The 17th Troop Carrier Squadron's third annual reunion will be held in the Dyess AFB area June 15-17. Activities will be on Dyess, and at Abilene's VFW and Briarstone Manor.
According to the 463rd Tactical Airlift Wing's chief engineer, CMSgt. Samuel L. Arnold, who was a member of the 17th TCS, the squadron's first "ski bird" reunion was held in Abilene in 1982. They elected officers at that time and another reunion followed in 1983. "Both went well," the chief said, adding, "same stories, just stretched a little longer." Invitations for this year's reunion have been sent around the world, he said.
The 17th TCS was activated at Dyess AFB in March, 1961, with C-130D, "Ski Birds" from Sewart AFB, Tennessee, under a new wing, the 516th Troop Carrier Wing, then attached to the Tactical Air Command. Chief Arnold shared his memories from those days. "Flight crews and maintenance people were thrown in from all over the Air Force," Chief Arnold said. "We acquired a few qualified crews from the 61st TCS at Sewart who had operated the planes, so a big training program went into effect. However, our lesson plans were a far cry from the complex training program we enjoy today," the chief said. "The squadron was the tightest outfit I've been with in 30 years service. A few of us had started our C-130 days at Ardmore AFB, Oklahoma, with the 463rd TCW, then to Sewart, Dyess, Elmendorf, and finally, like me, back to Dyess to finish my Air Force career."
The 17th TCS, now the 17th TAS and still in Alaska, now flies the newer C-130E with the Military Airlift Command. "The New York Air National Guard has picked up the mission and I've been informed by the 109th Tactical Airlift Group commander, Col. Stanley W. Hemstreet, that he and a crew will fly in for the reunion, bringing one of the old birds."
Chief Arnold explained that since the ANG is about to phase out the old C-130D and pick up new H model ski birds, plans are under way to acquire one of the D models to help dress up the Dyess Historical Museum. "If we should succeed in getting one, I'm sure we'll get plenty of laughs when they see it parked here in West Texas, but we had the same reaction 23 years ago when we came here. We all cussed the old bird, but I'll be the first to admit a lot of fond memories will surface.
"We are looking forward to a bigger and better reunion this year and hope a few people will want to see the old bird again," he said.
Dyess Air Force Base Peacemaker
June 8, 1984