97th Air Mobility Wing: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

97th Air Mobility Wing
97th Air Mobility Wing.jpg
Emblem of the 97th AMW.
Active 11 September 1947-Present
Country United States of America
Branch United States Air Force
Part of Air Education and Training Command
Garrison/HQ Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma.
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon.svg
  • World War II
European Campaign (1942–1945)
Decorations Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg DUC
Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg AFOUA
Colonel David W. Allvin
John Dale Ryan
Jacob E. Smart

The 97th Air Mobility Wing (97 ABW) is a United States Air Force unit assigned to the Air Education and Training Command Nineteenth Air Force. It is stationed at Altus Air Force Base, Oklaholma. The wing is also the host unit at Altus.

The wing plans and executes C-17 Globemaster III and KC-135 Stratotanker enlisted aircrew training, providing formal school initial and advanced specialty training programs for up to 3000 students annually. The training is done in a three phase approach: Academic Phase, Simulator Phase, and Flying Phase.

The wing has a long and distinguished history. During World War II, the 97th Operations Group's predecessor unit, the 97th Bombardment Group was the first VIII Bomber Command B-17 Flying Fortress bombardment group to fly a heavy bomber mission from the United Kingdom against the Rouen-Sotteville marshalling yards in France. It launched the attack from RAF Polebrook on 17 August 1942.

Active for over 60 years, the 97th Bombardment Wing was a component organization of Strategic Air Command's deterrent force during the Cold War, as a strategic bombardment wing. In 1947, the 97th was originally a temporary organization, comprised of components of the 97th Bombardment Group and the 519th Air Service Group. The Air Force was conducting a service test of a combat wing structure that elevated the wing headquarters to the highest echelon of command on the base. This gave the wing commander the authority to direct activities rather than merely request that his flying mission receive support from the base support group commander. Designated the "Tri-Deputate" organization, this organization blueprint became the standard for Air Force wings until the introduction of the current "Objective Wing" organization in 1991.

The 97th Air Mobility Wing is commanded by Colonel Jon T. "Ty" Thomas. Its Command Chief Master Sergeant is Chief Master Sergeant Eric M. Molloy.



The 97th AMW's operational mission is, in conjunction with its training mission, to have its instructor force maintain operational currency so that they, as highly-qualified combat-ready aircrew members, can deploy to augment worldwide contingencies. The 97th maintains approximately 500 mobility personnel ready to deploy all over the world in a moments notice in support of national interests.


The 97 AMW consists of the following major units:

Plans and executes C-17, KC-135 formal school initial and advanced specialty training programs for up to 3000 students annually. Sustains C-17, KC-135 airland, airdrop and air refueling mobility forces providing global reach for combat and contingency operations. Provides air traffic control and weather forecasting for flying operations.
  • 97th Mission Support Group
Provides mission, infrastructure, and community quality of life support for personnel and all assigned organizations on Altus AFB. Supports worldwide USAF taskings with deployment ready personnel and equipment.
  • 97th Maintenance Directorate
Provides maintenance and support to all KC-135R and C-17 aircraft and provide the same maintenance support to transient aircraft, engines and associated ground equipment. To provide backshop support to all three aircraft, allowing the 97th Air Mobility Wing to perform its aircrew training mission.
  • 97th Medical Group
Ensures maximum wartime readiness and combat capability by promoting the health, safety and morale of active duty personnel. Staffs, trains, mobilizes and provides medical services in support of contingency operations worldwide. Develops and operates a prevention-oriented, cost-effective managed healthcare system for over 9.500 beneficiaries.


For additional history and lineage, see 97th Operations Group


  • Established as 97 Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy, on 11 Sep 1947
Organized on 1 Dec 1947
Redesignated: 97 Bombardment Wing, Medium, on 12 Jul 1948
Redesignated: 97 Bombardment Wing, Heavy, on 1 Oct 1959
Redesignated: 97 Wing on 1 Sep 1991
Inactivated on 1 Apr 1992
  • Redesignated 97 Air Mobility Wing on 21 Aug 1992
Activated on 1 Oct 1992.


Attached to: Yukon Sector, Alaskan Air Command, 1 Dec 1947-12 Mar 1948
Attached to: 301st Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy, 17 Mar-16 May 1948
Attached to: 7th Air Division, 15 Mar-11 Jun 1952
Attached to 7 Air Division, 5 May-4 Jul 1956

Bases assigned

Operational history

Cold War


On December 1, 1947, the 97th Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy was established, and the unit was reassigned to Mile 26 Air Field (later named Eielson Air Force Base (AFB), Alaska) on that date. The new wing reported to Fifteenth Air Force, Strategic Air Command (SAC), although the Yukon Sector of the Alaskan Air Command controlled its operations.

Operational squadrons of the 97th BW were the 340th, 341st and 342d Bomb Squadrons

The 97th was originally a temporary organization, made of components of the 97th Bombardment Group and the 519th Air Service Group, deployed from Smoky Hill Air Force Base, Kansas. The Air Force was conducting a service test of a combat wing structure that elevated the wing headquarters to the highest echelon of command on the base. This gave the wing commander the authority to direct activities rather than merely request that his flying mission receive support.

The wing consisted of a combat group, an airfield group, a maintenance and supply group, and a medical group. The unit's March 1948 history stated: "The mission of the 97th Bombardment Wing (VHB) is to man, train, and maintain a self-sustaining strategic bombardment group capable of operations in any theater." While in Alaska the 97th flew B-29 Superfortress training missions over the Arctic Ocean, testing the aircraft and maintenance crews in the harsh climate. At the end of the Alaskan deployment the wing returned to Smoky Hill AFB, near Salina, Kansas, in March 1948.

Throughout its existence the 97th contributed to the deterrence of nuclear war with the former Soviet Union by being prepared to execute Emergency War Order (EWO) assignments. It continually demonstrated its resolve in the same manner as other SAC bombardment wings, primarily by maintaining the "CHROME DOME" aerial alert capability and by keeping crews on ground alert, capable of launching bomber sorties within minutes. The wing's tankers participated in the Atlantic, Pacific, European, and Alaskan Tanker Task Forces, ensuring that the bombers would be able to reach their targets. Until the Soviet Union's demise in 1989 the crews of the 97th trained for war, unless other world events demanded their attention.


While at Smoky Hill AFB, the wing was attached to the 301st Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy, for further training and to assist the 301st prepare for its upcoming move to Germany. The 301st never moved, hence the 97th moved to Biggs AFB, El Paso, Texas, on May 22, 1948, only two short months later. Meanwhile, the Eighth Air Force assumed control of the wing on May 16, 1948. Eighth Air Force discontinued the 97th Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy, on July 12, 1948 and subsequently redesignated it the 97th Bombardment Wing, Medium, and activated it on the same date. This made the 97th a permanent combat wing. The combat wing service test was over, leaving the 97th with a combat group, an air base group, a maintenance and supply group, and a medical group.

Biggs AFB, Texas

The 97th, under SAC, took over operation of Biggs AFB from the departing 47th Bombardment Group, Light Jet, a Tactical Air Command unit. Biggs AFB would remain the wing's home for over ten years. As the 1940s ended, changes were on the horizon for the 97th's flying mission.

Early in 1950 the 97th received its first B-50 Superfortress, an improved version of the B-29 capable of delivering atomic weapons. As crews trained and became qualified in the B-50, the wing transferred some of its B-29s to other units. Aerial refueling increased the new bomber's range and brought a new flying mission to the wing.

Emblem of the 97th Aerial Refueling Squadron

The 97th Air Refueling Squadron, activated in March 1949, saw its manning increase as it received its first KB-29P in January 1950. Its mission, as stated in the wing's history, was: "to extend the range of the strategic bombers." The 97th was the first unit to operate the new boom-type or "American-type" equipment. As such it had the burden of testing the equipment and standardizing the operating procedures. The unit received KC-97 Stratotankers in 1954 to replace its KB-29s.

The 97th experienced two mission changes in 1955. First, the 340th Bombardment Squadron, a subordinate unit, started flying RB-50Gs on electronic reconnaissance missions. The 340th went to Upper Heyford RAF Station, England and Japan on intelligence gathering missions and operated in this capacity for over a year. Meanwhile, the other bombardment squadrons in the 97th started receiving B-47 Stratojets, replacing their B-50s. The wing conducted training in bombardment and aerial refueling until December 1958 when SAC rendered it inoperable. Some of the 97th's crews went to other B-47 units, while others began training for duty in the Air Force's latest bomber, the B-52 Stratofortress.

Re-assigned to Arkansas

Wing emblem ca. 1980
340th Bomb Squadron Emblem

The 97th moved to Blytheville Air Force Base, (later named Eaker AFB), in northeast Arkansas, after SAC reassigned the wing to the 4th Air Division on July 1, 1959. Later that year SAC redesignated it the 97th Bombardment Wing, Heavy; its new mission was "to provide command and staff supervision over assigned combat tactical units that execute bombardment missions designed to destroy enemy forces and facilities." The wing's first B-52G, City of Blytheville, Arkansas, arrived in January 1960. That summer, SAC declared the 97th combat-ready and slightly changed the scope of the mission statement. Now operational, the 97th "was to conduct strategic bombardment operations on a global scale, either independently or in cooperation with land and sea forces." The wing's bomber crews, who were assigned to the 340th Bomb Squadron, would fly their share of CHROME DOME missions, which kept a number of SAC's B-52s on airborne alert.

In the early 1960s the 97th received missiles that would improve its B-52's survivability during penetration into enemy territory. On September 27, 1960 the 97th deployed its first GAM-77/AGM-28 Hound Dog, capable of delivering a nuclear warhead 500 nautical miles (930 km) from its launch point, to defeat heavy air defenses. Four months later, on January 31, 1961, the GAM-77/ADM-20 Quail entered the 97th's arsenal. The Quail was a decoy that could generate radar and heat signatures resembling those of a B-52, thereby saturating the enemy's defenses.

The aerial refueling capability of the KC-135 Stratotankers extended the range of the wing's B-52s. On January 12, 1962 the 97th received its first KC-135, christened the Arkansas Traveler before its first mission three days later. Along with refueling the B-52s on training missions, the tankers participated in an ongoing command-wide rotation to bases in Southern Europe to support CHROME DOME bombers.

Cuban Missile Crisis

The political climate grew tense in October 1962 as Cuba began preparing sites for offensive Soviet missiles. On October 22 SAC responded by establishing Defense Condition Three (DEFCON III), and ordered the 97th to place two B-52s on airborne alert. Tension grew and the next day SAC declared DEFCON II, a heightened state of alarm. While at DEFCON II the 97th maintained two B-52s on airborne alert. These, along with bombers from other SAC wings, were ready to strike targets within the Soviet Union. One of the 97th's bombers carried Hound Dog and Quail missiles, the other carried nuclear and conventional ordnance. No missions were aborted or canceled during the crisis. The 97th and other units deployed more tankers to Spain to refuel the alert force. Reconnaissance photographs taken on November 1, 1962 indicated that the Cubans had begun dismantling the sites. The wing returned to DEFCON III on the 15th and subsequently resumed normal activity on November 20.

Southeast Asia

The 97th's involvement in the Southeast Asia conflict started slowly, but would demand the wing's undivided attention before ending. Its involvement began on December 14, 1965 when the wing sent one KC-135 to participate in YOUNG TIGER, the operation to refuel fighters involved in the conflict. At first, the wing's B-52s remained at Blytheville while bomber crews went to Guam to fly ARC LIGHT bombing missions. However, by the summer of 1972 all the 97th's bombers were at Guam. From there wing crews flew LINEBACKER II (sometimes called the "11-Day War" because of its intensity) missions in December 1972. On December 18, 1972 Hanoi's air defenses claimed the lives of nine crew members during this operation, while North Vietnamese ground forces captured another four and held them as prisoners of war. On August 15, 1973, after months of committing most of the wing's people and resources to the conflict, crew E-21 had the distinction of flying the last mission over a target in Cambodia. This marked the end of the United State's bombing in Southeast Asia.

Resumption of Global Mission

The 97th resumed its bomber training and refueling missions after the conflict in Southeast Asia ended while it continued to participate in contingency operations and assume new roles. Tanker crews and aircraft refueled other Air Force units supporting the rescue of American citizens in Grenada in October and November 1983. In 1984 the wing upgraded its B-52G force to carry the AGM-86B air launched cruise missile (ALCM). The wing further expanded its mission in 1987 to include conventional bombing, sea search and surveillance, and aerial mining.

Desert Storm

After Iraq's August 1990 invasion of neighboring Kuwait, the 97th began deploying elements to various locations in the United States and overseas to support Operation DESERT SHIELD. In late December, 97th Bombardment Wing B-52 crews practiced high altitude bombing missions at the Nellis AFB test range in Nevada, anticipating their role in the inevitable war to come.

Once Operation DESERT STORM was underway the nature of the wing's involvement changed. At the end of January 1991 six of the wing's bombers and crews assumed ground alert duty at Wurtsmith AFB, Michigan, allowing the 379th Bombardment Wing, stationed at Wurtsmith, to participate in Operation DESERT STORM. On February 1, 1991 major elements of the 97th deployed to RAF Fairford, United Kingdom, forming the 806th Bombardment Wing (Provisional). The wing conducted over 60 conventional bombing sorties and many air-refueling sorties.

The 97th:Re-Invented

As the Air Force began reorganizing in 1991, it redesignated the wing as the 97th Wing on September 1, and inactivated it on April 1, 1992.

On October 1, 1992 the Air Force activated the wing at Altus AFB, Oklahoma, and redesignated it the 97th Air Mobility Wing under Air Mobility Command. At the same time the Air Force inactivated the 443d Military Airlift Wing, which had been the host wing at Altus AFB since May 5, 1969. Less than a year later, on July 1, 1993, Air Education and Training Command assumed control of the 97th. The redesignated wing possessed C-5 Galaxies, C-141 Starlifters, and KC-135 Stratotankers; it subsequently started to add C-17 Globemaster IIIs in March 1996. The 97th's new mission was: to conduct strategic airlift, aerial delivery, aerial refueling training schools, conduct training for AMC aircrews, ...provide strategic aircraft support for Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) and conventional contingencies, provide aerial port of embarkation for US Army, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and accomplish other tasks when assigned by higher authority.


PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address