The 7th Airlift Squadron was constituted Oct. 1, 1933, as the 7th Troop Carrier Squadron. Prior to World War II, the squadron, equipped with Douglass C-33’s, provided airlift throughout the U.S., Panama, Canada, and Alaska. In 1942, it was re-equipped with C-47 Skytrain transports and deployed with the Eighth Air Force. It was among the first units to deploy into the war zone and would participate in the North African campaign, the air assault and invasion of Sicily, as well as missions over “The Hump” in the China-Burma-India theater. In 1947, the squadron moved to McChord Field, trading its C-47’s for C-46 Commandos, C-82 Packets, C-54 Skymasters, and, eventually, C-124 Globemaster II’s. During the Korean War, the 7th flew long, over-water missions to Japan, ferrying troops, ammunition, medical supplies, and aircraft parts. The squadron later made history by landing the first aircraft the size of a C-124 on an ice runway during Operation ICE SKATE in 1957.
After being deactivated in 1969, the squadron was reactivated in 1971 as the 7th Mobility Airlift Squadron and moved to Travis Air Force Base, California, where it was equipped with its first jet aircraft, the C-141 Starlifter. It was immediately put to use ferrying troops and equipment to support the Vietnam War, and subsequently returning thousands of former POW’s and fallen allies to American soil in Operation HOMECOMING. During the 1980s and 1990s, the 7th provided flood relief in Bangladesh, evacuation support after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines, and humanitarian support after Hurricanes Hugo, Andrew, and Iniki. The squadron also provided critical airlift support during Operations RESTORE HOPE in Somalia, JUST CAUSE in Panama, as well as DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM in the Middle East. In 1991, the squadron gained its current designation as the 7th Airlift Squadron and two years later, it returned to McChord AFB, where it continued operating the C-141 until 2002.
In 1999, the 7th received its first C-17 Globemaster III, becoming the first squadron at McChord AFB to convert to the new aircraft. From there, the squadron claimed a number of other firsts: first C-17 to land on Antarctic ice, first C-17 to land in North Korea, and first C-17 squadron to deploy as an EAS. The conversion to the C-17 also afforded the squadron the ability accomplish more unique mission sets, including airdropping a ballistic missile. The 7th distinguished itself in humanitarian support when, in January 2008, a 7th crew conducted an emergency airdrop to the MV Argos Georgia, which had become stranded in Antarctic ice. Combat airlift, however, remains a squadron mainstay, with the 7th providing combat support for Operations IRAQI FREEDOM, NEW DAWN, ENDURING FREEDOM, FREEDOM’S SENTINEL, and INHERENT RESOLVE.