168th Air Refueling Wing [168th ARW]
The 168th Air Refueling Wing operates ten KC-135R Strato Tankers from Eielson AFB, about 20 miles south of Fairbanks. Eielson has been home for the Wing since 1986. Approximately 700 Alaskans serve as members of the unit.
The 168 ARW transfers more fuel than any other Air National Guard (ANG) tanker group, because nearly all receivers are active duty aircraft, many of which are on operational missions. The 168 ARW is the only Arctic-region refueling unit for all of PACAF, and maintains a substantial number of personnel on active duty and civilian technician status in order to meet its daily operational requirements. The Wing's Primary Assigned Aircraft (PAA) is eight KC-135s.
The mission of the 168th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) is to train and equip KC-135R combat crews to provide air refueling in support of PACAF Operations Plans (OPLANS). Our peacetime mission provides air refueling training and exercise support for all 11th Air Force AWACS and fighter aircraft as well as alert tankers and crews to support Alaska NORAD Region (ANR) plans and RC-135X/S reconnaissance (RECCE) refueling requirements. Besides a federally directed mission requirement, as a unit of the Alaska National Guard, the 168 ARW is an asset of the Governor of Alaska. As such, the Governor can direct the unit to respond to emergencies declared or missions required within the State.
The 168 ARW was activated on October 25, 1986 as the 168th Air Refueling Squadron (ARS). It traces its lineage to the 437th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), originally activated at Barksdale Field, Louisiana, in June of 1942. Its aircraft were the Martin B-26 "Marauder" and the North American B-25 "Mitchell". The 437th served with distinction in both the European and Pacific theaters of World War Two, earning the French Croix de Guerre (with palm) for action over Italy and France during April-June 1944, two Presidential Unit Citations for operations over Rome and Florence in 1944, and nine combat streamers for campaigns in which it flew. In January of 1945 the 437th was transferred to Okinawa for participation in the Ryuku Islands Campaign and the Air Offensive in Japan, the closing chapters of WWII.
In May of 1946 the 437th was redesignated as the 168th Bombardment Squadron (Light) and allocated to the Illinois Air National Guard. It flew B-26s and was stationed at Chicago's Orchard Place Airport, now O'Hare International Airport. The unit was called to active duty for service in France from 1951-53. In 1954 it was redesignated the 168th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, and flew the famous North American F-51 "Mustang". In 1955 it received the F-84 "Thunderstreak" jet, becoming the 168th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. In 1957 it flew the F-86L "Sabre" jet. In May of 1958, the 168th's aircraft and personnel were assigned to other units, but the 168th's unit designation remained on the state's rolls -- a "technical deactivation". Almost thirty years later, the unit was reactivated as the 168th Air Refueling Squadron and assigned to the Alaska Air National Guard.
From a modest beginning in 1986, the unit has blossomed into full Wing status. Its commitments include providing Alert aircraft in support of NORAD and JCS-directed reconnaissance sorties, mobilization for support of PACAF war plans, and support of worldwide refueling taskings.
The 168 ARW, with an authorized end strength of 700 personnel, has command and control over twelve subordinate assigned units whose missions includes all aircraft maintenance for nine PACAF gained KC-135R model aircraft, providing financial, transportation, contracting, and base supply resources, communications, data processing, and visual information functions, organizational security, disaster preparedness and air base operability, all personnel activities including training, social actions and recruiting, and limited diagnostic and therapeutic service in general medicine, flight medicine, bioenvironmental, environmental, and dental services. Assigned units are the 168th Operations Group (OG), to include the 168th Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) and the 168th Operations Support Flight (OSF); the 168th Logistics Group (LG), to include the 168th Maintenance Squadron (MXS), 168th Aircraft Generation Squadron (AGS), 168th Logistics Squadron (LS) and the 168th Logistics Support Flight (LSF); the 168th Support Group (SPTG), to include the 168th Mission Support Flight (MSF) and the 168th Communications Flight (CF); and the 168th Medical Squadron (MDS).
Because of Alaska's strategic location with regard to national defense, the mission and importance of the 168 ARW and the Alaska Air National Guard should continue to increase in the coming years. The 168 ARW has a remarkably broad range of responsibilities which it fulfills in an exemplary manner, providing an outstanding example for all other Air National Guard units to follow. With a proven capacity to perform, we are ready to face the challenges of the future and are confident of our ability to accomplish any assigned mission.
In January 1994 and again in January 1996, the 168 ARW received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for exceptionally meritorious service both in the Alaskan and Southwest Asian theaters for the periods of January 8, 1991 to January 7, 1993 and January 8, 1993 to June, 1995. This is merely the latest in a long history of achievement throughout the 168th's lineage.
The 168th Air Refueling Wing is the embodiment of teamwork in the new, streamlined American military.
The upper right of the shield consists of a compass rose against a yellow background. The compass rose signifies the global nature of the Wing mission and is set at a 30 degree angle to the east representing the magnetic variation of Alaska where the Group was first formed. The yellow background represents the midnight sun at our latitude and the day aspect of the air refueling mission. The lower left of the shield depicts a red lightning bolt running from cloud to cloud against a blue background. The red lightning bolt signifies the projection of military power, the clouds are the medium in which we perform our mission, and the blue background the Arctic night and the night aspect of our mission. The red lightning bolt is also a prominent feature of the squadron patch from which the 168th Air Refueling Group/Wing evolved. Between the yellow and blue fields is a bar of ultramarine blue containing eight yellow stars. The ultramarine blue is Air Force blue representing our role in the Total Force; it is also the background color of the Alaska flag. The eight yellow stars are the stars of the big dipper also found on the Alaska flag.
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