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355th Wing [355th WG]

The 355th Wing is located at Davis-Monthan AFB< AZ and is one of the largest wings in the Air Force with more than 6,100 personnel, six flying squadrons and one geographically separated unit. The 355th Wing is the host unit for Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. The wing is comprised of four groups. The groups are: 355th Operations Group; 355th Logistics Group; 355th Medical Group; and 355th Support Group.

The 355th Fighter Group activated Nov. 12, 1942, at Orlando Army Air Base, Fla., and began flying the P-47 "Thunderbolt" aircraft. The 354th, 357th, and 358th Fighter Squadrons comprised the group as it quickly prepared for combat in World War II. In July, 1943, the 355th moved to Steeple Morden, England. The group first saw combat in September when pilots escorted bombers attacking industrial areas of Berlin, marshaling yards, airfields, and oil production facilities. Group pilots also flew fighter sweeps, area patrols, and their own bombing mission, destroying enemy supply and communication lines.

After converting to the North American P-51 "Mustang" in April 1944, 355th FG pilots quickly gained acclaim as "The Steeple Morden Strafers" for their weapons expertise. The group successfully bombed and strafed German airdromes during a snow storm April 5, 1944, resulting in a Distinguished Unit Citation. On D-Day, the 355th provided fighter cover and visual reconnaissance for allied forces landing in Normandy. The fighter group continued combat operations until April 25, 1945. During those war years, the Steeple Morden Strafers destroyed or damaged 1,500 enemy planes, accumulating for more than 17,000 sorties. By July 1945, the group had moved to Gablingen, Germany. The 355th FG inactivated Nov. 20, 1946.

Nearly nine years later, Aug. 18, 1955, the 355th FG reactivated at McGhee-Tyson Airport, Tenn., flying the North American F-86D "Sabrejet" under the Air Defense Command. For the next two years, the 355th provided fighter defense for the Atomic Energy Plant, Oak Ridge, Tenn., the ALCOA Aluminum Plant and the Tennessee Valley Authority dams as well as the eastern region of the United States. Then in January 1958, it inactivated.

April 13, 1962, the 355th reactivated at George AFB, Calif., as the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, flying the Republic F-105 "Thunderchief" and training pilots in tactical fighter operations. After two years, the wing transferred to McConnell AFB, Kan., conducting F-105 aircrew training and deploying tactical squadrons overseas for combat duty in Southeast Asia. By November 1965, the 355th had transferred to Takhli, Thailand. From there, 355th pilots conducted air-to-air combat, ground strikes, armed reconnaissance, close air support and electronic warfare missions against North Vietnam. Between 1965 and 1970, the 355th TFW amassed more than 101,300 combat sorties, delivered 202,596 tons of bombs and destroyed 12,675 targets. Assigned pilots were credited with 22 MiG aerial victories, eight MiGs destroyed on the ground and another nine damaged.

The 355th earned three Presidential Unit Citations, a Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross and three Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards with Valor. Also, of the 12 airmen awarded the Medal of Honor in all of the Vietnam War, two -- Capt. Merlyn H. Dethlefsen and Maj. Leo K. Thorsness -- belonged to the 355th TFW. With a phase down of the United States presence in Thailand, the wing was once again inactivated.

The wing returned to duty six months later at Davis-Monthan AFB, this time flying the Vought A-7D "Corsair II." Assigned to 12th Air Force, the wing immediately began to build its A-7D fleet for training aircrews in a close air support role, attaining combat ready statues Aug. 22, 1972. In March 1974, the wing conducted the first launch of a live AGM-65 Maverick missile from a remotely piloted vehicle, scoring a direct hit at Dugway Proving Grounds, Utah. In addition to drone missions and aircrew training, the 355th also supported many tactical exercises and deployments in the United States and overseas. For CONSTANT GUARD VI, the wing deployed two squadrons to Korat, Thailand.

In early 1975, the 355th TFW began conversion to the Fairchild Republic A-10A "Thunderbolt II," receiving its first four in March 1976. Once the wing had demonstrated the firepower and capabilities of the A-10 to U.S. and allied military leaders, its pilots began training all A-10 pilots prior to their first assignment. Between 1978 and 1979, the wing conducted OPERATION READY BENTWATERS, delivering 74 A-10s to the 81st TFW, Bentwaters Royal Air Force Base, England. In the midst of such events, Davis-Monthan AFB officially transferred from Strategic Air Command to Tactical Air Command in September 1976, and the 355th TFW became the host wing.

In 1981, the 836th Air Division was activated on Davis-Monthan AFB and the wing was placed under it. The wing won the TAC Commander's Award for Top Aircraft Maintenance in the A-10 category and "Best A-10 Team" during the Long Rifle V gunnery competition held at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., in 1989. Members of the wing repeated both honors the very next years. Also during 1990, wing members deployed to Venezuela and to the Mideast in support of Desert Shield. The wing was redesignated the 355th Wing, May 1, 1992. On the same day, the 836th Air Division and the 602nd Tactical Air Control Wing were inactivated, and the 355th Wing went back under 12th Air Force and assumed duties once held by other units.

While the 355th Wing continues to train A/OA-10 aircrews for assignment to worldwide operational units, and is responsible for EC-130H aircrew training, it is also tasked to train and employ the EC-130E to provide airborne command, control, and communication capabilities for managing tactical air operations in war and other contingencies worldwide. The wing provides training for A-10 close air support, OA-10 forward air controllers, air liaison officers, EC-130H Compass Call countermeasures, air control radar to unified commands, and EC-130E airborne battlefield command and control of tactical air operations. Members of the wing also serve as executive agents for the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces and Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty compliance.

The wing provides A-10 close air support; OA-10 forward air controllers; air liaison officers; EC-130 command, control and communications warfare; air control radar; and combat support forces to unified commanders The 355th Wing also provides initial and recurrency flying training to all U.S. Air Force A/OA-10 and EC-130 pilots and crews; and is the Air Combat Command executive agent for INF and START treaty compliance.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:12:45 ZULU