Air Commando & Special Operations History
Historical dates of Air Commandos/Special Operations 1943-Present:
- August 1943. Gen. Hap Arnold, Chief of the Army Air Forces, establishes Project 9 under the command of Col Phil Cochran. This unit was later called the 5318th Provisional Unit(Air). This unit would later be ordered to provide air support to British special forces 200 miles behind Japanese lines in Burma.
- October 1943. Eglin AFB Auxiliary Field No. 9 is renamed Hurlburt Field.
- March 1944. The 5318th Provisional Unit(Air) is renamed the 1st Air Commando Group and is based in India. Transferred to the US the group disbands Oct. 8, 1948.
- April 1961. The Air Commando legacy is revived when Gen Curtis Lemay, Air Force Chief of Staff, creates the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron under the command of BG(then Col)Ben King. The purpose of the unit was Kennedy's grand strategy to counter Soviet-sponsored insurgents.
- November 1961. Detachment 1 of the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron deploys to Bien Hoa Air Base, South Vietnam to fly the first US combat mission there under the auspicies of a training mission.
- March 1962. The 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron is redesignated the 4400th Combt Crew Training Group.
- April 1962. The USAF Special Warfare Center, under the command of BG Pritchard, is established at Eglin AFB, FL
- June 1963. The 4400th Combat Crew Training Group is redesignated the 1st Air Commando Wing.
- July 1968. The 1st Air Commando Wing is redesignated as the 1st Special Operations Wing. This was equivalent to a numbered air force and was brought on because of the increased Air Commando activity at the height of the Vietnam War.
- July 1974. The Air Force Special Operations Force and the 1st Special Operation Wing are merged and redesignated the 834th Tactical Composite Wing.
- July 1975. The 834th Tactical Composite Wing is renamed the 1st Special Opeations Wing.
- April 1980. The 1st Special Operations Wing's participation in the effort to rescue US hostages in Iran ends in disaster when two aircraft collide on the ground. The disaster sparks intense congressional interest in revitalizing special operations.
- March 1983. Control of Air Force special operaitons is transferred from the then-Tactical Air Command at Langely AFB, VA to the Military Airlift Command at Scott AFB, IL. The 23rd Air Force is created at Scott AFB takes control of special operations.
- October 1983. Air Force Special Operations units participate in the invasion of Grenada.
- April 1987. US Special Operations Command is established at MacDill AFB, FL.
- August 1987. The headqwuarters for the 23rd Air Force moves from Scott
FB to Hurlburt Field, FL.
- December 1989. Air Force special operations units participate in the invasion of Panama.
- May 1990. The 23rd Air Force is redesignated as the Air Force Special Operations Command with headquarters at Hurlburt Field, FL.
- August 1990. Air Force special operations begin particition in the Iraqui War. During the war a AC-130H Spectre gunship from the 1st Special Operations Wing is shot down killing its 14-person crew, the biggest single loss suffered by a single unit in the war.
- June 1991. The 353rd Specail Operations Wing, which controls AF special operations in the Pacific region, relocates from Clark AB in the Phillipines to Kadena AB in Japan after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo.
- January 1992. The 39th Special Operations Wing, which controls AF special operations forces in Europe, is relocated from Rhein Main AB in Germany to Royal Air Force Base Alconbury, England. Later that year, the wing is redesignated the 352nd Special Operations Wing.
- July 1992. Special operations units begin participation in operations Provide Promise and Deny Flight in the former Yugoslavia.
- October 1992. Hurlburt AFB is transferred form the Military Airlift Command to the Air Force Special Operations Command, making it the only base controlled by the command.
- December 1992. Both overseas special operations wings are redesignated as special operations groups. In addition, special operations units participate in Operation Restore Hope and later operations Continue Hope and United Shield in Somalia. Their participation ends in March 1995.
- October 1993. The 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt AFB, the only active duty special operations wing, is renamed the 16th Special Operations Wing.
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