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347th Rescue Wing [347th RQW]

The 347th Wing was officially re-designated as the 347th Rescue Wing on May 8, 2001. It is the Air Force's only active-duty combat search and rescue wing.

Although originally scheduled to be redesignated as the 41st Rescue Wing, the 347th ended up retaining its numerical designation.

The redesignation marked the final step in the wing's two-year journey from a composite wing to rescue wing. During this transition, the 71st Air Control Squadron, the 68th, 69th and 70th Fighter Squadron were all inactivated, while the 38th Rescue Squadron activated on May 7, 2001, as the first active-duty pararescue squadron in the Air Force, assigned to the 347th RQW. The 71st ACS, as of early 2000, was scheduled to relocate to Langley AFB, VA.

The mission of the 347th RQW is to organize, train, and employ a combat ready, HC-130, HH-60 rescue wing, consisting of 3,400 military and civilian personnel, including Avon Park Gunnery Range in Florida.

The 347th RQW supports the 479th AETC Flying Training and 820th Security Forces Groups in all operations. It Executes worldwide peactime and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) operations in support of the humanitarian and US national security interests.

The 347th Fighter Group, the organizational predecessor of the 347th Rescue Wing and now the 347th Operations Group, originally activated 3 October 1942 in New Caledonia, an island off the northeast coast of Australia. The group consisted of the 67th, the 68th, the 70th, and the 339th Fighter Squadrons. Because its squadrons had already been committed to operations, the group literally was born into battle, and so the wing's motto.

The group flew the P-39 "Airacobra", the P-400 Airacobra, and the P-40 "Warhawk" originally, but by November 1942, the group began receiving the twin-engined P-38 "Lightning". The group's first combat mission consisted of providing air defense for the ground forces on Guadalcanal. As a key element in the United States' aggressive island hopping campaign, the 347th Fighter Group flew protective patrols, provided air defense of American-held islands, attacked Japanese shipping, escorted bombers, supported ground troops, and attacked enemy bases in the South Pacific. On 14 December 1942, the group became a part of 13th Air Force.

In April 1943, Allied intelligence intercepted the itinerary of an upcoming inspection of Japanese installations on Bouganville in the Solomon Islands by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the man who had planned the 7 December 1941 raid on Pearl Harbor. Since he would be within the range of the 347th Fighter Group's P-38 aircraft based at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox directed a mission be sent to intercept Admiral Yamamoto's aircraft and "destroy it at all costs." On 18 April 1943, sixteen P-38s from the 12th, the 70th, and the 339th Fighter Squadrons did just that. By the end of World War II, the 347th Fighter Group found itself in the Philippines with a Distinguished Unit Citation, two Philippine Presidential Citations, and ten campaign streamers to its credit. Yet the end of the war also brought reduction of forces, and in December 1945, the group transferred to the Continental United States where it inactivated on 1 January 1946.

On 20 February 1947, nearly fourteen months after its deactivation, the 347th Fighter Group (All Weather) activated at Nagoya Air Base, Japan. The group provided air defense for Japan until 24 June 1950, when it was inactivated. In anticipation of conflict with the North Koreans, the Air Force also inactivated the 347th Fighter Wing (All Weather), which was activated on 18 August 1948, and reassigned the group and wing personnel and equipment to other units in Korea so as to bolster the strength of those units. During this activation the group and wing flew the P-51 "Mustang," the P-61 "Black Widow," the F-82 "Twin Mustang," and the F-105 "Thunderchief".

After seventeen and one-half years of inactivity, the 347th Tactical Fighter Wing activated at Yokota Air Base, Japan, on 21 December 1967, and began receiving personnel on 15 January 1968. The wing's mission--fulfilled with the RB-57 "Canberra," the F-4C "Phantom," the C-130 "Hercules," and the EB-57 "Canberra"--was to provide air defense for Japan and the Republic of South Korea, to fly aerial reconnaissance, and to maintain a high state of readiness due to the hostilities taking place in Southeast Asia. Additionally, the wing provided personnel and equipment on a temporary basis to units engaged in combat operations in Vietnam. On 15 May 1971, the 347th Tactical Fighter Wing moved without personnel or equipment to Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, to begin an aircraft conversion. Over the next seventeen months, wing personnel accepted and became combat ready in the F-111A "Aardvark." On 31 October 1972, the wing once again inactivated.

The 347th Tactical Fighter Wing again found itself in the Far East on 31 July 1973, when it activated at Takhli Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand. Equiped with F-111s, its mission was to conduct combat operations over both North and South Vietnam and Cambodia. However, fifteen days after its activation, the United States called a halt to all bombing operations in the area. On 29 July 1974, the wing moved to Korat Royal Thai Air Base so that Takhli could be closed. During this time, the wing continued to conduct normal training operations. In May 1975, the wing took part in the mission to rescue the U.S.S. Mayaguez. It flew surveillance and combat sorties as part of the joint air, land, and sea response force which resulted in the recovery of the ship and the release of her crew.

Following the end of U.S. military involvement in Southeast Asia in 1973, Air Training Command began planning to close Moody Air Force Base, GA. However, Tactical Air Command stressed its need for another fighter base in the Southeast United States and convinced the Air Force to transfer the base to its command. On 30 September 1975, the 347th Tactical Fighter Wing activated at Moody Air Force Base and began receiving F-4E "Phantom II" aircraft in November that same year. On 1 December 1975, the 38th Flying Training Wing inactivated, and the 347th Tactical Fighter Wing assumed the duties of the former host unit at Moody Air Force Base. Becoming combat ready on 1 April 1977, the wing continued to train in order to remain at the forefront of the Air Force's tactical fighter force. In 1980, the wing became a key element of the newly formed Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force, later called the Unites States Central Command. In early July that same year, the wing deployed to Cairo West Air Base, Egypt, to aid the Egyptian Air Force in its transition to the F-4 Phantom (PROUD PHANTOM). The deployment marked the first presence of American forces in Egypt since World War II. The wing continued in its F-4E role through the end of 1987.

On 1 April 1987, the 347th Tactical Fighter Wing began converting to the General Dynamics F-16 "Fighting Falcon", both A-models and B-models. Major changes in both personnel and facilities were necessary in order to meet the requirements of the new weapon system. On 1 July 1988, the 347th Tactical Fighter Wing completed its conversion to the F-16A/B. With new aircraft came new responsibilities. The wing's mission tasks were dedicated to Western Europe, and it was drafted into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) contingency plans.

Conversion to the F-16C/D "Fighting Falcon" began on 26 January 1990, when the wing's first F-16C Block 40 aircraft arrived at Moody Air Force Base from the General Dynamics manufacturing plant in Fort Worth, TX. Additionally, the wing was projected as the first Tactical Air Command F-16 wing to operationally employ the Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting InfraRed for Night system. The LANTIRN system permitted improved low level, high speed navigation and targeting during night or under bad weather conditions. Beginning with the 69th Tactical Fighter Squadron, the wing completed its conversion on 31 December 1990.

On 2 August 1990, Iraqi forces invaded neighboring Kuwait under the direction of Saddam Hussein. The international community responded by sending military forces to the region to contain the Iraqi aggression and ultimately to expel Iraq from Kuwait. Starting on 11 August 1990, increasing amounts of wing personnel were committed to the military Operation DESERT SHIELD, a period which witnessed the build-up of coalition forces in the region. On 5 January 1991, the 69th Tactical Fighter Squadron deployed 24 F-16Cs and 674 support personnel to Al Minhad Air Base within the United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven small states. Operation DESERT STORM began at 1650 hours Eastern Standard Time on 16 January 1991, when United States and coalition forces unleashed a furious air offensive against the Iraqi military machine. Primarily as an air-to-ground unit, the 69th Tactical Fighter Squadron "Werewolves" struck targets deep inside enemy territory, delivering bombs wherever directed. Soon after, Central Air Force began to task the squadron with SCUD missile hunting missions, and the 69th Tactical Fighter Squadron ended the Gulf War with 1,509 sorties flown. On 23 February 1991, the Allied forces launched the ground offensive across the Iraqi and Kuwaiti borders, sweeping all opposition before them. Within 100 hours of this offensive, Iraq made compliant gestures to the United Nations' resolutions, requesting a ceasefire.

On 12 April 1991, the 347th Tactical Fighter Wing's home station of Moody Air Force Base received notification from higher headquarters that it had been selected as a base-closure candidate as a result of the on-going Department of Defense's down-sizing activities. After some energetic petitioning on the part of Lowndes County, the city of Valdosta, and Georgia Senator Sam Nunn, Moody was removed from the closure list on 30 June 1991. The list had originally been drafted by the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC), but the data upon which it came to its decision was successfully challenged by the petitioners. Significantly, the base had received the Commander-in-Chief's Installation Excellence Award for 1990 just prior to the closure announcement.

The 347th Tactical Fighter Wing was selected as the test bed for the then new "single wing base" concept in 1991. On 1 May 1991, the wing converted from a tri-deputate organization of Operations, Maintenance, and Resources to a four group organization of Medical, Operations, Logistics, and Support. At this time, the 347th Operations Group, the 347th Logistics Group, and the 347th Support Group were activated, with the 347th Medical Group having activated on 1 December 1975. As a result, the 347th Aircraft Generation Squadron, the 347th Air Base Operability Squadron, and the 347th Headquarters Squadron were all inactivated, and activated were the 347th Operations Support Squadron and the 347th Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Squadron. Some of the functions of the three Deputates transferred to the new groups, plus the aircraft maintenance units of the inactivated Aircraft Generation Squadron were integrated into the flying squadrons. The resulting wing structure allowed wartime deployments as organized during peacetime while promoting greater synergy between its unit components.

This new organization was tested almost immediately when the wing's 68th Tactical Fighter Squadron got the call to deploy in support of Operation DESERT CALM, the operation by coalition forces in the Persian Gulf to oversee the United Nations' ceasefire in the region. The F-16 squadron from Moody Air Force Base sent the first 12 of a planned 24-aircraft package to Dhahran Air Base, Saudi Arabia, on 26 June 1991. This rotation was the first of two for the 68th Tactical Fighter Squadron, with its second contingent returning on 22 December 1991.

Even with the deployments, change continued to run through Moody Air Force Base and its wing. In the process of Air Force reorganization from Strategic Air Command (SAC), Military Airlift Command (MAC), and Tactical Air Command (TAC) into simply Air Mobility Command (AMC) and Air Combat Command (ACC), all Air Force units dropped the "Tactical" from their designations. Therefore, on 1 October 1991, the 347th Tactical Fighter Wing became the 347th Fighter Wing. This also applied to all flying squadrons' designations. On 16 December that same year, the 347th Logistics Support Squadron was activated to provide staff and administrative functions for the 347th Logistics Group, and it took responsibility for the oversight of Logistic Plans, Contracting, Quality Assurance, and Training functions.

The spring of 1992 saw the 347th Fighter Wing begin efforts to reshape itself into a composite wing, an Air Force Chief of Staff initiative. A target date of 1 June 1993 was detailed in an Air Combat Command programming plan, in which the wing would be comprised of F-16 "Fighting Falcons," A/OA-10 "Thunderbolt IIs," and C-130 "Hercules" aircraft. However, the drive towards a composite wing at Moody did not supplant the wing's continuing responsibility to support the third phase of the Persian Gulf saga, Operation DESERT CALM. It was the 70th Fighter Squadron's turn to deploy its F-16s. The "White Knights" sent 12 aircraft and 250 personnel to Southwest Asia for the 90-day rotation in June 1992. While there, it contributed combat sorties towards Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, flown in southern Iraq to enforce the no-fly zone below the 32nd parallel. June also looked on as the 2nd Combat Communications Group at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, and the 5th Combat Communications Group at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, were reassigned to the 347th Fighter Wing.

The arrival of the wing's new commander Brigadier General James I. Mathers on 31 August 1992, coincided with the most significant change for the wing since its arrival at Moody in 1975. This time the change did not come from headquarters; it came from Hurricane Andrew. In August 1992, Homestead Air Force Base, FL, was completely devastated by the storm and relocated two of its F-16 squadrons, the 307th and the 308th Fighter Squadrons, to Moody Air Force Base. The first 8 of approximately 45 expected aircraft touched down on 28 August 1992. Circumstances now required the 347th Fighter Wing to shift gears from pursuing the anticipated composite wing configuration to the assimilation of two additional fighter squadrons. On 20 November 1992, the move became official, and the two squadrons were reassigned to the 347th Operations Group, making the 347th Fighter Wing the largest F-16 wing in the United States Air Force. But the year was not yet over, for in early December, air traffic controllers from the 5th Combat Communications Group deployed to Somalia as part of the relief forces of Operation PROVIDE HOPE, an effort to end the country's mass starvation. The group remained at Moody only until 1 March 1994.

Another change in structure came on 1 October 1993, with the activation of the 71st Air Control Squadron. This unit's mission was to provide battle management of joint air operations and to provide a highly mobile, combat-rated, forward radar element of the Ground Theater Air Control System for worldwide contingencies. The structure changes kept coming, and Moody handled them with a singular determination. The 308th Fighter Squadron, having originally come from Homestead, moved on to Luke Air Force Base on 1 April 1994. On 1 May 1994, the 52nd Airlift Squadron flying C-130E Hercules aircraft moved to Moody in an attempt to get the base back on track with its conversion to a composite wing. With the arrival of the airlift mission, the 347th Fighter Wing lost its "Fighter" designation to become simply the 347th Wing. These efforts continued into 1995, when on 8 June the 70th Fighter Squadron replaced its F-16s with A/OA-10 Thunderbolts. The 307th Fighter Squadron inactivated 31 August that same year, bringing Moody's F-16s down to two squadrons.

One year later, on 1 October 1996, the 347th Operations Group picked up responsibility for Avon Park Gunnery Range, an Air Force weapons and bombing range in Central Florida, in addition to Grand Bay Weapons Range located on Moody property. Effective 1 April 1997, the 347th Wing received its newest members of the composite attitude--the 41st and 71st Rescue Squadrons. The two units performed combat search and rescue missions with their HH-60G "Pavehawk" helicopters (41st) and HC-130P "Combat Shadow" helicopter refuelers (71st). The 71st is the only active duty squadron of its kind in the Air Force. Also on 1 April 1997, Air Combat Command assigned the 23rd Fighter Group at Pope Air Force Base, NC, to the 347th Wing. It was composed of four units: the 74th and 75th A/OA-10 Fighter Squadrons, the 23rd Maintenance Squadron, and the 23rd Operations Support Squadron. The group and assigned units remained at Pope, but the 347th wing gained operational and administrative control over its functions. On 16 September 1997, the 52nd Airlift Squadron inactivated. The Air Force decided to align all airlift under Air Mobility Command and distributed the short-lived squadron's aircraft throughout the States.

Even with the endless changes in personnel and units at Moody, the 347th Wing has well carried out its mission to organize, train, and employ its combat-ready forces to execute world-wide combat, air control, and combat search and rescue operations in support of national objectives. The most recent challenge came in November 1997 through April 1998, when the wing deployed to Shaikh Isa Air Base, Bahrain, in response to Iraq's noncompliance with United Nations resolutions and inspectors to reduce, if not annihilate, Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capability.

More changes to the structure of the 347th Wing came in June 2000. Effective 27 June, Air Combat Command reassigned the 23rd Fighter Group and its four squadrons to the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, NC. Three days later on 30 June, the 71st Air Control Squadron and the 70th Fighter Squadron permanently inactivated.

Through the years the 347th Wing has sent its people and planes from Nellis Air Force Base, NV, for Red Flag exercises, to Saddam Hussein's stomping grounds, from the warmth of Hickam Air Force Base, HI, to the arctic chill of Keflavik Naval Air Station, Iceland.

The 347th's 69th Fighter Squadron inactivated on February 2, 2001, bringing the wing one step closer to finalizing its transition to becoming a Rescue Wing.



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