An historic journey from past to present

  • Published
  • By Airman Sarah Post
  • 90 MW Public Affairs

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo – Like most things in the military, the 37th Helicopter Squadron has a long history stretching back to their arrival on F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming.

During the construction of the Minuteman III ICBM system, civilian helicopters were contracted to shuttle working crews throughout the missile fields. The helicopters were so useful, it was decided that an active-duty helicopter presence would also be useful. At the tail end of the 1960s, the 37th Air and Space Rescue and Recovery Service, Detachment 10, arrived on base. 

The 37 ARRS operated with the UH-1F helicopter to shuttle working crews between the main base and missile fields. In the early 1970’s, the detachment began flying the UH-1N and was given a new purpose when the Minuteman III system stood up. The detachment’s pilots began flying launch control crews back and forth between the main base and their alert shifts in the field and also began covering convoys. 

Over the next few years, the detachment grew into a flight. In the 1980’s, it grew into a whole squadron and has since been known as 37 HS. 

The squadron changed its purpose again in the 1990’s as they took on a nuclear security presence. 

The squadron has maintained the same primary mission since then, but has made various improvements to the way they function, including carrying weapons on the aircraft. Today, 37 HS not only provides aerial security, but also ensures the safety of the 90th Missile Wing’s mission and Airmen in the field.

“37 HS helps the 90th Missile Wing’s mission primarily by providing nuclear security,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Karins, 37 HS commander. “We provide airborne fire teams over every active convoy working to keep the Minuteman III fleet up and running and we also provide immediate missile field support to secure all 9,600 square miles of our missile field.” 

The squadron is still growing and has 91 members today, 41 of which are pilots.

Each pilot starts out as a co-pilot learn the mission of 37 HS and to participate in mission planning. Then, pilots become aircraft commanders, where they take on the responsibility of the whole aircraft, crews and passengers while following flying regulations. Pilots then become instructional pilots and teach new and existing members of the squadron how to be proficient for the mission. 

“While flying, we have to look at air speeds and air charts for the different airfields located within our missile fields,” said Capt. Nichole Poupart, 37 HS pilot. “We are also looking at the exact missile field layout so we can provide the best support to cops on the ground.” 

Poupart always dreamed of becoming a pilot and hoped to be selected for a pilot spot when she attended the Air Force Academy. Her dreams came true and Poupart was selected for a spot, then went on to attend advanced training. She then continued down the rotary wing path to become a helicopter pilot. Poupart has been with 37 HS for the last four years, following the end of her pilot training. 

F.E. Warren AFB and its associated missile field has a unique location that gives 37 HS access to many different types of terrain, including mountains, valleys, plains and canyons. 

“We have a lot of varying terrain,” said Poupart. “When I first got here, one of my first flights was up into the mountains. That was actually my first time flying into mountains in any type of aircraft. We had to work the terrain, and I had to learn about the power restrictions the high altitude brings. It was a great experience for me as a new pilot.” 

Flight engineers make up 38 of the squadron’s personnel and they are responsible for whatever the mission calls for. Flight engineers must go through pre-flight, in-flight and post-flight checklists to make sure each step is done in order and correctly on the aircraft. They check the weight and balance of the aircraft, operate the hoist and weapon if they are part of the flight, they scan around the aircraft throughout the flight and they navigate. 

“I wanted to work with rotary aircraft,” said Senior Airman Levi Hood, flight engineer with the 37 HS. “I joined the Air Force as a special missions aviator then narrowed my career down to a flight engineer. I was especially intrigued with the mission set of the UH-1N.”  

Hood has been a part of the squadron for about two and a half years. During that time, he has been working to perfect his craft as a flight engineer. Hood has also gained many experiences, like traveling to new places for missions and training, flying all over the country and meeting new people he would not have met without the squadron. 

37 HS has been around for about 50 years, in one form or another. Today, they are still creating history with the help of each existing and new member that joins their ranks.

“We are a proud squadron. We have been a part of a very noble mission since our start,” said Hood. “We participate in one of our country’s greatest missions as we defend our nation’s greatest assets.” 

37 HS has been defending F.E. Warren's nuclear mission since its start in 1973, nearly 50 years ago. A squadron as rich in history as 37 HS has to be just as rich in pride.