since opened its alumnus to the men and women of the 62nd who have participated in combat and contingency operations ranging from WWII, to Korea, to Vietnam up through and including current operations and finally the Airmen whose current mission is to produce the finest legacy C-130 Combat Airlift aircrews in the world.
In June of 1944 Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower implemented the invasion of France, codenamed Operation Overlord, with a key supporting operation named Operation Neptune providing the insertion of airborne forces behind enemy lines. Composed of 925 aircraft and six regiments of paratroopers from both the 82nd and the 101st Airborne Divisions, more than 13,000 men took off from England to conduct what would be the first night-time airborne insertion of troops. Imbedded within this mass operation were 18 C-47 aircraft, 78 commissioned officers and 241 enlisted men of the 314th Troop Carrier Group, 62nd TCS, operating out of Saltby Field, England. As such, "Thunder Over the Rock", and the hospitality of the Thunderbirds opening up their VIP tent, treated the visiting World War II warriors to a front row surprise as a large formation of C-130 Es and Hs airdropped approximately 350 paratroopers from the 82nd, reminiscent of the 62nd TCS's role in airdropping the 82d Airborne into their designated drop zone during the Normandy invasion.

It was a distinct pleasure to see the warriors who laid the foundation of Combat Airlift regale the newest generation of airlifters with their memories of flying in Operations Overlord, Neptune and Market Garden while surrounded by the newest weapon systems that have long since replaced the C-47. In turn, the newest generation explained to these heroes how the lessons, tactics, techniques and procedures, developed over six decades, evolved with technology to enable the aerial delivery of supplies from over 10,000 feet with a delivery precision of up to 50 meters through the advent of GPS guided parachutes. Listening to the various generations of airlifters compare notes, it became apparent that technology was the only difference in the ability to provide time-critical supplies to airborne forces -- whether they were surrounded by the German army in the Ardennes forest, or US Special Forces operating in remote locations in Afghanistan.

The heritage of the United States Air Force, though in its infancy compared to sister services, is one full of warriors, tales of bravery, and as shown by the gathering of four brothers of the 62nd TCS who travelled as far as 1,000 miles to gather with Combat Airlifters of the past, present and future a testament to the profound legacy and importance of the mission of tactical airlift.

Thank you to Jack Downhill, Bill Hyden, Ben Setliff, and Ted (Tex) Walters, original members of the 62nd TCS who made the trip to spend time with each other, as well as the men and women of the 62nd AS. It's a true honor to have hosted such a fine group of warriors, friends and guests who travelled great distances to not be thanked, but to say "thank you" for allowing them to be a member of the "Yacht Club."