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                        53rd MAPS

The 53rd Mobilty Aerial Port Squadron’s mission is to provide responsive global cargo and passenger movement operations while cultivating combat-ready airman. Its functions include processing Airmen and cargo, rigging for airdrops, packing parachutes, loading equipment, preparing air cargo and load plans, loading and securing aircraft, ejecting cargo for in-flight delivery, and supervising units engaged in aircraft loading and unloading operations.

53rd Aerial Port Squadron constituted, 29 Jan 1973 Activated in the Air Force Reserve, 1 Jul 1973 Redesignated 53rd Mobile Aerial Port Squadron, 1 Jan 1978 Redesignated 53rd Aerial Port Squadron, 1 Mar 1994

McChord AFB, WA, 1 Jul 1973-1 Jan 1978 Pope AFB, NC, 1 Jan 1978

Western Air Force Reserve Region, 1 Jul 1973 446th Military Airlift Wing (Associate), 1 Aug 1973 315th Military Airlift Wing (Associate), 1 Jan 1978 512th Military Airlift Wing (Associate), 1 Oct 1992 622nd Regional Support Group, 1 Jan 1995

LTC Robert W. Braden
LTC Ronald Powell
LTC Stephen M. Higgins
2011 LTC Jack Gibson

Service Streamers
Campaign Streamers
Armed Forces Expeditionary Streamers

In August of 1990, the 53rd reservists replaced 3rd MAPS reservists deploying to Southwest Asia at the onset of Operation Desert Shield. In a two-week period, this group handled more than 460 aircraft, averaging one aircraft every 45 minutes. The unit received presidential orders for partial mobilization in 2003, to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. During the two-phased mobilization, 84 reservists were moved from civilian status to active duty for the first time in unit history. 53rd Reservists have since served in the Czech Republic, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar, Oman, Germany , and at Pope AFB, N.C. Today, members of the 53rd APS continue to serve overseas in Kuwait and Turkey.

The squadron has been involved with and participated in a number of Joint Chiefs of Staff directed exercises such as Gallant Knight, Phoenix Bravery, Provide Promise, Proud Return and Urgent Fury. Additionally, the squadron participated in Air Force Reserve Command exercises Patriot Port, Patriot Tiger, Volant Rodeo, Restore Hope, Phoenix Pace and Patriot Partner. For years, active duty Airmen at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., knew the “red hats” as the men and women from the 53rd Aerial Port Squadron. But the Airmen wearing the red hats carried another unique distinction – they were Reservists belonging to the only Reserve unit on base. That trait has now gone by the wayside with the arrival of the 440th Airlift Wing, the new Reserve unit that relocated from Milwaukee to Pope AFB in June. On Saturday of the October UTA, the wing welcomed the red hats as its newest unit during a flag transfer ceremony in front of more than 200 people in Nose Dock 4. Becoming part of the 440th family is seen as a positive to Lt. Col. Jack Gibson, 53rd APS commander. Since the 53rd APS was the only Reserve unit assigned to Pope AFB, its headquarters unit was with the 622nd Regional Support Group located at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., which meant a sort of long-distance relationship to work command and control issues. Additionally, the 53rd APS also received logistical and administrative support from the 315th Airlift Wing at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. Taking care of ongoing training to stay mission ready such as fulfilling physicals and military personnel flight-related items often required a trip to Dobbins AFB or Charleston AFB. “We’ve been a geographically separated unit for a number of years, and that’s been a challenge at times,” Colonel Gibson said. “Now everything will be right here for us at Pope, and that will be great.” Lt. Col. (retired) Ronald Powell, who served as the squadron’s commander from 1999 unit he retired in December 2005, said he has mixed feelings about the transfer. Being the only Reserve unit at Pope AFB brought with it a special identity that no one else on base had. “Since 1978 people identified us with the red hats, and now there’s going to be other reservists here, and they’re not gong to be wearing the red hats,” Colonel Powell said. “But I think that’s going to be OK. In the past we’ve had three masters to serve: our active duty hosts, and the wings at Dobbins and Charleston. Now we’re just going to have one, and that’s a good thing for everyone.” ___________________________________________________________________________ Air Force Order of Battle Created: 4 Sep 2010 Updated: 4 Sep 2016 Sources Air Force Historical Research Agency. U.S. Air Force. Maxwell AFB, AL.