By Airman 1st Class Jesenia Landaverde, 92 Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 21, 2017
FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- This year has been chock-full of milestones for the Airmen of Fairchild Air Force Base. Throughout the year, the Air Force celebrated their 70th anniversary, Team Fairchild marked the 75th year of the installation, and today marks the 70th birthday of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing, which began as the 92nd Bombardment Wing.
Seventy years ago, Spokane Army Air Field was assigned under the Strategic Air Command and three months later, the 92nd Bombardment Wing was established under the command of Col. Albert J. Shower.
As the parent wing at Spokane AAF, the 92nd BW provided oversight to the 98th BW, an active duty unit, and the 111th Bomb Group, a reserve unit. The 92nd Bombardment Group, "Fame's Favored Few," and the 98th Bombardment Group flew the Boeing B-29 Superfortress.
In 1948, the Air Force officially renamed Spokane AAF to Spokane Air Force Base. The base had a final name change in November 1950, and became Fairchild Air Force Base in memory of Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, Gen. Muir S. Fairchild, a native of Bellingham, Washington. The formal dedication ceremony was held July 20, 1951, to coincide with the arrival of the wing’s first B-36 Peacemaker.
The 92nd BW made history in 1953 when they were the first B-36s to fly non-stop from the United States to the Far East, as well as the first B-36 wing assigned by SAC to deploy to the Pacific in support of Operation BIG STICK. This operation marked the wing earning its first of many Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards.
In October 1956, Operation BIG SWITCH brought the B-52 Stratofortress mission to Fairchild and marked the departure of the last B-36s. This would also prepare the wing to receive its first KC-135 Stratotanker in February 1958. The 92 BW’s first KC-135, “The Queen of the Inland Empire,” and a crew from the 92nd Air Refueling Squadron established eight world records in September of that same year.
The wing was heavily involved in both bombing and refueling missions as military operations escalated in the mid-60s.
The 1990s marked the beginning of a significant change to the Fairchild mission. The B-52 wing transferred to another base, the first step in Fairchild’s transition to an air refueling wing, ending the wing bomber mission after 47 years of duty.
The wing was redesignated to the 92nd ARW in 1994 and was transferred from Air Combat Command to Air Mobility Command, marking the creation of the largest ARW in the Air Force with five active duty air refueling squadrons and over 60 KC-135s assigned. Dubbed as the new “tanker hub of the Northwest,” the wing was now capable of maintaining an air bridge across the nation, and the world, in support of U.S. and allied forces.
Since 1994, the 92nd ARW has been involved in virtually every contingency mission around the world, whether combat operations, airlift or humanitarian relief missions. Fairchild tankers have been force extenders, enabling U.S. and allied aircraft to successfully complete their missions.
On Oct. 1, 2007, a ceremony was held for the 92nd ARW and 141st ARW, an Air National Guard unit, to recognize the beginning of the classic association of the two wings under Total Force Integration. Since that time, the partnership has increased deterrence, enhanced regional stability, lowered operating costs, increased capability and capacity and ensured access to base assets.
“While the wing has gone through many changes in designations and missions throughout history, the one thing that has not changed is the professionalism that the Airmen of the wing have shown over the past 70 years, to the nation through war and peace,” said Calistra Alba, 92nd ARW historian.
Today, the 92nd ARW has proven to be critical to fulfill U.S. Strategic Command’s vision of fighting and delivering integrated, multi-domain combat effects across the globe, wherever and whenever needed.
As back-to-back winners of the USSTRATCOM’s Omaha Trophy, the 92nd and 141st ARWs were recognized as the best air refueling wings assigned to USSTRATCOM. The victories mark the first time a base has won this category twice in a row since the award's inception nearly 47-years ago.
Earlier this year, the wing was selected to receive 12 additional KC-135 Stratotankers, making it the largest tanker fleet in the Air Force.
“This wing’s success over the last 70 years wouldn’t have happened without the support of the Inland Northwest community, and the dedication of our outstanding Airmen and their families,” said Col. J. Scot Heathman, 92nd ARW vice commander. “Our history has laid a foundation for us to excel today and continue to execute the Rapid Global Mobility mission, or any mission the Air Force needs in the future.”