939th Air Refueling Wing
939th Rescue Wing [939th RQW]
In 2000, the Air Force remissioned the 939th Rescue Wing to the 939th Air Refueling Wing, although it was not until 2003 that the rescue aircraft had officially left the station in Portland.
The 939th serves as headquarters for 15 subordinate units. The 939th Air Refueling Wing operates and maintains eight assigned KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft. Operational missions include support of DOD/NCA conventional and Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) taskings. The wing is responsible for the manning, training, equipping and combat readiness of over 887 reservists. Supports pararescue administrative operations.
The 939th Air Force Reserve unit was first established as the 939th Troop Carrier Group (Medium), on Jan. 15, 1963, at the Portland International Airport, Ore. The unit was commanded by Colonel Vernon E. Acker. The unit was redesignated as the 939th Tactical Airlift Group, Jul. 1, 1967, and again Jul. 15, 1968, as the 939th Military Airlift Group (MAG Associate). At that time, the unit moved from Portland International Airport to McChord Air Force Base, Wash. The unit also transferred from C-119 aircraft, which it had flown since inception, to C-141 aircraft. The 939 MAG (Associate) was inactivated on Jul. 1, 1976.
The 939th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group (now the 939th Rescue Wing), was activated Apr. 1, 1985. The conversion of the 304th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, (located at the Portland International Airport, Ore.), into the 939th began by programmed Air Force Reserve changes to, among other units, the 303rd Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron, March Air Force Base, Calif.
The squadron then became the 943rd Tactical Airlift Group. That unit received eight C-130 aircraft for the tactical airlift mission and, in turn, transferred its HC-130H aircraft, (modified for rescue and recovery use), to the 304th. The additional mission load and manpower requirements promoted the need for an upgrading of the 304th to composite group status. On Dec. 30, 1986, the unit began its conversion of the five UH-1N "Huey" helicopters to four Sikorsky twin engine Jolly Green Giant (H-3) helicopters. Two H-3s arrived on base Dec. 30, 1986, and two more were added to the unit's inventory on Jan. 16, 1987.
On Aug. 1, 1989, Military Airlift Command's Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service was redesignated as Air Rescue Service with its own headquarters at McClellan Air Force Base, Calif. The 939th and subordinate units, as well as all Reserve rescue resources, then reported during wartime through ARS to Headquarters Military Airlift Command. Before ARS was redesignated, the 939th and subordinate units reported (wartime) through 23rd Air Force to Headquarters Military Airlift Command.
On Apr. 1, 1990, the 939th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group was redesignated as the 939th Air Rescue Wing. The 939th's three flying squadrons (301st, 304th, and 305th) were also redesignated on the same date from aerospace rescue and recovery squadrons to air rescue squadrons.
There were no major personnel or aircraft authorization changes involved in these re-designations. February 1991, the 939th and subordinate squadrons began conversion from HH-1H and H-3 helicopters to HH-60G Sikorsky Pave Hawk helicopters. Until the arrival of the first unit-assigned Pave Hawk, 939th members trained on loaner H-60 aircraft, the first of which arrived on base May 1991. The last flight of the unit-assigned H-3 helicopters was on Jun. 18, 1991. The final H-1 flight was on Oct. 28, 1991, and the last two H-1 helicopters departed the base Oct. 31, 1991.
The first unit-assigned Pave Hawk was flown from Pensacola, Fla., to Portland on Jan. 29, 1992, by a 939th aircrew. The crew included as aircraft commander, the most junior pilot in the unit and as co-pilot, the commander of the 304th RQS.
The H-60, although not fully electronically-configured upon its arrival to Portland, was equipped with an operational hoist, air refueling probe, weather radar and two 285 gallon fuel tanks. The last of the unit's nine H-60s arrived on base in 1994. The 939th was redesignated from the 939th Air Rescue Wing (ARW) to the 939th Rescue Wing (RQW) on Feb. 1, 1992.
In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to realign Portland IAP AGS, OR. It would realign the 939th Air Refueling Wing (AFR) by distributing the wing's KC-135R aircraft to the 507th Air Refueling Wing (AFR), Tinker AFB, OK (four aircraft); the 190th Air Refueling Wing (ANG), Forbes Field AGS, KS (three aircraft); and by reverting one aircraft to backup inventory. Operations and maintenance manpower for four aircraft from the 939th Air Refueling Wing would be realigned with the aircraft to Tinker AFB. The 939th Air Refueling Wing's remaining manpower, to include expeditionary combat support, would be realigned to Vandenberg AFB, CA.
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