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19th Airlift Wing
USAF - 19th Airlift Wing.png
Active 1948–1996;2008–present
Country United States
Branch Air Force
Role Airlift
Part of Air Mobility Command
Garrison/HQ Little Rock Air Force Base
Nickname(s) "Black Knights"
Motto(s) "In Alis Vincimus (On Wings We Conquer)"
American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon.svg
KSMRib.svg AFEMRib.svg Southwest Asia Service ribbon.svg
  • World War II
-World War II American Theater
-Asiatic-Pacific Campaign
(1941–1942, 1944–1945)
  • Korean Service (1950–1953)
  • Grenada (1983)
  • Southwest Asia (1990-1991)

AF Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon.png PUC Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg AFOUA Presidential Unit Citation (Philippines).svg Philippines PUC

Presidential Unit Citation (Korea).svg ROK PUC

The 19th Airlift Wing (19 AW) is a United States Air Force unit assigned to the Air Mobility Command Eighteenth Air Force. It is stationed at Little Rock AFB, Arkansas. The wing is also the host unit at Little Rock.

The Wing provides the Department of Defense the largest C-130 Hercules transport fleet in the world, supplying humanitarian airlift relief to victims of disasters, to airdropping supplies and troops into the heart of contingency operations in hostile areas.

Its origins date to 1927 when the 19th Bombardment Group, was established, one of the 15 original combat air groups formed by the United States Army before World War II.

The unit was stationed at Clark Field in the Philippines when the Japanese attacked on 8 December 1941, suffering numerous casualties and losing most of its B-17 Flying Fortresses in the attack. A small number of its aircraft escaped to fly combat missions in the Philippines; Netherlands East Indies and Papua New Guinea during early 1942. The group was re-equipped with the B-29 Superfortress in 1944 and from Guam, it conducted its first B-29 bombing raid on 25 February 1945, against Tokyo. The group has earned the distinction of being one of the most decorated units in the Air Force. Unit honors include nine Presidential Unit Citations, two Air Force Meritorious Unit Awards, ten Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards, one Philippine Presidential Unit Citation, and one Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation.

Active for over 60 years, the 19 AW was a component wing of Strategic Air Command's deterrent force during the Cold War. The wing served in the Korean War, Vietnam War, and Operation Desert Storm. Its component units are currently engaged in combat operations as part of the Global War on Terrorism.

The 19th Airlift Wing is commanded by Colonel Patrick J. Rhatigan. Its Command Chief Master Sergeant is Chief Master Sergeant Margarita Overton.


The 19th Airlift Wing is organized into a quad-group structure:

Plans, trains, and executes air and space power for operational levels of war.
  • 19th Maintenance Group
Performs all maintenance on assigned C-130 aircraft.
  • 19th Mission Support Group
Encompasses the support and logistic functions for the base. The group includes contracting, civil engineer, communications, security forces, force support and the logistic readiness squadrons.
  • 19th Medical Group
Provides responsive care and services to the base population and ensures a fit and medically ready active duty force.

The 19th Airlift Wing staff includes a variety of agencies that directly support the wing commander, group commanders and the base population.


The Wing's emblem, approved in 1936, shows a winged sword in front of the constellation of Pegasus, indicating both the striking force and navigation capability of the unit.


For additional history and lineage, see 19th Operations Group

The 19th Bombardment Wing was formed in 1948 from resources of the former North Guam Air Force Base Command (Provisional). The 19th BW, with the 19th Bomb group as its operational flying unit, operated Andersen AFB and maintained proficiency in B-29s. In May 1949, headquarters 20th Air Force moved from Guam to Kadena AB, Okinawa and its former staff was assigned to the 19th Bomb Wing.

At Andersen, the wing assumed responsibility for administering two active and one semi-active bases plus an assortment of communication, weather, radar, rescue and other facilities and units including the Marianas Air Material Area, a wing size unit. Many of the units and facilities were inactivated with a few months.

In October 1949, the 19th Wing again became subordinated to the 20th AF and the remaining units in the Marianas and Bonin Islands were transferred to other organizations. From 17 October 1949 until 28 June 1950, the wing continued B-29 training, operation of Anderson AFB and some rescue and reconnaissance missions.

Korean War

Korean War era emblem of the 19th Bombardment Wing

When the Korean War broke out in late June 1950, the 19th Bombardment Group was immediately detached from the Wing for combat operations from Kadena AB, Okinawa. From Kadena, the squadrons (28th, 30th 93d) attacked North Korean invasion forces. The first B-29 Superfortress unit in the war, the group on 28 June attacked North Korean storage tanks, marshalling yards, and armor. In the first two months, it flew more than six hundred sorties, supporting UN ground forces by bombing enemy troops, vehicles, and such communications points as the Han River bridges.

At Kadena, the group was initially under the operational control of Twentieth Air Force, after 8 July 1950, it was attached to FEAF Bomber Command (Provisional). Many of the aircraft flown by the 19th Bomb Group squadrons in combat were refurbished B-29s that were placed in storage after World War II, then brought back into operational service.

In the north, its targets included an oil refinery and port facilities at Wonsan, a railroad bridge at Pyongyang, and Yonpo Airfield. After United Nations ground forces pushed the communists out of South Korea, the 19th BG turned to strategic objectives in North Korea, including industrial and hydroelectric facilities. It also continued to attack bridges, marshalling yards, supply centers, artillery and troop positions, barracks, port facilities, and airfields.

In accordance with organizational change within the Strategic Air Command and later throughout the entire Air Force, the 19th Bomb Group was inactivated on 1 June 1953 and its squadrons assigned directly to the 19th Bomb Wing, which moved its headquarters to Kadena.

Cold War

19th Bombardment Wing Emblem

In May 1954, the Wing was reassigned from the Far East Air Force to Pinecastle AFB, Florida and Strategic Air Command, turning in its war-weary and obsolete B-29s at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, en route.

Replaced the propeller-driven B-29s with new B-47E Stratojet swept-wing bomber medium bombers in 1954, capable of flying at high subsonic speeds and primarily designed for penetrating the airspace of the Soviet Union. They were assigned to the 28th, 30th, and 93rd Bombardment Squadrons.

The wing also gained an air-refueling unit with the 100th Air Refueling Squadron which was attached to the wing from 2 February 1955 until 16 August 1956. In February 1956, the 19th Air Refueling Squadron was permanently assigned to the wing. Both flew Boeing KC-97 Stratotankers.

Early in 1955, the wing deployed to Sidi Slimane AB, French Morocco, January – April 1956, and to Ben Guerir Air Base, Morocco, May – July 1957. From July 1957 to April 1961, the wing maintained a portion of its tactical resources on overseas alert. Its B-47s were phased out of the SAC inventory beginning in 1960, sending the wing's last stratojet to Davis-Monthan AFB in 1961.

The 19th was transferred to Homestead AFB on 1 June 1956 from Pinecastle. At Homestead, the wing consisted of one squadron in Florida (28th BS), and four geographically dispersed squadrons:

  • 30th Bombardment Squadron (1956 – 1 January 1962, assigned to 4133d Strategic Wing, Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota)
  • 93d Bombardment Squadron (1956 – 1 August 1961, assigned to 4239th Strategic Wing, Kincheloe AFB, Michigan)
  • 525th Bombardment Squadron (9 January 1961 – 15 March 1961, assigned to 4136th Strageic Wing, Minot AFB, North Dakota)
  • 526th Bombardment Squadron (9 January 1961 – 1 June 1961, assigned to 4139th Strategic Wing, K. I. Sawyer AFB, Michigan)

19th ARW Emblem

The Wing converted to the B-52H Stratofortress and KC-135 aircraft in 1961–1962. However, most of its aircraft were reassigned. SAC was then in the process of establishing Strategic Wings and the 19th lost four squadrons to them. This left the 19th with one squadron of B-52Hs (29th BS). At Homestead, the wing won the Fairchild Trophy in the SAC bombing and navigation competition for 1966.

The 19th was moved without personnel or equipment to Robins AFB, GA, in mid-1968, it absorbed resources of the 465th Bombardment Wing and converted to the B-52G. At Robins, the 19th furnished B–52 Arc Light crews and KC–135 aircraft and crews supporting Yankee Team, Foreign Legion & Young Tiger Tanker Task Force and crews to other SAC organizations. In the Spring & summer of 1972, all assigned B-52G's aircraft & crews deplpyed to the Strategic Wing (Provisional) at Andersen AFB & it's KC-135A's Aircraft & crewd deployedd to the to the 376th Strategic Wing, at Kadena AB, Okinawa, involved in combat operations in Southeast Asia. In 1972, the wing deployed virtually all its aircraft and crews for combat operations, leaving headquarters at Robins minimally staffed. In November 1973, the wing returned from deployment and resumed normal operations. The 19th Bombardment Wing won the Omaha Trophy as the "Outstanding Wing in SAC" for 1981.

The 19th Bombardment Wing ceased operations, losing its B-52s and was redesignated as the 19th Air Refueling Wing (Heavy) on on 1 October 1983. The 19th ARW undertook worldwide aerial refueling missions for various operations and exercises and supported the Eielson (Alaskan); Andersen (Pacific); & Spannish (European) Tanker Task Forces. It flew aerial refueling missions supporting Grenada operations (Operation Urgent Fury), 23 – 24 October 1983. Beginning in 1984, it provided two EC-135 aircraft and crews to support the United States Central Command in Southwest Asia.

With conversion to KC-135R aircraft, the wing contuined supporting the Alaska, Pacific and Pacific Tanker Task Forces in 1988 and the Caribbean Tanker Task Force in March 1990. It flew aerial refueling missions for the invasion of Panama (Operation Just Cause), 18 – 21 December 1989 and deployed resources to Southwest Asia, August 1990 – March 1991, providing aerial refueling, cargo, and command, control and communications support.

It was redesignated the 19th Air Refueling Wing on 1 September 1991. The 19th Operations Group was activated at the same time as the flying component of the wing.

Modern era

From January 1992, it provided an EC-137 and crews to support the United States Special Operations Command, and from August 1992 the wing supported the Saudi Tanker Task Force. It provided air refueling support to NATO fighters in Bosnia in September – October 1995. Several KC-135R tankers deployed to Southwest Asia to support Operation Southern Watch, January – March 1996 and to Turkey for Operation Provide Comfort, April – June 1996.

On 1 July 1996, the 19th Air Refueling Wing was inactivated, and its functions turned over to its operations group, redesignated the 19th Air Refueling Group.

The 19th Air Refueling Group was inactivated in June 2008 as a result of realignment due to Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) 2005.

19th Airlift Wing

The 19th was reactivated at Little Rock Air Force Base in October 2008 as the 19th Airlift Wing. it is also the sponsor unit of Cadet Squadron 19 "Wolverines" at the United States Air Force Academy.


  • Established as 19 Bombardment Wing, Medium, on 10 August 1948
Activated on 17 August 1948
Redesignated: 19 Bombardment Wing, Heavy, on 1 July 1961
Redesignated: 19 Air Refueling Wing, Heavy, on 1 October 1983
Redesignated: 19 Air Refueling Wing on 1 September 1991
Inactivated on 1 July 1996.
  • Redesignated: 19th Airlift Wing on 18 September 2008
Activated on 1 October 2008.


Attached to Far East Air Forces Bomber Command, Provisional, 1 June 1953-c. 28 May 1954
Attached to 813th Air Division Provisional, 11 June-14 July 1954
Attached to 5th Air Division, 7 January-11 April 1956

Attached to 5th Air Division, 8 May-7 July 1957
Eighteenth Air Force (Air Forces Transportation), 1 October 2008–present






References for commands and major units assigned, components and stations:[1][2][3]

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

  1. Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-12-9
  2. Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
  3. Rogers, Brian (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, England: Midland Publications. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.
  • Crawford, Capt. William, Jr. and Ted Saucier. Gore and Glory – A Story of American Heroism. Philadelphia: David McKay Company, 1944.
  • Futrell, Robert Frank. The United States Air Force In Korea, 1950–1953. Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Office of Air Force History, 1983. ISBN 0-912799-71-4.
  • 19th Airlift Wing Factsheet

External links

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