MacDill welcomes historic squadron back to Tampa

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A storied squadron with roots all the way back to D-Day has returned to Tampa. And the squadron commander, a native of Puerto Rico, faces two challenges.

"I've been working to standing up this squadron for the last month, and at the same time, for the last two weeks, I've been thinking about all the work going on in Puerto Rico," said Lt. Col. Ricardo Lopez, a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico and the new commander of the 50th Air Refueling Squadron.

Lopez assumed command at a ceremony in Hangar 3 at MacDill Air Force Base on Monday. The squadron brings eight additional KC-135 Stratotankers, joining the 18 already here.

"I can't tell you the long-term plans of the Air Force, but I can tell you that having these 26 aircraft on the ramps, supporting our tanker mission around the world, makes us more relevant," said Col. April Vogel, base commander.

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The 50th Squadron, nicknamed the Red Devils, originated as the 50th Airlift Squadron  in 1942 at Drew Field, where Tampa International Airport is today. Among their many missions with C-47 Skytrain aircraft was delivering U.S. paratroopers on D-Day.

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