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58th Special Operations Wing [58th SOW]

The 58th Special Operations Wing's mission is to train mission-ready special operations, rescue, missile site support, and DV airlift advanced helicopter, and MC-130 aircrew students. The unit also provides people and airlift needed in response to crises around the world and assists civilian authorities in regional rescues.

Since moving to Kirtland, the wing has flown more than 205 rescue missions and saved over 200 lives. These missions also help train the students who, after they finish their courses, go on to fly with Air Force Special Operations Command, Air Mobility Command, Air Combat Command, Pacific Air Forces, United States Air Forces in Europe, Air Force Space Command, and Air Reserve and Air National Guard Components.

Supporting the 58th SOW training mission are approximately 1,250 military and civilian personnel administering over 90 training systems courses in 18 different crew positions.

The 58th SOW's Operations Group is composed of three flying and two support squadrons, as well as two geographically separated pilot training units, one at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and the other at MCAS New River, North Carolina.

There are also more than 30 rotary- and fixed- wing aircraft assigned to train an average of 1,600 students a year.

Special operations, combat search and rescue, and airlift training is conducted with MC-130H, MC-130P, HC-130P, C-12, TH-53A, MH-53J, HH-60G, UH-1N, UH-1H, and MV-22 aircraft.

With the CV-22 being proposed to eventually replace the MH-53s and some MC-130s in US Air Force inventory, the 58th SOW is scheduled to be the home of the first squadron of CV-22s. As of late 2000, construction of the simulator facilities was tentatively scheduled to begin in 2001 and be complete in 2002, while the first aircraft and students could arrive as early as 2003. As of August 1999, the 551st appeared to be the unit which would be responsible for operating the CV-22 school while the 58th Training Support Squadron (58th TRSS) would be responsible for operating the school's simulator facilities.

Aircrew members as well as maintenance personnel are scheduled to receive their initial training at New River, Marine Corps Air Station, NC, and to then come back to Kirtland AFB to receive Air Force-specific training. As of mid-1999, a CV-22 school was scheduled to be formed within the 58th SOW to provide Special Operations Forces(SOF) peculiar aircrew training.

The 58th Special Operations Wing's history began when the 58th Pursuit Group activated January 15, 1941, at Selfridge Field, MI, to train fighter pilots. Through the early years of World War II, 58th pilots flew a mix of fighters. The unit deployed to New Guinea via Australia from October to December 1943, and became part of the 5th Air Force, flying protective patrols over U.S. bases and escorting transports.

They moved to San Roque, Leyte, Philippine Islands, on November 18, 1944 to conduct fighter sweeps against enemy airfields. While in the Philippines, December 26, 1944, the unit earned the Distinguished Unit Citation by turning back an attacking Japanese naval force off Mindoro and preventing the destruction of the American base there.

The unit shifted operations to Okinawa July 10, 1945, where they attacked railways and airfields in Kyushu. After the war, the 58th remained on Okinawa until October 26, 1945, when it moved to Itazuke Air Base, Japan. The unit returned to Fort McKinley, Philippines December 28, 1945, where it remained until its inactivation January 27, 1946.

Activated July 10, 1952 at Taegu, Republic of Korea as the 58th Fighter Bomber Wing, its members flew combat interdiction and close air support missions in Korea until the end of hostilities, and provided air defense of South Korea thereafter. The Air Force inactivated the wing in July 1958.

The 58th was activated again as the 58th Tactical Fighter Training Wing October 15, 1969 at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., where it was the largest fighter training base in the western world. The wing remained at Luke AFB when it was redesignated the 58th Tactical Training Wing April 1, 1977, and the 58th Fighter Wing October 1, 1991.

The unit's most recent evolution occurred April 1, 1994, when it moved from Luke to Kirtland Air Force Base, and became the 58th Special Operations Wing.

The heritage of the 58th SOW's Training Mission began with the 1550th Aircrew Training and Test Wing, located at Hill AFB, Utah, in April 1971, originally a unit of the Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service in the Military Airlift Command (MAC). In February 1976, the wing moved to Kirtland AFB, New Mexico. It was renamed the 1550th Combat Crew Training Wing in May 1984, and changed to reporting directly to MAC. The wing then merged with the 1606th Air Base Wing, on October 1, 1991, to become the 542nd Crew Training Wing (CTW).

The wing again split on January 1, 1993 into two wings. The operations wing retained the designation 542nd CTW and remained under the recently redesignated Air Mobility Command (formerly MAC). The host wing for the 58th, previously known as the 1606 ABW, was then activated as the 377 ABW and became part of Air Force Materiel Command.

The next evolution for the 542nd CTW happened July 1, 1993, when Air Education and Training Command, formerly Air Training Command and Air University, replaced Air Mobility Command as their higher headquarters. Finally, the wing inactivated April 1, 1994.

The student aircrews' challenging curriculum includes classroom instruction, simulator training, and flying. The flying includes transition and instruments, aerial refueling, personnel and equipment airdrops, helicopter hoist training) and combat tactics, including night vision goggle flying.

Special operations and combat rescue graduates have served with distinction in every combat situation since training was established. The latest were Just Cause, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Desert Calm, Southern Watch, Provide Comfort, and Restore Hope.

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