Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, also known as "The Sentinels," began as Detachment “C” of Marine Wing Support Group 17, activated 16 April 1979. Formed from elements of Wing Engineer Squadron 17, Wing Transportation Squadron 17, and Headquarters Squadron 17, the unit’s primary mission was to provide combat service support for elements of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing located at Marine Corps Air Station, Iwakuni, Japan. In June of 1986, Marine Wing Support Group 17 was reorganized to better support the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, the Aviation Combat Element of the III Marine Expeditionary Force. Having absorbed personnel and equipment from Marine Air Base Squadrons 12 and 15, Detachment “C” was re-designated Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 on 16 June 1986. The Squadron’s new mission was to provide all essential Aviation Ground Support requirements to a designated fixed wing component of an Aviation Combat Element and all supporting or attached elements of the Marine Air Control Group. Additionally, the Squadron has the implied mission to supplement air base facilities and services at a co-located Marine Corps Air Station, which MWSS-171 does aboard MCAS Iwakuni.
In June 1991, after over 600 years of inactivity, Mount Pinatubo on the island of Luzon (Republic of the Philippines) catastrophically erupted. Before the disaster, about 15,000 people lived in small villages on the volcano’s flanks. A much larger population, about 500,000, lived in cities and villages surrounding the volcano. The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo lead to the largest known evacuation of people due to a volcanic threat and required a great deal of support. In 1992, elements of Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 assisted in the final retrograde of personnel and equipment from Subic Bay Naval Base and Cubi Point Naval Air Station, located just 40 km to the southwest of the volcano.
Expanded peacekeeping in Somalia began after the failure of an initial United Nations mission and the specter of 500,000 Somalis dead from famine by fall of 1992. Hundreds of thousands more people were in danger of dying. Clan violence in Somalia interfered with international famine relief efforts, and President Bush sent American troops to protect relief workers. Operation Restore Hope, the United States led coalition approved by the United Nations Security Council in December 1992, had a mandate of protecting humanitarian operations and creating a secure environment for eventual political reconciliation. Elements of MWSS-171 served among the almost 30,000 US military personnel that participated in the operation, returning home to Iwakuni in May of 1993.
On 17 January 1995 at 0546, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit the western part of Japan with the highest intensity and most severe damage occurring in the southern part of Hyogo prefecture. The damage intensity in Kobe City and north of Awaji Islands was extremely high. The quake caused more than 5,243 casualties, 26,804 injuries, 106,763 damaged buildings and more than 300,000 people being sent to emergency shelters. The quake further caused severe damage to the area’s infrastructure with several bridges being knocked down, extensive damage to roads and railways, and, for the first time, severe damage to several underground tunnels and subways. The quake further disrupted gas, electric, telecommunications, and water service to more than 800,000 houses. The people of Kobe recognized MWSS-171 and Hyogo prefecture for the assistance provided in the massive recovery operations.
On 26 September 2009, just three days prior to MWSS-171's deployment to the Republic of the Philippines for Amphibious Landing Exercise 2010, Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy) dumped almost 18 inches of rain on southern Luzon in one day. This is typically one month's worth of rain. The resultant floods devastated Metro Manila and the southern Luzon area. The floods claimed over 460 lives and caused over $235 million (US) in damages, compelling Philippine President Gloria Arroyo to declare a "state of calamity". MWSS-171 was immediately tasked with diverting personnel and equipment from their intended destination at Clark Air Base to Manila to conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. A detachment of medical personnel, heavy equipment operators, and motor transport operators treated 5,506 local nationals, delivered 33,467 family meal packs, and cleared 1,168 cubic meters of mud and debris from 2,650 meters of roads. Relief efforts continued for two weeks, after which the personnel and equipment returned to Clark Air Base to continue with the scheduled exercise.
The squadron has continued its high tradition of support by deploying Marines and Sailors to participate in Operation Enduring Freedom, in Afghanistan, and Operation Iraqi Freedom, in Iraq, from September 2001 to the present. Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 continues to fulfill its demanding mission of providing Aviation Ground Support aboard Marine Corps Air Station, Iwakuni and in deployed locations throughout the Pacific. At the same time, the Squadron remains “Ready for All Things”.