|91st Missile Wing|
|Branch||U.S. Air Force|
|Size||150 Minuteman III missiles|
290 officers, 1,500 enlisted members and 25 civilian employees
|Part of||Twentieth Air Force|
Air Force Global Strike Command
United States Strategic Command
|Garrison/HQ||Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota|
|Motto(s)||Poised For Peace|
|Decorations||Air Force Outstanding Unit Award|
|Colonel Kenneth McGhee|
|91st Missile Wing emblem (approved 21 November 1994)|
|91st Bombardment Wing emblem (approved c. 23 August 1963)|
|91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing emblem (approved 23 December 1952)|
The 91st Missile Wing is a United States Air Force unit assigned to the Air Force Global Strike Command Twentieth Air Force. It is stationed at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota as a tenant unit.
The 91 MW is one of the Air Force's three intercontinental ballistic missile wings. The missile wing, whose members are known as the Rough Riders, is responsible for defending the United States by maintaining a fleet of 150 Minuteman III missiles and 15 Launch Control Centers located in underground facilities scattered across the northwest part of the state. The wing's missile complex stretches over 8,500 square miles—approximately the same size as Massachusetts.
The wing's on-alert missiles are under the operational control of the nation's strategic war-fighting command, U.S. Strategic Command, based at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.
The wing's predecessor, the World War II 91st Bombardment Group (Heavy) was a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress unit formed at MacDill Field, Florida and subsequently stationed with Eighth Air Force in England. It was one of the first United States Army Air Forces (AAF) heavy bombardment groups deployed to Europe in 1942. The 91st Bomb Group was stationed at RAF Bassingbourn and is most widely known as the unit in which the bomber Memphis Belle flew, and for having suffered the greatest number of losses of any heavy bombardment group in World War II.
As part of Strategic Air Command (SAC), the 91st wing was one of SAC's longest-lasting and most versatile wings. It was a strategic reconnaissance wing from 1948 to 1957 and a B-52 bombardment wing from 1963 to 1968. Its men flew virtually every plane in the SAC inventory. It became a missile wing in June 1968. On 1 July 2008 it was designated as the 91st Missile Wing.
The 91st Missile Wing is commanded by Colonel Glenn T. Harris and its Command Chief Master Sergeant is Chief Master Sergeant Garrett W. Langston.
The wing's major organizations include:
The wing headquarters includes several special staff functions, such as plans and inspections, financial management, and safety.
The 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing was constituted 11 October 1948 and activated 10 November at McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey as one of the first wings organized under the United States Air Force wing base reorganization (Hobson Plan). Under this plan, it was assigned the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Group, which had been at McGuire for four months, as its operational element. The wing and group moved to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana in 1949. RB-29J bombers were assigned to the wing and its primary mission was global strategic reconnaissance. The group was inactivated in June 1952 when Strategic Air Command converted to the Dual Deputate organization. Under this plan flying squadrons reported to the wing Deputy Commander for Operations and maintenance squadrons reported to the wing Deputy Commander for Maintenance. The squadrons had been attached to the wing and the group reduced to a paper unit in February 1951.
In 1950 the wing began receiving air refueling aircraft, first modified KB-29s, then the Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter. In 1950, the 91st has redesignated the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Medium. At Barksdale, its wing headquarters was integrated with that of the 301st Bombardment Wing from April 1950 to February 1951. Although each wing conducted independent tactical operations, both were commanded by the same headquarters. The wing detached components for up to three months, primarily to England, and maintained detachments from other units, to provide ongoing reconnaissance of overseas areas.
On 11 September 1951, the Wing' moved to Lockbourne Air Force Base, Ohio from Barksdale. The mission of the 91st SRW was to provide aerial reconnaissance and mapping services. It was equipped with aircraft fitted with cameras to perform this mission, including B/RB-45 and the B/YRB-47.
When the wing moved to Lockbourne, a detachment of the wing deployed to Yokota Air Base, Japan, performing combat reconnaissance for Far East Air Forces over the Korean Peninsula flying with RB-29 Superfortresses. Over North Korea, RB-29s were confronted daily by People's Liberation Army Air Force MiG-15s and were no longer able to perform reconnaissance, targeting, and bomb-damage assessment photography with impunity.
The RB-45C unit was attached to the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron and began flying reconnaissance missions over northwestern Korea. The RB-45Cs were able to evade the MiGs for several months, but on 9 April 1951 one of the RB-45Cs had a close call and was barely able to escape a numerically superior enemy. At that time, it was decided that RB-45s could no longer go into northwestern Korea without fighter escort. Another close call on 9 November 1951 caused the RB-45s to be restricted from entering northwestern Korean airspace in daylight even when fighter escort was available. In January 1952, the 91st Squadron was ordered to convert to night operations. Some RB-45Cs have painted all black so that they would not show up on enemy searchlights. However, the RB-45s were not well suited for night photography because the aircraft buffeted too badly when the forward bomb bay doors were opened to drop flash bombs. The RB-45s were withdrawn from the Korean theatre shortly thereafter, bringing the Korean experience with the RB-45 to an end.[dubious ]
On 29 July 1952, one of the wing's RB-45C commanded by Major Louis H. Carrington made the first nonstop trans-Pacific flight by a multi-engine jet aircraft. The aircraft flew from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska to Yokota Air Base in Japan. Major Carrington refueled twice from KB-29s along the way. This feat earned the crew the 1952 Mackay Trophy for the most meritorious USAF flight of the year.
On 4 July 1952 an RB-29A Superfortress of the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron was shot down by MiGs, possibly over China or extreme northern Korea. Eleven out of the 13 aircrew became prisoners of war.
The wing won the SAC reconnaissance, photographic, and navigation competition and the P. T. Cullen Award in 1955 and 1956. From Aug to November 1956 most of the wing deployed overseas in detachments to North Africa, Newfoundland and Greenland. These detachments were not under the operational control of the small establishment remaining at Lockbourne.
The wing was inactivated in November 1957.
4141st Strategic Wing
The origins of the wing as a bomber organization began on 1 September 1958 when Strategic Air Command (SAC) established the 4141st Strategic Wing (SW) at Glasgow Air Force Base, Montana. Glasgow was a World War II training airfield which had been reopened the previous year as an Air Defense Command base for interceptor aircraft of the 476th Fighter Group, which was the host unit at Glasgow. SAC assigned the wing to Fifteenth Air Force, and it was transferred to the 821st Air Division in July 1959, but remained a headquarters only until April 1960 when the increasing role of SAC at Glasgow in connection with SAC's plan to disperse its Boeing B-52 Stratofortress heavy bombers over a larger number of bases (making it more difficult for the Soviet Union to knock out the entire fleet with a surprise first strike) led to the transfer of the base to SAC. The 4141st became the host at Glasgow and was assigned the 4141st Combat Support Group and the 861st Medical Group to fulfil this mission.
The wing did not become an operational unit until 1961. In January the 68th Munitions Maintenance Squadron was activated to oversee the wing's special weapons. In April three maintenance squadrons were activated and the 326th Bombardment Squadron (BS), consisting of 15 Boeing B-52 Stratofortresses moved to Glasgow from Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington where it had been one of the three squadrons of the 92d Bombardment Wing. One third of the wing's aircraft were maintained on fifteen-minute alert, fully fueled, armed and ready for combat to reduce vulnerability to a Soviet missile strike. This was increased to half the wing's aircraft in 1962. The 4141st (and later the 91st) continued to maintain an alert commitment until inactivation except for periods when the wing deployed to support Operation Arc Light missions. On 1 July 1962 the wing was reassigned to the 810th Air Division (later the 810th Strategic Aerospace Division). However, SAC Strategic Wings could not carry a permanent history or lineage and SAC looked for a way to make its Strategic Wings permanent.
91st Bombardment Wing
In 1962, in order to perpetuate the lineage of many currently inactive bombardment units with illustrious World War II records, Headquarters SAC received authority from Headquarters USAF to discontinue its Major Command controlled (MAJCON) strategic wings that were equipped with combat aircraft and to activate Air Force controlled (AFCON) units, most of which were inactive at the time which could carry a lineage and history. As a result, the 4141st SW was replaced by the 91st Bombardment Wing, Heavy (91st BW), which assumed its mission, personnel, and equipment on 1 February 1963.[note 2] In the same way the 322d Bombardment Squadron, one of the unit's World War II historical bomb squadrons, replaced the 326th BS. The 861st Medical Group and the 68th Munitions Maintenance Squadron were reassigned to the 91st. Component support units were replaced by units with 91st numerical designation of the newly established wing. Each of the new units assumed the personnel, equipment, and mission of their predecessors. Four months later, the wing added an air refueling mission when the 907th Air Refueling Squadron, equipped with Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers was activated at Glasgow.
The 91st Bombardment Wing continued to conduct strategic bombardment training and air refueling operations to meet operational commitments of Strategic Air Command. From 11 September 1966 to 31 March 1967 the entire wing, except for a small rear echelon, was integrated into the Operation Arc Light force at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam for combat in Southeast Asia. From 5 February to 15 April 1968, the wing deployed to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa in response to the Pueblo Incident.
By 1968, Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) had been deployed and become operational as part of the United States' strategic triad, and the need for B-52s had been reduced. In addition, funds were also needed to cover the costs of combat operations in Indochina. The 91st Bombardment Wing became nonoperational in May 1968 when Glasgow was temporarily closed and the wing's component units were inactivated in July.
On 25 June 1968, the wing moved to Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. There it was redesignated the 91st Strategic Missile Wing and absorbed the mission, personnel, and LGM-30A Minuteman I missiles of the inactivating 455th Strategic Missile Wing. There it maintained its strategic missiles in a state of operational readiness,
The first LGM-30G Minuteman III missile to arrive in the field was accepted by the 91st Strategic Missile Wing on 14 April 1970. The following August, the first Minutemen IIIs were placed on alert status. By December 1971, the switchover to the new missile was completed. With the inactivation of SAC in 1992, the wing became part of Air Combat Command.
The wing was a five-time winner of the Blanchard Trophy awarded by SAC and later Air Force Space Command for the winner of the combat missile competition. It also won the Lee R. Williams Memorial Missile Trophy five times as the command's best missile wing and the Thomas S. Moorman Trophy as Space Command's outstanding wing in 1996.
On 1 July 1994, along with other missile units, the wing was transferred to AF Space Command. On 1 October 1997, it was redesignated as the 91st Space Wing. On 1 July 2008, it was once again designated the 91st Missile Wing. Along with Twentieth Air Force, the wing transferred from Air Force Space Command to Air Force Global Strike Command in December 2009.
In 2009 two missile officers, were charged with stealing classified missile launch technology. The classified material- a device used to detect equipment tampering in the launch facility, was taken in July 2005. The theft came to light in May 2008. The officers were allowed to resign from the Air Force in lieu of facing courts martial.
On 14 October 2009 the wing commander, as well as the 91st Maintenance Group commander, and 91st Missile Maintenance Squadron commander, were relieved of command by the commander of Twentieth Air Force for loss of confidence in their ability to command. The reliefs followed incidents including the crash of a truck carrying missile components on 31 August 2009, a similar truck crash in July 2008, and a failed wing nuclear surety inspection. Colonel Ferdinand Stoss was named the new wing commander; he had previously been serving as vice commander of the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming.[note 3]
In May 2013, press reports indicated that the wing had been rated "marginal" when tested on Minuteman III launch operations. A USAF spokesperson characterized this as the equivalent of a "D" grade in school. Lt. Col. Jay Folds, deputy commander of the 91st Operations Group described the unit as "in a crisis." Seventeen missile launch officers were removed from duty as a result of their performance in this evaluation. In addition, another officer faced potential disciplinary action for intentionally violating nuclear safety rules that had the potential to compromise launch codes for the wing's missiles.
Assigned Operational Squadrons
Attached Operational Squadrons
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||8 September 1953 – 8 November 1957||91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||1 July 1965 – 30 June 1966||91st Bombardment Wing|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||1 July 1966 – 30 June 1967||91st Bombardment Wing|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||1 February 1968 – 1 March 1968||91st Bombardment Wing|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||2 March 1968 – 15 April 1968||91st Bombardment Wing|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||1 July 1972 – 30 June 1973||91st Strategic Missile Wing|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||1 July 1976 – 30 June 1978||91st Strategic Missile Wing|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||1 July 1978 – 30 June 1980||91st Strategic Missile Wing|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||1 September 1993 – 30 August 1995||91st Missile Wing (later 91st Missile Group)|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||1 September 1995 – 31 August 1997||91st Missile Group (later 91st Missile Wing)|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||1 October 1998 – 30 September 2000||91st Space Wing|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||1 October 2000 – 1 October 2001||91st Space Wing|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||1 January 2002 – 31 December 2002||91st Space Wing|