As North Carolina’s first Air Force Reserve flying wing, the 916th Air Refueling Wing has a rich and growing history in the Goldsboro area; however, its real history started more than 70 years ago.
The 77th Air Refueling Squadron, the wing’s reserve flying unit, dates back to World War II. The number 916 was first assigned to a Troop Carrier Group, deactivated at Carswell AFB, Texas, in 1972.
Reincarnated as a refueling group, the 916th was a reserve associate unit flying KC-10 Extenders with the 4th Fighter Wing. They were called to active-duty for Operations Desert Storm, Desert Shield and Proud Return, offloading more fuel than any other Air Force refueling unit.
On Oct. 1, 1995, the group, now a wing, officially gained an independent refueling and airlift mission with KC-135R Stratotankers. Concurrently, the tanker mission became part of the Air Mobility Command.
The conversion process was completed in April 1997 when the 916th Air Refueling Wing officially became mission-ready. The Air Force and Air Force Reserve tested the mettle of Reserve Airmen even before the unit was online.
The wing was tapped to refuel domestic and global exercise and operational flights; they flew cargo and passenger missions in support of Operation Joint Endeavor (Bosnia) and both Atlantic and Pacific supply missions. They were also alerted for short-notice missions; crews stood alert duty for several days, ready to support U.S. military response in Southwest Asia.
Early in the conversion process, the Reserve wing supported refueling and airlift for 4th Fighter Wing F-15E deployments, including hurricane evacuations and off-station exercises. During Operation Allied Force, volunteer aircrews and support personnel served for nearly four weeks, providing air refueling support for strike and surveillance aircraft. More than
3.5 million pounds of fuel were passed to a wide variety of allied aircraft.
The 916th’s aircraft are the most recent version of the predecessor to Boeing’s 707 airliner and sport new CFM-56 turbofan engines equivalent to the newest commercial power plants. New on-board auxiliary power units allow the Stratotankers to take off from remote airfields without ground support. The latest modification to the KC-135R was completed in spring 2000. Called Pacer CRAG — for Compass, Radar and Global Positioning System— it adds flight control systems equal to modern commercial airliners. Pacer CRAG will extend the life of these vintage aircraft for many years to come.
Today, more than 350 full-time civilians and Air Reserve technicians and 1,000 Reservists work diligently to continue the mission of the 916th Air Refueling Wing. Hundreds of Airmen of this Tar Heel state unit have deployed in support of Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom, New Dawn, Odyssey Dawn and Inherent Resolve.
With the Base Realignment and Closure Act, announced in 2005, the 916th gained eight additional tankers and more than 280 active-duty personnel as the first KC-135R Active Associate Wing in Air Force history.
As an Active Associate, the 916th earned four trophies in 2009 at Air Mobility Command’s Rodeo competition, to include Best Tanker Wing. In early 2010, the 911th Air Refueling Squadron was named the Best Tanker Squadron in Air Mobility Command after only being established with the 916th for two years. In late 2010, the wing was named Best Air Force Reserve Unit by the Air Force Association. In 2013, the 916th Operations Group was awarded the Airlift/Tanker Association’s
Lt. Gen. James E. Sherrard III Award.
With reservists and active-duty Airmen coming from various counties across North Carolina and multiple states across the U.S., they dedicate their weekends and time off from civilian jobs in order to serve their country.
Working in the operations group, mission support group, maintenance group, aerospace medicine squadron and wing headquarters, our Airmen are able to deliver rapid, global mobility — on time, every time!