Emerging from the cotton fields of Northwestern Louisiana in the early 1930s, Barksdale Air Force Base has grown into a major source of revenue and employment for the region.
Barksdale has proudly served the Ark-La-Tex (Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas) for more than 67 years. As a key Air Combat Command base, Barksdale has a pivotal role in providing a large part of the nation’s deterrent force.
The “Mighty Eighth” Air Force, of World War II fame, is headquartered at the base. Barksdale is also home to the 2d Bomb Wing, 2d Mission Support Group, 2d Operations Group, 2d Maintenance Group, the 2d Medical Group, 8th Air Force Museum (which includes historical aircraft and artifacts) and the Air Force Reserve’s 917th Wing.
Barksdale provides jobs for nearly 10,000 military and civilian employees.
Barksdale AFB is named in honor of Lt. Eugene Hoy Barksdale, Air Corps, U.S. Army, who lost his life Aug. 11, 1926, while flight testing an observation-type airplane over McCook Field, in Dayton, Ohio.
Lieutenant Barksdale was born in Goshen Springs, Miss., Nov. 5, 1897. He attended Mississippi State College, but left during his junior year to enter the officers’ training camp at Fort Logan H. Roots, Little Rock, Ark. He volunteered for aviation a few weeks before receiving his commission as a second lieutenant and enlisted in the aviation section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps as a private first class.
After completing the ground school course at the School of Military Aeronautics in Austin, Texas, he embarked for England Sept. 18, 1917, and received his flying training with the Royal Flying Corps at Oxford and several other aviation schools in England. He accepted his commission May 26, 1918, at Markse, Yorkshire, England.
Following completion of flying training, he was assigned to the 41st Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, in August 1918, and placed on active duty at the front as a pilot, participating in the Somme and Amiens offensives early in August 1918. He was wounded Sept. 2, 1918, during the Cambrai Offensive. While on duty with the RFC, he received official credit for destroying three enemy aircraft through aerial combat. He also participated in the ground destruction of five other enemy aircraft. He left the RFC Oct. 15, 1918, and was placed in the 25th Aero Squadron until Dec. 24, 1918.
After the war he became a test pilot and lost his life while flight testing a Douglas observation airplane. Lieutenant Barksdale attempted a bailout from a fast spin only to get his parachute caught in and severed by the brace wires attached to the wings of the plane. The lieutenant fell to his death. Lieutenant Barksdale was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
The dedication of Barksdale Field Feb. 2, 1933, marked the culmination of a concerted community action. As early as 1924 the citizens of Shreveport became interested in hosting a military flying field. In 1926 Shreveport citizens learned that the 3rd Attack Group (Wing) stationed at Fort Crocket, Texas, would be enlarged by 500 percent and would require at least 20,000 acres to support an aerial gunnery and bomber range.
In February 1928, a delegation of prominent Shreveport citizens hired a young crop duster, an Air Corps captain named Harold Ross Harris, to fly over the local area and find a site for an airfield.
Captain Harris selected what he felt was an adequate location for a military airfield. It was a sprawling section of cotton plantation near Bossier City, La. The site selection committee, representing the wealthiest taxpayers in the city, unanimously agreed upon the Barksdale Field location. A delegation of citizens traveled to Washington, D.C., to personally present the advantages of the proposed site to the War Department. Following the return of this delegation, a special Army board visited Shreveport and reported the location met all requirements of the Air Corps.
Shreveport was selected Dec. 5, 1928. Beginning in 1931, construction of the world’s largest airfield at the time, 22,000 acres, introduced dramatic and significant changes to the cotton plantation area. About 150 men and 350 mules were used to grade the new landing field. More than 1,400 acres of cotton land were plowed under and planted in Bermuda grass. Today, the base encompasses more than 22,000 acres to 20,000 acres are used for recreation and as a game preserve.
On Oct. 31, 1932, Barksdale Field’s first combat organization, the 20th Pursuit Group, arrived from Mather Field, Calif. At the time, the 20th had two pursuit squadrons, the 55th and the 77th. Five months later, April 1, 1933, the group activated a third pursuit squadron, the 79th. The group’s mission was aerial training for the purpose of developing procedures and techniques for engaging hostile aircraft. Boeing P-12s and later aircraft also served as protection to vital industrial centers, airdromes and airborne attack bombardment aircraft.
By the time Barksdale Field held its formal dedication, the 20th Pursuit Group’s training program was in full operation. During the 1930s, Barksdale Field hosted the 3rd Attack Wing and the 20th Pursuit Group. Flying everything from P-12s and P-26s to A-8 “Shrikes” and Douglas B-18 “Bolos,” these units used Barksdale’s immense acreage on the East Reservation to hone their gunnery and bombing skills. The 1940s at Barksdale saw the training of bomber crews instead of the pursuit and fighter crews as in the previous decade. Between May 23 and 25, 1940, Barksdale Field was host to the Army’s “complete military maneuvers” simulating European combat operations. Some 320 aircraft from throughout the Army Air Corps participated, as Maj. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower watched. Among units trained was the famous 17th Bomb Group, which would be led by Gen. Jimmy Doolittle during his raid on Tokyo. Barksdale also served as a bomber training base for French and Chinese aircrews. Aircraft used for training included Martin B-26 Marauders, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses and Boeing B-29 Superfortress.
Barksdale then became headquarters for the Air Training Command from 1945 to 1949 and began phasing out B-29 crew training.
Barksdale Field was named Barksdale AFB Jan. 13, 1948. During 1949, Barksdale was the home of the first Air Force all-jet strategic reconnaissance/bomber aircraft, the North American RB-45 Tornado and home to the 2d Air Force Headquarters, bringing Barksdale into the Strategic Air Command. The Boeing B-47 Stratojet and Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter also were assigned here during the mid-50s. The first Boeing B-52 arrived at Barksdale Aug. 14, 1958, and the first Boeing KC-135 arrived in mid-September the same year.
World War I – the famous 2d Bomb Wing transferred to Barksdale April 1, 1963, from Hunter Field, Ga. From 1965 and into the 1970s, the 2d Bomb Wing prepared for the day when it would deploy to Southeast Asia for “Arc Light” and “Young Tiger” missions.
From 1972 through 1973, almost all of the wing’s resources were deployed overseas for operations over Vietnam. All aircraft and crews returned in January and October of 1973.
Headquarters 2d Air Force was inactivated Jan. 1, 1975, and Headquarters 8th Air Force was installed on Barksdale after being located on Guam for five years in charge of strategic operations for the Vietnam War.
Barksdale received the first operational KC-10 Extender aerial refueler March 17, 1981. The base’s fleet of KC-135s and KC-10s flew through Barksdale skies through 1994, when Air Mobility Command consolidated its tanker fleet. Barksdale’s last KC-135 was placed in the 8th Air Force Museum after its final flight in March, and the last KC-10 departed in October.
From 1972-1992, Barksdale hosted the annual Strategic Air Command Bombing and Navigation Competition awards symposium. After spending weeks dropping bombs on ranges throughout the United States and engaging in navigational competition, SAC’s finest bomber aircrews gathered here for the score posting and awards presentation, and to work together to improve the training of SAC aircrews.
SAC’s last Bombing and Navigation Competition was held in 1992; the first under Air Combat Command, its successor, was held in 1994, featuring the best bomber aircrews in the world.
In 1978 the 8th Air Force Museum was established with the arrival of a B-17 Flying Fortress – the type the “Mighty Eighth” flew during World War II. The museum has grown greatly over the years, and today its collection includes the B-24, B-29, B-47, B-52D, B-52G, British Vulcan, FB-111A, C-45, C-47, VC-64, KC-97, KC-135, P-51D, F-84F, MiG-21F, SR-71 and T-33.
In April 1982, and again in December 1990, the space shuttle “Columbia” made a stop at Barksdale on its way back to Cape Kennedy atop its Boeing 747 carrier.
Barksdale played significant roles in Operation Just Cause to restore democracy to Panama in December 1989, Operation Desert Shield in August 1990 and Operation Desert Storm in January 1991. The first combat sortie of Desert Storm was launched from Barksdale, when seven B-52s flew a 35-hour mission – the longest combat sortie in history – to launch conventional air-launched cruise missiles against Iraq. Barksdale B-52s dropped almost 25 percent of all U.S. Air Force bombs during the Persian Gulf War.
The base turned its attention from combat to more peaceful pursuits when two B-52s, a KC-10 and their crews visited Dyagilebo Air Base, Russia, in March 1992. In May 1992 Barksdale hosted a return visit by two Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers, an An-124 Condor transport and 58 Russian airmen. The Russians stayed for six days, seeing a slice of America and participating in Strategic Air Command’s final Bombing and Navigation Competition awards symposium. The Russians visited again in August 1994, bringing a Tu-95 Bear and an I1-78 aerial refueler.
In April 1992, 265 buildings on Barkdale’s main base were placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The area from the Shreveport Gate to the flightline and from the Bossier Gate to Hoban Hall makes up the Barksdale Field Historic District.
Barksdale began a friendship with Ukrainian airmen later in 1994, when a B-52 and KC-10 visited Poltava Air Base, Ukraine.
Barksdale became the focus of attention once again in September 1996 as two of its B-52s released 13 conventional air-launched cruise missiles on surface-to-air missile sites and air defense radars in Iraq. Dubbed Operation Desert Strike, the mission came in response to Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein’s attacks on Kurds in northern Iraq and was the first combat employment of the B-52H in history. In only a span of 80 hours, Barksdale B-52s and support personnel deployed forward to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, carried out the strike against Iraqi targets and returned to Guam.
Fourteen months later, in November 1997, Airman and aircraft deployed from Barksdale to the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean by order of the President. They joined forces already in the region in response to a renewed bout of provocations and threats made by Saddam Hussein.
Remaining at Diego Garcia until June 1998, Barksdale’s forces bolstered the ability to defend the security of the region against possible aggression by Iraq and to accomplish specific military objectives if a diplomatic solution to the confrontation could not be achieved.
B-52s and personnel from Barksdale were again deployed to Diego Garcia in November 1998. Seven bombers and about 180 people deployed in response to Iraq’s refusal to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors. Despite President Clinton calling off strikes after Hussein’s last-minute concessions to meet U.N. demands, Iraq’s cooperation continued to deteriorate. U.S. military forces, including Barksdale’s B-52s, launched a sustained series of air strikes against Iraq shortly after midnight Dec. 17, 1998.
The three-day-long campaign, dubbed Operation Desert Fox, followed the latest in a series of roadblocks by the Iraqi government against weapons inspections conducted by the U.N. Special Commission.
From March to June 1999, Barksdale played a prominent role in halting the brutal Serb expulsion of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo. Operating from RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom, Barksdale B-52s flew over 180 combat sorties and released over 6,600 weapons against military targets throughout the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia during Operation Allied Force.
Immediately following the devastating terrorist attacks launched by the al-Qaeda terrorist network against the United States Sept. 11, 2001, Barksdale provided a safe haven for President George Bush on his return flight to the nation’s Capitol. Shortly thereafter, the National Command Authority called upon the base to provide substantial forces to spearhead the Global War on Terrorism. Operating from multiple overseas locations, Barksdale warriors and B-52s, both active and reserve alike played a key role in Operation Enduring Freedom, which saw the elimination of the repressive Taliban regime of Afghanistan. The operation also resulted in the destruction of the al-Qaeda leadership and training infrastructure that had previously resided with impunity in that country.
In March 2003, time finally ran out for Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein whose regime had continually defied the U.N. for almost 13 years. Returning yet again to the deadly skies of Iraq, Barksdale B-52s flew over 150 combat sorties against military targets throughout the southern half of the country. In a lightening campaign dubbed Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. and Coalition military forces ousted Saddam Hussein paving the way for democracy in Iraq.
Today, the men and women of Barksdale continue to serve at both home and abroad in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
One of the biggest Barksdale highlights happens every year, when the base opens its gates to its neighbors for the annual open house and air show.
A well-rounded successful unit is marked not only by its missions and awards, but also by its personal side. Barksdale raises money for charity through the Combined Federal Campaign and Air Force Assistance Fund, and also for the local fundraiser Bright Christmas, which helps Barksdale families during the holidays.
The history of the 2d Bomb Wing is nearly as old as that of American air power itself. Beginning in World War I, the unit was established by the Army Air Services as the first unit dedicated to aerial bombing. As the 2d Bombardment Group during World War I, it participated in one of the largest bombing raids of the war Oct. 9, 1918, when 353
Allied planes commanded by Gen. “Billy” Mitchell struck German troop concentrations in the Meuse-Argonne area. In more than two months of combat, the group delivered more than 111 tons of bombs on German targets. From July 13 to 21, 1921, the group’s four bombardment squadrons were detached to General Mitchell’s 1st Provisional Air Brigade to conduct controversial tests to determine the efficiency of aircraft against naval warships. The aircraft successfully bombed and sank three ex-German warships, including the formidable 22, 437-ton battleship Ostfriesland, off the coast of Virginia. From Sept. 23 to Sept. 26, 1921, the group’s bombardment squadrons, again under the direction of General Mitchell, bombed and sank the ex-Navy battleship USS Alabama in yet another test of aircraft bombardment efficiency. On Sept. 5, 1923, the group, operating from an improvised airdrome on the sands near Cape Hatteras, N.C., bombed and sank the ex-Navy battleships USS Virginia and USS New Jersey. With the training and experience gained during these final tests, the 2d Bombardment Group had developed into America’s premier aerial bombardment unit.
To further attest the group’s capabilities, three 97th Bombardment Squadron Martin B-10B aircraft commanded by Capt. Richard E. Nugent departed Langley Field, Va., and successfully bombed a target 600 miles away in Michigan during the 2nd Army Maneuvers. This mission, flown almost entirely in inclement weather, garnered the squadron the 1936 Mackay Trophy.
On March 1, 1937, the group received the first B-17 bomber delivered to the U.S. Army. A goodwill tour to Argentina by six B-17s in February 1938 and a flight to Colombia by three B-17s in August of the same year highlighted the late 1930s. The trip to Buenos Aires represented the longest distance performance of its kind on record and won the group the Mackay Trophy in 1938.
Remaining at Langley Field for more than 20 years, the group underwent several name changes and operated a series of different aircraft. Early in World War II the group was assigned anti-submarine patrol duty and in October 1942 was earmarked for combat. The group started with fresh personnel at Geiger Field, Wash., and entered combat operations in North Africa in March 1943. It subsequently became the 2d Bombardment Group (Heavy) in July 1943, while flying the B-17 bomber against Axis targets in the Mediterranean area. From April 23, 1943, to May 1, 1945, aircrews flew a total of 412 combat missions, dropping 25,797 tons of bombs on targets in Africa, France, Germany, Italy, Austria and Hungary. Group gunners claimed 279 victories of German and Italian aircraft.
The phase-down of the vast American military strength following World War II was reflected in the activities of the group. It was inactivated upon its return to the United States in 1946 only to be reactivated as the 2nd Bombardment Group at Andrews Field, Md., July 1, 1947. The group did not become operational until arriving at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. During the late summer and early fall of 1947, the group was on temporary duty in the United Kingdom.
Shortly after the establishment of the U.S. Air Force as a separate branch of the military, the group was assigned as a tactical component of the newly designated 2d Bombardment Wing.
In January 1949, the wing transferred to Chatham Air Force Base, near Savannah, Ga. A year later, it was again moved to a new home at nearby Hunter Field. From 1949 to 1952 all or portions of the wing performed temporary duty exercises overseas.
Headquarters Air Force ordered the permanent designation of the group’s history, awards and emblem bestowed on the wing April 1, 1963. On that same date, the wing moved to Barksdale from Hunter and took control of the B-52 and KC-135 aircraft assigned to the 4238th Strategic Wing.
Starting in 1965, 2d Bomb Wing crews supported operation “Arc Light,” the B-52 bombing operations in Southeast Asia. In April 1972, as part of Operation Bullet Shot, the wing deployed the remainder of its aircraft, participating in the “11-Day War” of December 1972. It was to be the operation that brought the war to an official end.
Tankers assigned to the wing provided vital support in 1983’s Operation Urgent Fury on the island of Grenada. In 1989, 2nd Bomb Wing members and aircraft participated in Operation Just Cause, which ousted President Manuel Noriega and restored democracy to Panama.
Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm brought Barksdale warriors into the spotlight again with their efforts to liberate Kuwait. The 2d Bomb Wing flew what was then the longest combat mission in the history of military aviation at the start of Desert Storm in 1991 when seven B-52s flew a 35-hour mission and, for the time in U.S. Air Force history, fired a devastating barrage of conventional air-launched cruise missiles. The 2d Bomb Wing delivered one-fourth of all U.S. Air Force bombs during Desert Storm. The 2d Bomb Wing KC-135s and KC-10s provided more than 1,000 of the 13,700 coalition refueling missions.
Two 2d Bomb Wing B-52s conducted a missile strike against surface-to-air missile sites and air defense radars in Iraq in September 1996. Desert Strike was the first combat employment of the B-52H in history and was ordered in response to Iraqi attacks on Kurds in northern Iraq. The mission earned the wing the prestigious 1996 Mackay Trophy as the most meritorious flight of the year.
Recognizing the mighty B-52 as a weapon of choice, the National Command Authorities called upon the 2d Bomb Wing throughout the late 1990s to flex its muscles against rouge states in Southwest Asia and the Balkans: operations Southern Watch, Desert Fox and Allied Force.
Since Sep. 11, 2001, the men and women of the 2d Bomb Wing have continually served with distinction in the Global War on Terrorism. Operating from locations around the world, the wing played a pivotal role in defeating the repressive regimes of Afghanistan and Iraq during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom respectively.
Today, as the largest bomb wing in Air Combat Command and part of the historic 8th Air Force, the wing continues to reflect the heritage of its motto Libertatem Defendimus: “Liberty We Defend.”
Vision: The 2d is first…in peace…in war...to victory!
• Total focus on mission excellence
• Work together – take care of each other to build trust & teamwork
• Offer opportunities for personal/professional wellness & growth
The VIII Bomber Command (later redesignated Eighth Air Force) was activated as part of the U.S. Army Air Force on Feb. 1, 1942, at Langley Field, Virginia. Within days the VIII Bomber Command joined its parent unit, 8th Air Force at Hunter Field in Savannah, Georgia. About two weeks later, the VIII Bomber Command under the leadership of Brig. Gen. Ira Eaker deployed to Daws Hill, England and into the European Theater of Operations. Once on English soil, a permanent home for VIII Bomber Command was soon established at a former girl’s school at High Wycombe.
From May 1942 until July 1945, VIII Bomber Command planned and implemented the American concept of daylight precision strategic bombing. During World War II, under the leadership of Generals Eaker, Jimmy Doolittle and others, the VIII Bomber Command became the greatest air armada in history conducting the strategic air campaign against Nazi-occupied Europe and the Third Reich in collaboration with the Royal Air Force. On Feb. 22, 1944, the Army reorganized its Air Forces in Europe with the 8th Air Force becoming the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe (now called the U.S. Air Forces in Europe or USAFE) and the VIII Bomber Command becoming 8th Air Force. By mid-1944, 8th Air Force had more than 200,000 personnel assigned and it is estimated over 350,000 Americans served in 8th Air Force during the war in Europe. At its peak during the war, the 8th Air Force could dispatch more than 2,000 four-engine bombers and 1,000 fighters on a single mission. For these reasons, 8th Air Force became known as “The Mighty Eighth.”
The Mighty Eighth compiled an impressive war record but with this achievement came sacrifice. Half of the U.S. Army Air Force’s casualties in the war were suffered by the 8th Air Force (some 47,000 casualties including over 26,000 killed in action.) Seventeen Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded to 8th Air Force members during the war with 8th Air Force receiving 47 percent of all Medals of Honor awarded to airmen in World War II. Other medals including 220 Distinguished Service Crosses and 442,000 Air Medals were also awarded during the war with many additional awards made to 8th Air Force veterans after the war. Eighth Air Force’s experience in the war resulted in the recognition of 261 fighter aces (with 31 aces achieving 15 or more aircraft kills apiece) and 305 (enlisted gunner) bomber aces.
Following the end of the war in Europe, 8th Air Force headquarters moved to Okinawa and by July 1945 was preparing new bomber groups for air combat against Imperial Japan. Before the Mighty Eighth saw combat in the Pacific Theater of Operations however, the Japanese surrendered. In June 1946, the headquarters moved to MacDill Field, Florida to join the newly established Strategic Air Command and later in November 1950, moved to Fort Worth Army Air Field (later Carswell AFB,) Texas. The 8th Air Force spent the next few years building its strategic capabilities. As a result, The Mighty Eighth had a minimal role in the Korean War, only deploying the 27th Fighter Wing to fly combat missions over Korea. On June 13, 1955, 8th Air Force again moved this time to Westover AFB, Mass. and transitioned to the jet age gaining the B-47 jet bomber and KC-97 tanker. In the early 1960s, 8th Air Force received the B-52 Stratofortress, KC-135 tanker, and Atlas and Titan intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The 8th Air Force was called upon in 1965 to again perform aerial combat missions. During the conflict in Southeast Asia, The Mighty Eighth periodically deployed its stateside-based B-52 bomber and KC-135 tanker units to operating bases in Guam, Okinawa and Thailand. In April 1970, Headquarters, 8th Air Force transferred to Andersen AFB, Guam to direct bombing operations over Southeast Asia. Eighth Air Force was deeply involved in the intensive aerial strikes of Hanoi and Haiphong in Operation LINEBACKER II during an 11-day period in December 1972. These strikes influenced the Hanoi government to return to the negotiating table in Paris. Following the end of hostilities in Southeast Asia, 8th Air Force moved to its current home at Barksdale AFB, La. on January 1, 1975.
Throughout the remainder of the 1970s into the decade of the 1980s, 8th Air Force was part of the United States’ nuclear deterrence during the Cold War years. In 1991, The Mighty Eighth again returned to combat with its units spearheading the air war campaign with B-52 strikes initiated from Barksdale AFB. The Mighty Eighth’s B-52s launched conventional air-launched cruise missiles on Iraqi targets at the very beginning of Operation DESERT STORM and struck Iraqi Republican Guard units and other key strategic targets during that conflict. The majority of air refueling and tactical reconnaissance assets also came from The Mighty Eighth.
Dec. 16, 1998, 8th Air Force was once again called into action during Operation DESERT FOX. During this operation, B-52s from 8th Air Force together with B-1B bombers in their first operational mission joined Allied Forces in the Arabian Gulf to participate in the bombing campaign to reduce Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program and other strategic targets.
Units from the Mighty Eighth returned to combat in Europe for the first time in more than 50 years during Operation ALLIED FORCE conducted March through June 1999. During this 78-day air campaign, B-1B, B-2, and B-52 bombers joined other NATO forces against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This first offensive action in NATO history included the combat debut of the newest Air Force bomber, the B-2. With B-52s and B-1Bs deploying and operating from RAF Fairford, United Kingdom, and B-2s operating from Whiteman AFB, Missouri, 8th Air Force crews flew 325 sorties and dropped over 7 million pounds of ordnance.
Again, 8th Air Force was called upon during the initial response of the war on terrorism. After the attack on America Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush’s first address to the Nation was from the Commander’s Conference Room of The Mighty Eighth. Immediately after the 9/11 attacks during Operation NOBLE EAGLE, fighter units of the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve assigned to 8th Air Force flew 2,000-plus combat air patrols over the American Homeland. As America responded to the 9/11 attacks, 8th Air Force played a key role during the beginning stages of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in Afghanistan. 8th Air Force along with other Air Force units flew 48 percent of all aerial combat missions in that operation. The Mighty Eighth contributed to the success of operations in Afghanistan by dropping more than 73 percent of the total munitions used in the campaign and destroying nearly three-quarters of planned targets. Eighth Air Force aircraft dropped both precision and non-precision munitions on Al Qaeda and Taliban forces across Afghanistan. Eighth Air Force continues its service to the Nation during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM by providing intelligence, command and control, and attack assets.
Eighth Air Force has been on continuous active military duty since 1942. The Mighty Eighth enters the 21st Century with new emerging missions including being the Joint Force Component Command for Global Strike Integrated, a mission from the Commander, United States Strategic Command; the Chief of Staff, Air Force’s lead for the Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment; and the Network Operations Command for the United States Air Force.
Today’s 8th Air Force remains “Built on History, Forged on Innovation.”
The 917th Wing was originally formed as the 917th Troop Carrier Group on Jan. 17, 1963, at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and was assigned to the 435th Troop Carrier Wing. Its mission was to administer and support its assigned 78th Troop Carrier Squadron, which was equipped with C-124s.
On July 1, 1963, both the group and squadron were reassigned to the 442nd Troop Carrier Wing because their new gaining command, Military Air Transport Service, wanted all five Air Force Reserve C-124 Groups assigned to the same wing. The units were reassigned to the 512th Troop Carrier Wing on March 25, 1965.
Reflecting similar changes in the active force, the 917th was re-designated twice – to the 917th Air Transport Group in 1965, and then to the 917th Military Airlift Group in 1966. The 917th Military Airlift Group was awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for its exceptional safety record of more than 55,000 accident-free flying hours and global support missions.
As the A-37 Dragonfly conversion began on April 13, 1971, the group was reassigned to the 434th Special Operations Wing. On April 26, 1972, the unit was re-designated the 917th Special Operations Group, with Tactical Air Command as the gaining major air command.
As the hardware and missions changed, the unit was re-designated the 917th Tactical Fighter Group Oct. 1, 1973. The 78th Troop Carrier Squadron was subsequently deactivated and replaced by the 47th Tactical Fighter Squadron.
Assigned to the 434th Tactical Fighter Wing at Grissom Air Force Base, Ind., the 917th reached combat-ready status 45 days ahead of schedule and garnered honors as the first fighter group in the Air Force Reserve to achieve this distinction.
When the A-37B Dragonfly was eventually phased out, the group converted to the A-10 Thunderbolt II. The 917 TFG assumed replacement-training responsibilities on Oct. 1, 1983. This ultimately led to the creation of the 46th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, in addition to the 926th Tactical Fighter Group in New Orleans, La.
Due to Air Force restructuring in June 1992, Tactical Air Command was combined with Strategic Air Command to form Air Combat Command. The 917th Tactical Fighter Wing joined Air Combat Command and “Tactical” was dropped from its name.
On Oct. 1, 1993, the 917th Fighter Wing saw important changes once again. The 46th Fighter Training Squadron was deactivated when the active-duty Air Force took control of all fighter replacement training. On this same day, the 917th became the first unit in Air Force Reserve history to acquire a strategic mission: B-52s were added to the wing make-up and the 93rd Bomb Squadron was activated.
Now a composite wing, the 917th dropped “Fighter” from its name and became the 917th Wing.
In December 1993, the wing deployed its aircraft, members and equipment to Aviano Air Base, Italy, to support the United Nations’ no-fly rule over Bosnia-Herzegovina. Dubbed Operation Deny Flight, the 917th returned to Aviano Air Base in August 1994 and again in May 1995 to uphold the U.N. ban on military flights in the Bosnia-Herzegovina airspace.
In November 1995, the 917th Wing was awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, for exceptionally meritorious service during deployments to support Operation Deny Flight and successfully converting a fighter unit to the Reserve’s first heavy bomber unit. Oct. 7, 1996, marked the return of pilot training to the 917th as the 47th Fighter Squadron became an A-10 replacement-training unit.
The wing again received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award in December 1999, primarily for winning the Chief of Staff Team Excellence Award and Secretary of Defense Award for the Self-Inspection Tracking System. The award also noted the unit’s sponsorship of the Starbase program, which creates interest for local children in math, science and technology by using an aviation theme. Also, that year the 917th Maintenance Squadron won the Maintenance Effectiveness Award. In September 2001, the 93rd Bomb Squadron received war-tasking orders and deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. At the same time security forces, firefighters, maintenance personnel and various other personnel from the 917th Wing were also activated in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Noble Eagle.
In September 2002, the 93d Bomb Squadron returned home from a forward operating area and activated reservists were demobilized. In March 2003, approximately 250 personnel from the 917th Wing mobilized again to support the war on terrorism through Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. They deployed in support of Central, European and Pacific Command.
In January 2005, the 917th Wing deployed six B-52 and approximately 300 personnel to Anderson AFB, Guam, as part of a 60-day Air and Space Expeditionary Force rotation to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the Asian-Pacific region.
In 2006 under Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) the 917th Wing gained eight A-10 aircraft and a number of full-time and part-time positions.
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