116th Bomb Wing
The Air National Guard's 116th Bomb Wing relocated to Robins AFB, Georgia in 1996, equipped with the Rockwell B-1B Lancer. The B-1B is a long-range bomber with conventional weapons capabilities. The 1,100-member 116th Bomb Wing, formerly the 116th Fighter Wing at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, GA, became the second Air National Guard Unit in the nation to receive the aircraft. The first was the Kansas Air National Guard. The 116th BW assumed the bomber mission after more than a half century of flying fighters. Guardsmen from the 116th have participated in every major contingency since World War II.
The 116th Bomb Wing flew the supersonic B-1 bomber, a mission that it had performed since 1995 when the unit moved from Dobbins Air Reserve Base near Atlanta to Robins AFB in Warner Robins. In October 2002, the 1,100 member unit was renamed the 116th Air Control Wing, flying the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft. It is estimated to be the largest wing in the Air National Guard and the only Air Guard Wing flying the sophisticated JSTARS mission.
The 93rd Air Control Wing and 116th Bomb Wing tackled a new Air Force challenge: a "Future Total Force" wing for the E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft, also known as the Joint STARS. The first of its kind FTF blends active-duty and Air National Guard airmen into one wing.
The 116th BW was assigned one flying unit: the 128th Bomb Squadron at Robin AFB, flying B-1Bs. Non-flying units assigned include: the 116th Support Group, the 116th Operations Group and the 116th Logistics Group. Other units of the 116th include the Aircraft Generation, Logistics, Maintenance, Security Police, Civil Engineering, and Medical Squadrons and based at Robins AFB as well as the 530th AF Band located at Dobbins, ARB.
In mid-2001 the Department of Defense proposed to retire 33 B-1B aircraft at three locations and use a portion of the savings to upgrade the remaining 60 aircraft in the fleet. The Pentagon claims the proposal would save enough money to modernize the remaining fleet. The Air Force agreed to integrate members of the Georgia Air National Guard bomb wing that is losing all eight of its B-1Bs with an active Air Force air control wing that flies E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) reconnaissance aircraft. The 1,100 personnel from the Air National Guard's 116th Bomb Wing would be integrated into the active Air Force's 93rd Air Control Wing. The National Guard unit at Robins Air Force Base will expand the current Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) reconnaissance aircraft program. The new mission will replace the B-1 bomber mission that the Air Force has decided to downsize. With the B-1s being phased out over fiscal year 2002, the expansion of the JSTARS program will provide a new mission for the National Guard members currently stationed at Robins. Both missions require similar personnel including pilots, weapon systems officers, navigators, and maintainers, thus allowing the current personnel to remain at Robins. In mid-2001 Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the Air Force announced their decision to reduce the size of the B-1 bomber fleet. This would result in the removal of eight B-1 bombers located at Robins Air Force Base used by the 116th Bomb Wing of the Air National Guard. During the Fiscal Year 2002, the eight B-1s at Robins will be relocated as the USAF restructures its B-1 force. Thirty-three B-1s will be removed from active service. Simultaneously, members of the Guard will be able to begin their training on the JSTARS reconnaissance aircraft.
The announcement, which came as a surprise to everyone involved-including Georgia's congressional delegation-did not include any follow-on mission for the bomb wing. Maj. Gen. David Poythress, Georgia's Adjutant General, broke the news to the Wing's more than 300 full-time members shortly after he learned of the decision. Poythress vowed to fight the move. Reaction from the governor's office and Capitol Hill was swift. "These 1,100 men and women of the 116th are not some fly-by-night outfit. They are highly trained, award-winning professional airmen," Sen. Zell Miller, D-Ga., wrote in an editorial in the Macon Telegraph. "In May 1999, the 116th received the Outstanding Unit Award, making it the only Air Force unit to win this award 10 times. In FY2000, the 116th had the highest mission-capable rate of any B-1 wing, and it achieved the lowest cost-per-hour in the entire B-1 fleet." Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga., vowed he and other lawmakers would put up a united front against the proposed move. "Congress still has the power of the purse," he said. "And we feel the fight has just begun."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's proposal would cut $165 million from the Air National Guard for the B-1 program and reassign its aircraft to the active-duty Air Force. The proposal calls for the eight B-1 bombers assigned to the 116th Bomb Wing to be moved by Sept. 30 and for other B-1s, assigned to the Kansas Air National Guard and at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, to also be shifted. The force would be consolidated and stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., and Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. The Air Force also is planning to reduce the number of B-1 bombers from 93 to 60.
In May 1999, the 116th Bomb Wing was awarded its tenth Air Force Outstanding Unit Award making it the only Air Force unit, either active or reserve, to be awarded this prestigious award on ten different occasions. The bomb wing deployed to the Combat Readiness Training Center (CRTC) in Savannah during April for an Operational Readiness Exercise (ORE) involving more than 630 Guardsmen and six B-1B aircraft. More than 200 Air Guardsmen and five B-1Bs deployed to Nellis AFB, Nevada, for Operation Desert Peach in support of the USAF Fighter Weapons School. The 116th Bomb Wing also participated in a test of the new Aerospace Expeditionary Force concept in August through September placing six B-1Bs on alert status for immediate deployment if required.
Heavy bombers entered the Air Guard's inventory for the first time in 1994 with a total of 14 B-1Bs programmed by the end of fiscal year FY 1997 for two units, the 184th Bomb Wing (BW), Kansas, and the 116th BW, Georgia. The 184th completed its conversion in FY 1996 at McConnell Air Force Base (AFB), Kansas. After a long political struggle that involved resisting the planned conversion from F-15s and an associated move from Dobbins AFB near Atlanta to Robins AFB near Macon, the 116th began its conversion on 1 April 1996. The unit completed that process in December 1998. All the bombers in both units were configured for conventional, not nuclear, missions.
In FY92 USAF officials determined a need to restructure the overall strategic bomber force. The B-1B, originally developed to be a nuclear bomber, was designated for modification as a lethal rapid-deployment conventional weapon. This meant that many changes in the basic design of the aircraft would be necessary, especially in the bomb capacity and delivery systems. In FY93, USAF leaders initiated the B-1B Conventional Mission Upgrade Program (CMUP). Most of the B-1Bs modified by crews at Robins AFB during FY96 and FY97 came from Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota and Dyess AFB, Texas. With the stand up of the 116th Bomb Wing (116BW) in late FY96, at Robins AFB, many of these bombers remained on station following their conversion.
The 116th BW has both federal and state missions. Upon mobilization for national emergency or war, the wing would augment regular forces and possibly deploy to an overseas location. Throughout its history, the 116th has been involved in every major conflict including World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm. In peacetime, the state mission is to provide relief in the event of natural disaster or calamity and to maintain peace and public order. The unit has provided various forms of aid and services for flood damaged areas, winter storm recovery, and many other emergencies and civil needs throughout Georgia as well as other states.
The 116th BW can trace its ancestry to the establishment of the 128th Observation Squadron at the Atlanta Municipal Airport in May of 1941. The unit was called to federal service in September of that same year. The BC-1A North American was the first aircraft operated by the 128th. Later aircraft flown by the unit included the OZ-38E Douglas Biplane, the O-46 Douglas, the A-18 Curtis twin engine attack bomber, the Piper L-4, the 0-47 observation aircraft, the B-17G bomber, and the B-25 bomber. During WWII, the unit flew observation aircraft and attack bombers in the United States (anti-submarine patrol) and Europe (bombing missions). After the war, the unit was redesignated as the 116th Fighter Group of the 54th Fighter Wing.
The 116th was again called to federal service in support of the Korean Conflict and became a part of the 116th Fighter Bomber Wing based in California. Primarily operating out of Misawa, Japan, the unit flew missions into Korea using F-84 aircraft. The unit was released from federal duty in 1952 and returned to Georgia. Soon afterwards, the unit was redesignated as the 116th Fighter Bomber Wing and equipped with F-51 Mustang, F-84 Thunderjet, F-84F Thunderstreak, and F-86L Saber Jet aircraft.
In 1961, the unit mission changed to air transport and the wing flew the C-97 Stratocruiser and C-124 Globemaster transports as the 116th Air Transport Wing. With these missions the members of the 116th found themselves in several foreign locations including Europe, Greenland, the Caribbean, Africa, Australia, and Southeast Asia.
In 1973, the unit returned to flying fighter aircraft when it was given the F-100 Super Saber aircraft. Later, the unit transitioned to the F-105G Thunderchief and focused on the dangerous "Wild Weasel" mission - the only Air National Guard to do so. In 1982, the F-105G's were retired and the unit began flying the F-4D Phantom fighter. The unit changed aircraft again in 1986 when it traded in the F-4D's for the McDonnell Douglas F-15A/F-15B Eagle fighters.
For almost 50 years, Dobbins ARB in Marietta, Georgia, was home to the 116th but, in 1996, the unit was relocated 125 miles south to Robins AFB in Warner Robins, Georgia. On April 1, 1996, the unit was officially redesignated as he 116th Bomb Wing and began its new mission with the B1-B Lancer.
During the period from 1973 through 1995, the 116th was awarded 9 Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards - more than any other unit in the USAF, active or reserve. Additionally, the unit has received the Winston P. Wilson Trophy - as the number one fighter unit in the Air National Guard - on three occasions and has also received the TAC Safety Award, the NGB Safety Award, the John J. Pesch Safety Award, and the William W. Spruance Flying Safety Award. The following battle streamers have been earned by the unit: Air Offensive Europe (1942-44), Normandy (1944), Northern France (1944), Rhineland (1944-45), Ardennes-Alsace (1944-45), Central Europe (1945), Korean Service (1950-52), United Nations Summer-Fall Offensive (1951), Second Korean Winter (1951-52), And Korean Summer-Fall (1952).
In January 2000 America's premier aviation artist Dru Blair recreated a historic icon of World War II air power on the nose of a B-1 bomber for the 116th Bomb Wing. Working from a raised platform in a hangar, he used his renowned airbrush technique to faithfully render the pinup girl in a blue bathing suit that graces the nose of the Memphis Belle, the most famous B-17 Flying Fortress of World War II. The Belle gained fame as the first bomber to complete 25 missions and was declared a national historic treasure.
The Headquarters of the Wing is made of several elements and functions that serve at the direction of the Wing Commander and have the responsibilities to carry out those important command policies that effect the entire unit. Members of these functions are considered as "Staff" to the Commander.
Although, not located within the Headquarters facility, the Command Post section manages and performs the Commander's command and control communication (C2) activities. Included in these activities are relaying C2 instructions, recording, collecting, processing and submitting manual and automated data products. They establish data inputs for operational reports and status of resources and training system (SORTS) readiness reporting procedures.
The Plans Office develops, coordinates, directs, controls, and monitors all peacetime and wartime planning activities and assists commanders in executing those plans. It is the focal point on all readiness and combat integration issues that result from the Wing's duty to train, mobilize, deploy, sustain, employ, re-deploy, and reconstitute combat forces. The Operations function of the Plans Office develops, maintains, and reviews all the Wing's wartime plans, as well as peacetime plans for the Wing's response to any local crisis or assistance to State Headquarters Joint Operations. The Logistics function of the Plans Office is the focal point on all logistical support of any and all units assigned to the Bomb Wing. Logistical support includes the development of Host-Tenant Support Agreements, the management of War Readiness Material, the analysis or wartime and contingency operations logistics requirements, the development and execution of all mobilization, deployment and re-deployment processes.
The Comptroller Staff was organized as a part of HQ 216th Air Services Group, 54th Fighter Wing, in 1946. The staff was activated in 1950 with Lt Col William D. Caldwell as it's active duty Comptroller. While the staff was on active duty the Finance Officer for the Holding Detachment formerly at then Dobbins Air Force Base was Col Talmadge Hadaway. Payrolls were computed and posted by hand and paid on a quarterly basis. During Annual Training payment was in cash on the last day of encampment. The Data Automation function of the time was organized with adding machines and calculators, later receiving a keypunch machine and sorter. Reorganization in December 1992 moved the Comptroller Staff from Resource Management Squadron to the Wing Headquarters. The Financial Manager with the support of his staff is responsible for all public funds and routinely apprises the Commander of the status of these funds. The FM section is the largest of the Headquarters staff.
The Wing Safety Office manages and conducts safety programs. This section analyzes mishap causes and trends, and assesses risk. They also evaluate, inspect, and survey areas and activities to eliminate mishap potentials. Other duties include conducting mishap investigations, providing risk management consultation, and conducting safety education.
The Public Affairs section is one of several offices on the Headquarters staff that is exclusively operated by traditional Guardsmen. PA engages in print and broadcast journalism, to include writing, editing and publishing base newspapers, periodicals, guides, pamphlets, fact sheets, and radio and television scripts. This office uses audiovisual resources to support their activities. PA also prepares and releases news for internal and civilian media, arranges, conducts tours; and conducts community relations activities. The Public Affairs Office is also responsible for researching and writing speeches.
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