80 Years of Excellence

  • Published
  • By Technical Sgt. Paul Lauricella
  • 183d Wing

“Getting the job done” and a “can do” attitude are hallmarks of the 217th Engineering Installation Squadron (EIS) which have paved the way for numerous awards and a history of outstanding contribution to the United States, the State of Illinois, and the Chicago and Springfield Communities. Embodied by their motto “Nobody Does it Better,” the 217th EIS continues to build upon an 80-year legacy of excellence.

The history of the 217th EIS began with its inception in early 1942. The unit was first designated as the 762nd Signal Platoon at Duncan Field, Texas and affiliated with the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T). The 762nd supported vital communication activity during WWII. In July 1942, the unit was transferred to Georgia and renamed the 80th Signal Company. The unit was transferred again to England in April 1943, where it became the 1080th Signal Company. While attached to the U.S. Army Air Force's (USAAF) Eighth Bomber Command, the 1080th distinguished itself during combat operations, earning the Meritorious Unit Commendation. Upon the end of WWII, the 1080th returned home and became the 606th Signal Light Construction Company and assigned to the Air National Guard (ANG). Yet, the unit was de-activated due to the post-war demobilization.

Throughout the 1950’s and 60’s the unit took on numerous roles across the nation. The 606th was recalled to active duty for service in Korea in 1952. While in Korea, the unit was re-designated as the 217th Communication Construction Squadron and subsequently deactivated. However, the unit would be reestablished at Midway Airport in Chicago, Illinois and attached to the ANG 126th Fighter-Bomber Wing. The 217th Communication Construction Squadron was re-designated as the 217th Ground Electronics Engineering Installation (GEEIA) and took on the role of assigning training missions at GEEIA HQ in New York state. The first formal national recognition of the unit took place in 1965, when the 217th was selected as the most Outstanding ANG GEEIA squadron in the Air Force. Later in 1968, the unit moved from Midway Airport to O’Hare Airport, Chicago.

1962 saw the 217th assume the role it holds today. Live installation and maintenance activities on UTA’s for both regular Air Force and National Guard bases make up the core unit responsibilities. From constructing microwave towers in Alabama, to antenna towers in the British West Indies, the 217th has installed dozens of communications towers and antennas at home and abroad in support of critical communication operations.

In 1999, the 217th detached from the 126th Air Refueling Wing and moved to Capital Airport in Springfield, Illinois, becoming a part of the 183rd Wing. The post-9/11 era brought urgent need for secure communications. To meet new demands, the 217th has been busier than ever supporting regular Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) deployment rotations and providing Defense Information Services Agency (DISA) mission support worldwide.

Since 1954, the unit has had several designations:

217th Communications Construction Squadron 8 Nov 54 - 30 Dec 58
217th Ground Electronics Engineering Installation Squadron 1 Jan 59 - 30 Apr 70
217th Electronics Installation Squadron 1 May 70 - 1 Nov 82
217th Engineering Installation Squadron 1 Nov 82 - Present