Selfridge’s 171st Air Refueling Squadron Shares WWII Heritage

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
One of the two Air Force flight squadrons at Selfridge Air National Guard Base shares a history with a Michigan World War II veteran who has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross after an official military review of his service in that war.

Alfred P. Murphy, a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II, was recently presented with the DFC during a ceremony presided over by Col. Philip R. Sheridan, 127th Wing commander at Selfridge. During the war, Murphy was a crewmember on a B-17 Flying Fortress, assigned to the 322nd Bomb Squadron, 91st Bomb Group (H), 8th Air Force.

At the same time, the 374th Fighter Squadron, flying P-47 Thunderbolt fighter aircraft, was also assigned to the 8th Air Force, tasked with providing fighter escort to the bomber aircraft of the 8th. The legacy of the 374th lives on today, in one of the Michigan Air National Guard's flying squadrons.

While Murphy was flying with the 322nd, the 8th Air Force's bomber and fighter squadrons were operating from air fields in England. The various U.S. and allied squadrons would join up in the air, with the fighters working to protect the bombers from enemy aircraft during missions over the European mainland. The heroic adventures of the 8th Air Force and its Airmen in World War II have been the subject of numerous books, movies and other recollections.

Following World War II, the 374th was briefly inactivated. Several months later, the unit was re-activated and re-designated as the 171st Fighter Squadron and assigned to the Michigan Air National Guard. After a number of mission and aircraft assignment changes over the years, the 171st was re-designated as the 171st Air Refueling Squadron in 2008 and assigned KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft. The 171st ARS is now a component of the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base.

Today, in addition to other assignments, the 171st ARS has participated in a series of "rolling mobilizations" in southwest Asia. Since the rolling mobilizations began in 2011, at least one air crew and ground support personnel and one of the unit's aircraft have been almost continuously forward deployed. The squadron has also deployed to Europe and to the Pacific Command several times in recent years.

Comprised of approximately 1,700 personnel and flying both the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the KC-135 Stratotanker, the 127th Wing supports Air Mobility Command, Air Combat Command and Air Force Special Operation Command by providing highly-skilled Airmen to missions domestically and overseas. The 127th Wing is the host unit at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, which marks its 97th year of continuous military air operations in 2014.