Celebrating 60 years of Air Power

  • Published
  • By Col. Scott Hanson
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander
This year we commemorate the 60th anniversary of our United States Air Force, providing us an opportunity to pause and reflect on our service's proud heritage of integrity, service and excellence.

Since its inception in 1947, the Air Force has established itself as the preeminent provider of air and space capabilities in the world. We are proud of our accomplishments over the past 60 years, and are using that momentum to shape the Air Force to meet our nation's security needs as we continue to fight the Global War on Terrorism.

This year is a dual commemoration, as it also marks the 60th anniversary of an Air Force wing at Fairchild. The 92nd Bombardment Wing was activated in November 1947 here at Fairchild - then called Spokane Air Force Base.

Since the base's inception in 1942, the installation has played a key role in our nation's defense strategy - from World War II aircraft repair depot, to Strategic Air Command bomber wing during the Cold War, to Air Mobility Command air refueling wing during operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Today, Fairchild's aircraft and Professional Expeditionary Airmen make up the backbone of the Air Force's tanker fleet on the West Coast.

Legendary Airmen
This 60th anniversary commemoration is also an opportunity to pay tribute to the dedication, sacrifice and contributions of those who came before us.

Looking back at the wing's rich history, one individual that stands out is 2nd Lt. John "Red" Morgan, a B-17 co-pilot with the 92nd Bombardment Group who was awarded the Medal of Honor for valor in the skies over Germany during World War II.

The lieutenant was miraculously able to complete a crucial bombing run even after his aircraft was badly hit and the aircraft commander mortally wounded. In the movie "Twelve-O'Clock High," the mission account of the fictitious Lieutenant Bishop, and the Medal of Honor he received, was based on Lieutenant Morgan's heroic actions.

This anniversary is also the time to remember our base's namesake, Gen. Muir Fairchild, a native of Bellingham, Wash. General Fairchild entered the service as a sergeant in the Washington National Guard in 1916. After an illustrious career, General Fairchild achieved four stars and the position of Air Force vice chief of staff. He left his name and legacy of excellence at our base, and his quote will be prominently displayed in the renovated wing headquarters entryway: "We cannot for one moment relax because of past achievements... Either we go out to meet the future or it comes to seek us out."

Over 60 Years of Air Refueling
Long before there was an air refueling wing in the area, Spokane was helping pioneer the art and science of mid-air refueling. In August 1929, an aircraft named the "Spokane Sun-God" became the first airplane to make a non-stop transcontinental round-trip flight, with the help of 11 mid-air refuels.

Since then, the base's relationship with the local community has grown and solidified. We have many events planned throughout the year to recognize the accomplishments of Airmen, past and present. Major wing and local community events this year such as the Lilac Festival and Skyfest will embrace the 60th anniversary theme. We will kick off the commemorative year with a ceremony and guest speaker next month.

Team Fairchild's Professional Expeditionary Airmen are proudly taking the Air Force into the 21st Century as we fight and win our nation's battles. I am excited about what the future holds for the next 60 years. Thank you for your service!

Heritage to Horizons -- Commemorating 60 Years of Air and Space Power