Leader Blues

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

TOP STORY > >Realignment to bring new wing to base

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

One of the oldest organizations in the Air Force will soon call Little Rock Air Force Base home when the 19th Airlift Wing is reactivated Oct. 1, switching the base from an Air Education and Training Command to an Air Mobility Command.

Previously known as the 19th Air Refueling Group, stationed at Robins AFB, Georgia, the group was inactivated in May as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) review process.

The host-base transfer is being assisted by an AMC site-activation taskforce team to ensure LRAFB has everything needed to successfully transfer the lead reins, according to Brig. Gen. Rowayne Schatz, base commander.

The base’s command may be different, but Schatz said the mission stays the same.

“The deployment tempo may change, but no matter what command claims us, our missions will remain training and deploying world class combat airlifters and taking care of our airmen and family members on the home front,” he said. “The sacrifices our family members make in order to ensure we are prepared for any call to duty truly makes our mission possible,” he added.

Originating as the 19th Ob-servation Group, Army Air Corps, in October 1927, it soon became known as the 19th Bombardment Group when activated in June 1932 at Rockwell Field, Calif.

In 1940, equipped with the B-17B Flying Fortress, the first production version of the B-17, they made aviation history in May 1941 when the unit flew its B-17s en masse from California to Hawaii.

During the spring of 1945, while serving in World War II flying the B-29 Superfortress, a heavy bomber and one of the largest airplanes to see service during the war, the group flew 65 raids on the Japanese home islands, bombing strategic targets in Japan, participating in incendiary bomb attacks against Japanese cities and attacking kamikaze airfields during the invasion of Okinawa.

Following the Korean War in May 1954, the 19th Bomb Wing was reassigned to Strategic Air Command at Pinecastle AFB, Fla. (now known as McCoy AFB). Along the way, they stopped at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., leaving the obsolete B-29s there for storage. Once in Florida, they received brand new Boeing B-47 Stratojets.

In 1983, after losing its B-52s, the 19th Bomb Wing was redesignated as the 19th Air Refueling Wing (Heavy) at Robins AFB, Georgia. The 19th ARW supported worldwide aerial refueling missions for various operations and exercises and supported the European Tanker Task Force. In 1984, it provided EC-135s to support the United States Central Command in Southwest Asia.
In July 1996 it was reactivated as the 19th Air Refueling Group and consisted of four squadrons, the 19th Operations Support Squadron, the 19th Maintenance Squadron, the 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and the 99th Air Refueling Squadron.

The “Black Knights” participated in numerous operations in 1997 and 1998, including Operation Northern Watch, Operation Desert Thunder, and Operation Constant Vigil; in 1999, the 19th earned an “outstanding” – a perfect score – during its Headquarters, Air Mobility Command Operation Readiness Inspection (ORI).

The 19th Air Refueling Group provided worldwide in-flight refueling for U.S. combat, logistics and combat support aircraft and its allies as directed by the Department of Defense before being deactived for its move to Little Rock Air Force Base as the 19th Airlift Wing.