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445th Airlift Wing [445th AW]

The 445th Airlift Wing is the last wing still flying the C-141. By September 2005 the wing was down to eight of its original 18 C-141s. Six more were slated to retire by the end of the year as the wing prepared to switch to the C-5 Galaxy. The last two active-duty C-141B Starlifter transport aircraft retired 16 September 2004 at McGuire Air Force Base, NJ.

During the previous 40 years, the C-141 had proven versatile for troop and cargo transport, humanitarian- and disaster-relief operations and aeromedical evacuation. As such, the Starlifter has secured an important place in history ranging from the Vietnam War through the ongoing war on terrorism. Lockheed-Georgia, which is now Lockheed Martin, delivered the first C-141 Starlifter to Tinker AFB, Okla., in October 1964. At that time, the aircraft was assigned to Military Airlift Command, the predecessor of today's Air Mobility Command. AMC officials began transferring C-141s to Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard forces in July 1986.

The decision to retire the C-141 Starlifter, once the Air Force's core airlift aircraft, was based on recommendations from the 1994 Scientific Advisory Board. The secretary of the Air Force convened the board in response to Congressional direction to examine service life extension of the C-141 fleet. The board concluded flight beyond 45,000 equivalent flight hours may not be viable because widespread fatigue damage may jeopardize the fail-safe features of the basic design.

On June 24, 1952, the Air Force established the 445th Fighter-Bomber Wing. It was activated in the Reserve on July 8, at Buffalo, NY. The 445th Bombardment Group was redesignated as the 445th Fighter-Bomber Group. The Group was activated and assigned to the Wing. The Wing reported to the 2256th Air Force Reserve Combat Training Center. Reserve personnel had to train and maintain operational proficiency on primarily T-6s, F-51s, F-80s, and F-84s. Other aircraft assigned to the unit included C-47s, TF-51s, TF-80s, T-33s, T-28s, C-45s, TC-47s, and F-86s. The 700th, 701st, and 702nd Fighter-Bomber Squadrons were assigned as tactical units.

On September 6, 1957, the Wing became the 445th Troop Carrier Wing (Medium) and relocated to Dobbins AFB, GA, on November 16. The Air Force redesignated the Wing the 445th Troop Carrier Wing (Assault) on September 25, 1958. The Wing began its conversion to C-123B Providers. In February 1959, the squadrons began to participate in Operation Swift Lift in which Reserve crews flew productive active duty missions.

As a result of the Cuban Missile Crisis, on October 28, Headquarters Tactical Air Command initiated the 445th Troop Carrier Wing alert plan and by 9 a.m., there were thirty-six mission ready aircrews and enough support personnel activated to be operationally capable. They operated from Dobbins AFB and moved military personnel and their equipment to forward operating locations in the southeastern United States. Those activated were returned to Reserve status on November 28, 1962.

On February 11, 1963, the Air Force reorganized the 445th Troop Carrier Wing (as it did all Reserve units). Groups were imposed into the chain of command between the Wing and its squadrons. The 918th, 919th, and 920th Troop Carrier Groups received assignment of the 700th, 701st, and 702nd squadrons respectively. The 700th, with its group, carried on at Dobbins while the others continued at Memphis.

On July 8, 1965, the 700th squadron at Dobbins started conversion to the C-124, Globemaster. As the year progressed, the detached units at Memphis were inactivated. On October 1, the Wing was redesignated the 445th Troop Carrier Wing, Heavy; on December 1, it became the 445th Air Transport Wing, Heavy; and on January 1, 1966, the 445th Military Airlift Wing. In the meantime, back on December 1, 1965, the Wing received another detached assignment: the 915th Military Airlift Group with its 76th Military Airlift Squadron at Homestead AFB, FL.

In June 1966, the Wing flew its first C-124 overseas mission to Europe, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico. The 445th was never activated to support South Vietnam, but as the active duty started flying more missions into Southeast Asia, so did the tempo for the Reserve and the 445th which flew more stateside and overseas missions. By the end of 1966, the unit had flown five missions into Tan Son Nhut AB, Saigon, South Vietnam.

While the 445th Military Airlift Wing was never activated for the Vietnam War, it was when the U.S.S. Pueblo, an intelligence ship, was seized off the coast of North Korea. On January 26, 1968, the 445th was activated at Dobbins. The Wing remained activated in support of the Pueblo incident for seventeen months until released from active military service on June 2, 1969.

The 445th Military Airlift Wing inactivated on June 29, 1971.

On July 1, 1973, the 445th was redesignated the 445th Military Airlift Wing (Associate) and activated at Norton AAFB, CA. It was an Air Force Reserve unit reporting to the Fourth Air Force which would, if activated, be part of the Military Airlift Command. It assumed the missions, squadrons, flights, and personnel of the 944th Military Airlift Group, The 445th worked in partnership with the 63rd Military Airlift Wing. Among the units of the 445th were three flying squadrons: the 728th, 729th, and 730th Military Airlift Squadrons. The 68th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron and the 944th Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron also transferred to the 445th.

By the end of 1973, the Arab-Israeli war drew additional requirements for more missions to the Middle East. For the 445th, this meant not only flying some of those taskings but taking on additional channel missions since the active duty were flying most of the Mid-East runs.

During the spring and summer of 1975, the 445th Military Airlift Wing participated in Operation New Life, an airlift mission to transport Vietnamese refugees and orphans from Vietnam to the South Pacific islands and to the United States, in which the aircrews of the 445th flew 126 sorties. Augmenting the crews of the 63rd Military Airlift Squadron, they participated in another 209 sorties. The 68th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron monitored patients on 43 sorties.

During the first week of February 1978, three 445th Military Airlift Wing crews flew in support of "Snow Blow II." One week earlier, a blizzard struck the eastern region of the United States with exceptional force, causing extreme hardships. Operation Snow Blow II provided assistance. The three crews staged out of Robert Grey Army Airfield, TX, and flew relief supplies into Bradley International Airport, Windsor Locks, Connecticut.

During 1983, the Wing airlifted elements of a strategic reconnaissance wing from March AFB, CA, to Offutt AFB, NE. It transported civil engineers from Kirtland AFB, NM, to Eglin AFB, FL. The Wing supported the other services, too. Marines were shifted around in the Pacific from Japan to the Philippines. Crews moved U.S. Army helicopters from Texas to Hawaii. An Army tank battalion deployed to Indiana. Reserve and Guard paratroopers were airdropped at a drop zone in Wisconsin.

The 445th transported water jugs, generators and special power tools to Mexico City after it was devastated by an earthquake. The 445th took part in the 1985 North Atlantic Treaty Organization's Exercise Display Determination. The airdrop mission started at Pope AFB, NC, in a 12-plane formation, four with heavy equipment, and eight with paratroopers. The planes flew for 14 hours with one airborne refueling and arrived at Istanbul, Turkey. The first attempt to airdrop was canceled due to high winds. Crews recovered at Incirlik AB, Turkey, for 24 hours and made a second, this time successful, attempt.

In December 1989, during Operation Just Cause, 40 crewmembers from the Wing joined airlift missions to Panama that ousted General Manuel A. Noriega. Many reservists volunteered to be activated and augmented active duty crews. Members of the 730th MAS constituted an all-Reserve crew and flew Army equipment and personnel into Panama. They remained on the ground for about two hours. In January, a 729th MAS crew provided a second airlift of another 50 soldiers from Fort Ord, CA. On January 13, another 730th crew had control of one C-141 in a 20 plane airdrop formation returning 1,924 paratroopers to Fort Bragg, NC, by air.

To support Operations Desert Shield/Storm, the Wing flew over 2,500 hours in January and peaked in February with almost 3,700 hours. Following the cessation of hostilities, the wing's flying squadrons continued to fly support missions stateside and to the Middle East, but they also flew many missions to redeploy troops back to the states. From August 8, 1990, to June 11, 1991, aircrews flew 441 missions for a total of 21,393.7 hours in direct support of Desert Storm and Desert Shield. The Wing deployed over 200 personnel from the 68th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron to form medical crews consisting of two nurses and five technicians. These crews were deployed to several bases throughout England and Germany.

Occasionally, the squadrons flew missions to the Middle East supporting Operation Southern Watch, the operation which patrols the southern half of Iraq to enforce the no-fly zone.

During the winter of 1990, the Wing participated in two humanitarian missions. The first mission was when a normal line mission was diverted to transport over 30,000 pounds of survival equipment to hurricane-ravaged western Samoa. The second was a routine medical evacuation from Wake Island. After Desert Storm and Desert Shield, they flew more humanitarian relief missions into eastern Europe, Africa, and the Persian Gulf.

In June 1991, the Wing joined others in Operation Fiery Vigil - the evacuation of those fleeing the eruption of Mount Pinatubo near Clark AB, Philippines.

On July 22, 1991, the 730th Squadron flew the first relief shipment of humanitarian supplies into Mongolia. Leaving from Kadena Air Base, Japan, the 2,000-mile flight took the crew over the Great Wall of China and the Gobi Desert. They landed at Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia.

For the last three weeks of July, 1991, the 729th Squadron sent 14 aircrews and four C-141s to stage out of Yokota AB, Japan, and the 730th sent the same amount to stage out of Kadena AB, Japan. Both squadrons flew missions into Diego Garcia, Singapore, Thailand, Korea, the Middle East, Iwo Jima, Jakarta, Bangkok, Oman, and Mongolia.

On December 12, 1991, another 730th crew deviated from their normal mission to carry emergency supplies to Mactan International Airport, Philippines, in the wake of a typhoon that struck there two weeks earlier.

The 729th Military Airlift Squadron flew the first C-141 from Rhein-Main AB, Germany to the former Soviet Union with humanitarian supplies. On February 10, 1992, they landed at Minsk, Russia, with emergency medical supplies and relief aid. The same crew made a second trip with food and landed at Kishinev, Moldava. On February 14, a crew from the 730th Squadron transported more emergency relief supplies into Moscow. They made two additional trips into Ulan-Ude and Moldava.

The post-Cold War drawdown of military forces affected the 445th Military Airlift Wing. On January 1, 1992, the 728th Squadron was reassigned to 446th Military Airlift Wing, McChord AFB, WA. On February 1, 1992, the 445th Military Airlift Wing (Associate) was redesignated the 445th Airlift Wing (Associate). The 729th and 730th were also redesignated without the "Military" in their names. The 54th and the 61st Aerial Port Squadrons were inactivated with the personnel absorbed into the 50th and 56th Aerial Ports.

Also on February 1, 1992, the Air Force Reserve ordered the assignment of the 943rd Airlift Group to the 445th Airlift Wing. The 943rd remained at March AFB, CA, about fifteen miles from Norton. This was a temporary assignment as the 943rd was scheduled to inactivate on September 30, 1993. On June 1, 1992, the Military Airlift Command became the Air Mobility Command. Many support units of the Wing were inactivated. Those units were the 445th Communications Flight, the 445th Component Repair Squadron, the 445th Mission Support Squadron, the 445th Civil Engineering Squadron, the 445th Medical Group, and the 943rd Airlift Group.

Throughout the reorganization, the C-141s kept flying. Aircrews from the 303rd Airlift Squadron, a C-130 unit assigned to the 943rd Airlift Group, flew fire runs. One of their missions was to airdrop chemicals to smother forest fires. The 303rd flew 92 missions from August 21 to 25, 1992 for the U.S. Forest Service to fight a massive fire over central California. On August 24, two 730th aircrews provided two aircraft to transport personnel and supplies to Florida after Hurricane Andrew plowed through there. The first flew to Andrews AFB, MD and transported a White House Advance Planning Team to Miami. The other went to Minot AFB, ND, and picked up two trucks, a water tank, and a generator bound for Florida. On September 11, the 729th flew nine missions hauling food, medical equipment and crews, and Army troops to Hawaii after it was ravaged by Hurricane Iniki.

The 445th Airlift Wing was the first associate Wing to become unit-equipped. In other words, the Air Force assigned a fleet of C-141s to the 445th Airlift Wing, a Reserve unit which had previously flown co-located active-duty planes. The "Associate" designation was removed from its name. The Wing took possession of six C-141B Starlifters on March 30, 1993. The unit received 10 more C-141s from active duty inactivations by July. After taking receiving its aircraft, the Air Force ordered the 445th Airlift Wing to relocate their facilities to March AFB, just 15 miles down the road.

On October 5, 1993, the 730th Airlift Squadron flew the remains of 12 U.S. servicemen from Noi Boi Airport, Hanoi, Vietnam to Hickam AFB, HI. On its trip to Hanoi, the crew carried humanitarian relief supplies and more than 2,400 pounds of university textbooks bound for Vietnam.

March AFB was home to two Reserve Wings: the 445th Airlift Wing and the 452nd Air Refueling Wing. On May 1, 1994, the 452nd Wing was redesignated the 452nd Air Mobility Wing. The 729th and 730th AS were assigned to the 452nd. The 50th and 56th Aerial Ports and the 68th AES were all assigned to the 452nd. The 445th Airlift Wing and all of its units not reassigned were inactivated.

On October 1, 1994, the 445th Airlift Wing was activated at Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, OH. It was an Air Force Reserve unit reporting to the 22nd Air Force. If activated, it would be part of the Air Mobility Command. It assumed the missions, squadrons, flights, and personnel of the 907th Airlift Group. Members of the 906th Fighter Group, inactivated along with the 907th on September 30, were given positions within the 445th if they were willing to cross train.

The newly activated 445th had two assigned flying squadrons: the 356th and the 89th Airlift Squadrons. The 356th came from the 907th and the 89th came from the 906th. The 89th had been flying F-16s. To assist in the training of pilots and other personnel coming onto the unit from the 906th, half of the qualified fliers assigned to the 356th were transferred to the 89th. The incoming trainees were then assigned to the vacancies within the 445th. Both squadrons were placed in conversion status. The Wing eventually gained sixteen aircraft altogether.

From its new location, the Wing provided support to Operations Southern Watch and Deny Flight. It then began to support Operations Able Manner and Able Vigil.

From November 11 to 13, 1994, the 356th transported the support structure an entire F-16 unit from Bergstrom AFB, TX, to Darwin, Australia. From November 20 to 28, 1994, the 356th returned them to Texas.

From May 1 to 12, 1995, the 356th provided airlift for the Air Force Reserve Command Band as it made a whirlwind tour of Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Russia.

From July to September 1995 and in support of the active duty, both flying squadrons participated in the Air Mobility Command's Atlantic and Pacific Expresses. These missions were patterned after the many flown during Desert Storm and incorporated the flying of mission essential supply parts on a expedited basis. The Atlantic Express flew out of Dover AFB, DE, through the Azores and into the Middle East theater. The Pacific Express started at Travis AFB, CA, and flew through Elmendorf AFB, AL, to Yokota AB, Japan. However, both express routes were canceled from the wing's list of taskings due to the extra day needed and the middle of the morning launches as it was hard for reservists to integrate their civilian schedules with the flight plans. Shortly after the express missions were canceled, the Wing picked up another shorter overseas mission which it flew regularly. It was the Thule mission. After spending the night at Dover AFB, the crew flew to Thule, Greenland and back to either Wright-Patterson through either Dover AFB or McGuire AFB.

In September 1995, the Wing supported four relief supply efforts. The first was six pallets of food, water, emergency supplies, and two search-and-rescue dogs delivered to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Marilyn devastated the island. On the second, fresh bottled water, several generators, and miscellaneous relief supplies were taken from Pope AFB to Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands. The third and fourth supported efforts in Haiti and Moncton, New Brunswick.

The 445th Airlift Wing was involved in testing the Light Detection and Ranging device or LIDAR. The LIDAR would later be mounted in another type of aircraft but the 89th Airlift Squadron flew with the device mounted in its cargo compartment. The squadron flew three sorties from July 10 to 15, 1995 to participate in the test with the 93rd Bomb Squadron. For test purposes, the crew flew low figure-eight patterns around the test field, and the LIDAR shot a laser up through the atmosphere to determine wind values at all atmospheric levels. A computer would then compute the correct airborne drop coordinates to counter the different wind speeds and directions at the various altitudes. In November, the 89th participated in two more sorties to assist in calibrating the LIDAR.

From the time of its activation at Wright-Patterson, the 445th Airlift Wing was in conversion status due to aircrew training requirements. On October 9, 1995, the Wing officially came out of conversion.

From September 11 to 18, 1996, the Wing was tested to see if they could work for the Air Mobility Command in a realistic wartime scenario should the Wing be activated. This test was the Operational Readiness Inspection and the 445th Airlift Wing received a superior overall rating. Most of the personnel had converted from either C-130s or F-16s within the last three years, and most had little or no strategic experience. (The 356th Airlift Squadron had been flying C-130s three years earlier while assigned to the 907th Airlift Wing and the 89th had been flying F-16s two years earlier while assigned to the 906th Fighter Group).

The 445th Airlift Wing has received three Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards. The first AFOUA was awarded for their support during the Pueblo Incident of 1968-69. A second AFOUA was given for outstanding support to the Air Force and the community during the year 1983. The third AFOUA was given for superior performance in competitions and unit inspections during 1986 and 1987. The unit also received the coveted Military Airlift Command Distinguished Flying Safety Award in 1991.

The 445th Airlift Wing is also home to "Hanoi Taxi," the C-141 that flew the first 40 prisoners-of-war from Hanoi, Vietnam, in 1973.

The Wing's mission is to attain and maintain operational readiness; provide strategic transport of personnel and equipment; provide aeromedical evacuation; and recruit and train towards these goals.

Reservists from Air Force Reserve Command's 445th Airlift Wing left Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, on Feb. 12, 2003, aboard a C-141 Starlifter aircraft headed for Antarctica. The aircrew members were participating in Operation Deep Freeze, a passenger and cargo service for the U.S. National Science Foundation's research facilities in Antarctica. The 445th AW had been participating in Operation Deep Freeze since October 2001 along with the 452nd Air Mobility Wing from March ARB.



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