The 919th Special Operations Wing is an Air Reserve Component (ARC) of the United States Air Force. It is assigned to the Tenth Air Force, of Air Force Reserve Command, stationed at Duke Field (Eglin Air Force Auxiliary Field #3), Florida.
The 919th SOW is an associate unit of the 1st Special Operations Wing, Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) and if mobilized the wing is gained by AFSOC.
The 919th SOW employs about 1,300 reservists. Air reserve technicians, commonly referred to as ARTs, are the nucleus of the wing. They provide management continuity to keep the units combat ready. ARTs carry dual status as full-time civil service employees for the Air Force who, as a condition of employment, must participate as reservists. More than 280 ARTs and 35 civilians support the wing in day-to-day operations.
During the first half of 1955, the Air Force began detaching Air Force Reserve squadrons from their parent wing locations to separate sites. The concept offered several advantages. Communities were more likely to accept the smaller squadrons than the large wings and the location of separate squadrons in smaller population centers would facilitate recruiting and manning. Continental Air Command (ConAC)'s plan called for placing Air Force Reserve units at fifty-nine installations located throughout the United States. When these relocations were completed in 1959, reserve wing headquarters and wing support elements would typically be on one base, along with one (or in some cases two) of the wing's flying squadrons, while the remaining flying squadrons were spread over thirty-five Air Force, Navy and civilian airfields under what was called the Detached Squadron Concept.
Although this dispersal was not a problem when the entire wing was called to active service, mobilizing a single flying squadron and elements to support it proved difficult. This weakness was demonstrated in the partial mobilization of reserve units during the Berlin Crisis of 1961 To resolve this, at the start of 1962, ConAC determined to reorganize its reserve wings by establishing groups with support elements for each of its troop carrier squadrons. This reorganization would facilitate mobilization of elements of wings in various combinations when needed. However, as this plan was entering its implementation phase, another partial mobilization occurred for the Cuban Missile Crisis, with the units being released on 22 November 1962. The formation of troop carrier groups occurred in January 1963 for units that had not been mobilized, but was delayed until February for those that had been.
As a result, the 919th Troop Carrier Group was established at Memphis Municipal Airport, Tennessee on 11 February 1963 as the headquarters for the 701st Troop Carrier Squadron, which had been stationed there since November 1957. Along with group headquarters, a Combat Support Squadron, Materiel Squadron and a Tactical Infirmary were organized to support the 701st.
The group's mission was to organize, recruit and train Air Force Reserve personnel in the tactical airlift of airborne forces, their equipment and supplies and delivery of these forces and materials by airdrop, landing or cargo extraction systems. The group was equipped with Fairchild C-123 Providers for Tactical Air Command airlift operations.
The 919th was one of three groups assigned to the 445th Troop Carrier Wing in 1963, the others being the 918th Troop Carrier Group at Dobbins Air Force Base, Georgia, and 920th Troop Carrier Group, also at Memphis Municipal Airport, Tennessee.
The 919th was renamed the 919th Tactical Airlift Group and equipped with the Lockheed C-130A Hercules, and based at Duke Field, Florida, from 1971, it performed airlift of personnel and cargo, in addition to airdropping United States Army paratroopers during exercises from 1971 to 1974.
Redesignated the 919th Special Operations Group on 1 July 1975, the group began transitioning to the Lockheed AC-130A Spectre aircraft and training for gunship operations, with close air support as a primary duty, but included ability to perform armed interdiction, reconnaissance, and escort, forward air control and combat search and rescue in conventional or unconventional warfare setting. Redesignated the 919th Special Operations Group, the command was later upgraded to wing status and renamed the 919th Special Operations Wing. In addition to its primary combat duties, the 919th also provided range clearing support for missile launches at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and along the Eastern Test Range from 1979 to 1989 and for NASA space shuttle launches at the John F. Kennedy Space Center from 1981 to 1988.
The group's 711th Special Operations Squadron hit key facilities and provided cover for U.S. Army troops during the invasion of Panama, December 1989 – January 1990. On 1 April 1990 the 919th gained a second special operations squadron, the 71st, located at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. Both squadrons participated in the conflict in Southwest Asia: the 71 SOS, flying HH-3Es deployed 12 January 1991 – 16 March 1991 and the 711 SOS, flying AC-130As, deployed 7 February – 12 March. In addition, the 711 SOS used their AC-130s to fly cargo and passengers. The 919 SOW lost the 71 SOS on 1 October 1993, but in late 1994, gained the 5th Special Operations Squadron (5 SOS). The 5 SOS began to receive their MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft in April 1995 and trained for special operations, aerial refueling of special operations helicopters, and resupply missions. The 711 SOS transitioned from AC-130A gunships to MC-130E Combat Talon I aircraft beginning in October 1995 and trained for a primary mission of infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces. Periodically the wing deployed personnel and aircraft to support special operations forces in contingency operations worldwide, in addition to numerous humanitarian deployments. The 919th has conducted flight training in MC-130E Combat Talon I for both Air Force Special Operations Command and Air Force Reserve Command since 1 October 1997.
An Air Force news release dated 18 April 2013 announced the final flight of the wing's MC-130E aircraft, which will be flown to the "boneyard" at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. The Combat Talons are being replaced with PZL C-145A Skytruck aircraft which have already arrived at Duke Field.
In 2015, the 711th shares a building, flightline, aircraft and mission with the active-duty 6th Special Operations Squadron at Duke Field.
Current units include:919th Special Operations Group
2d Special Operations Squadron (Hurlburt Field
5th Special Operations Squadron (Hurlburt Field)
711th Special Operations Squadron
919th Special Operations Maintenance Group
919th Special Operations Mission Support Group
919th Special Operations Medical Squadron
Established as the 919th Troop Carrier Group, Assault and activated on 15 January 1963 (not organized)
Organized in the Reserve on 11 February 1963
Discontinued and inactivated on 15 December 1965
Redesignated 919th Tactical Airlift Group on 17 June 1971
Activated in the Reserve on 30 July 1971
Redesignated 919th Special Operations Group
on 1 July 1975
Redesignated 919th Special Operations Wing
on 1 August 1992
Continental Air Command, 15 January 1963 (not organized)
445th Troop Carrier Wing (later 445th Air Transport Wing), 11 February 1963 – 15 December 1965
459th Tactical Airlift Wing, 30 July 1971
Eastern Air Force Reserve Region, 1 December 1974
Tenth Air Force, 8 October 1976
Fourth Air Force, 1 March 1983
Tenth Air Force, 1 July 1994 – present
919th Operations Group (later 919th Special Operations Group): 1 August 1992 – present
71st Special Operations Squadron: 1 April 1990 – 1 August 1992
701st Troop Carrier Squadron: 11 February 1963 – 15 December 1965
711th Tactical Airlift Squadron (later Special Operations Squadron): 30 July 1971 – 1 August 1992
Memphis Municipal Airport, Tennessee, 11 February 1963 – 15 December 1965
Eglin Air Force Base Auxiliary Field #3 (Duke Field), Florida, 30 July 1971 – present