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310th Airlift Squadron continues a proud heritage

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Carol Mitchell
  • 310th Airlift Squadron

Heritage, or the collection of an organization’s traditions, is what makes us proud to be part of that organization. Celebrating our heritage and honoring our traditions sets the U.S. military apart from its civilian counterparts and reminds us that we are part of a unique team with a distinguished history.

One of our Air Force traditions is called the Final Flight or "Fini" flight. It celebrates an aircrew member's last flight, and is marked by a celebration upon returning to his or her base where family and friends await to hose him or her down, and enjoy a celebratory bottle of champagne.

The "Fini" flight tradition can be traced back to the Vietnam War when aircrew would commemorate the completion of 100 combat missions. The 100th safe landing was truly a reason to celebrate. Keeping with Air Force tradition, the superintendent of the 310th Airlift Squadron, Senior Master Sgt. Forin Hernandez, celebrated his “Fini” flight on  July 19, 2016, returning to MacDill Air Force Base (AFB) to be hosed down by his family and honored by his colleagues before moving on to the Tanker Airlift Control Center at Scott AFB.

The 310th Airlift Squadron, which provides safe, comfortable and reliable airlift to the nation’s senior leaders, has a rich heritage and illustrious history of its own. It was originally constituted as the 310th Troop Carrier Squadron in 1943, flying the Douglas C-47 “Skytrain” to transport U.S. ground forces in Europe during WWII. It flew airborne assaults on Normandy, Holland and Germany, winning a Distinguished Unit Citation for its actions on D-Day. The 310th went on to fly C-46 “Commandos” in the Korean Conflict, as well as Sikorsky H-19 “Chickasaw” helicopters in Operation Redwing in the Marshall Islands as a 1950’s-era nuclear testing platform.  

The 310th Troop Carrier Squadron participated in the Vietnam War, flying the C-123K “Provider” and the C-7 “Caribou.” It was inactivated in 1972 as the last tactical airlift unit in South Vietnam. The 310th was reactivated in 1984 at Howard AFB, Panama, flying the C-21A, C-22A, C-27, CT-43A, and C-130 (E and H) to provide aerial detection and monitoring over the Panama Canal Zone.

Finally, in 2001, the 310th Airlift Squadron (AS) moved to MacDill AFB and joined the 6th Air Mobility Wing, using the CT-43A and EC-135N for distinguished visitor (DV) airlift. In 2003, it traded in its aging aircraft for three C-37A executive transport jets (modified Gulfstream G-V’s), which it still flies today. The 310th AS currently provides worldwide DV airlift in support of U.S. combatant commanders and other senior leaders.

The 310th Airlift Squadron, affectionately known as the Special Air Mission (SAM) Flamingos, not only observes Air Force traditions like the “Fini” flight, but it also celebrates its own unique heritage. It takes pride in accomplishing its no-fail mission, just as it has for more than seven decades. As a result, every Friday, members of the 310th AS meet in their Heritage Room at 3:10 p.m. to honor their forefathers, build comradery, and reflect on their accomplishments. 

“History makes you smarter, but heritage makes you prouder.” – Gen Robin Rand, Commander, AF Global Strike Command