2017 marks milestones for AF, 4 FW, 911 ARS

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. --

This year marks a significant milestone for the U.S. Air Force. The youngest branch of the armed forces will turn 70, Sept. 18.

The Air Force became an independent and separate service from the Army when President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947. The act also created the National Security Council, reformed the country’s intelligence agencies and modernized foreign policy following World War II.

The Air Force isn’t the only organization celebrating achievements in 2017 though. Right here at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, the 911th Air Refueling Squadron celebrated their 100th birthday and the 4th Fighter Wing will celebrate their 75th birthday this fall.

The 911th ARS is deemed one of the oldest squadrons in the Air Force. It traces its roots to the 16th Aero Squadron, which was activated May 15, 1917, under the U.S. Army, at Kelly Field, Texas. The squadron trained pilots in France during World War I with the Nieuport 27, Nieuport 80 and the Avro 504K.

In 1923, the squadron became the 21st Observation Squadron. In 1935, the squadron moved to Langley Field, Virginia and then later to Florida in 1939.

Notably, the 21st OS patrolled the Atlantic coastline after the Pearl Harbor attack in Hawaii, in December of 1941, to survey the area for warfare submarines.

In 1944, the squadron converted to the B-29 Superfortress and conducted bombing campaigns during World War II in the Pacific theater.

In more modern history, members of the squadron supported alert operations during the Cold War and contingency operations in Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM.

The squadron was first designated as the 911th ARS in May 1958, and was most recently reactivated in 2008 to fly the KC-135 Stratotanker in support of worldwide aerial refueling, cargo transport and aeromedical evacuation missions.

On Nov. 1, 2016, administrative control and command of the 911th ARS transferred to the 916th Operations Group, 916th Air Refueling Wing, becoming the first Integrated Wing in the U.S. Air Force.

An I-Wing is an in-garrison model designed to better leverage the strengths of active duty and reserve components while balancing capacity, capability, and readiness. I-Wing constructs are designed to reduce redundant organizations and chains of command in order to more effectively meet mission demands.

During the 2017 Wings Over Wayne Air Show, the 911th ARS was recognized for their long and varied history in support of our nation.

In September, the 4th FW will host a weekend of events including a dinner, heritage aircraft static displays, a 50-year-old time capsule unveiling, a golf tournament, the Battle of Britain ceremony and base tours to celebrate the 75th anniversary and achievements of the wing throughout history.

The 4th Fighter Group was activated Sept. 29, 1942 in Debden, England during World War II, five years before the Air Force became an autonomous branch of the armed forces. The Eagle Squadrons consisted of American volunteers, until the 4th FG became part of the Army Air Corps and drafted members.

They began to fly P-51 Mustangs in February 1944 and are credited as the top scoring Allied fighter group of WWII. The group was the first to infiltrate airspace over Germany and collectively destroyed 1,016 enemy aircraft.

In March 1949, the group transitioned to the F-86 Sabre aircraft and flew missions during the Korean War. Once again, the 4th was designated the top fighter unit during that conflict, having destroyed 502 enemy aircraft.

The 336th Fighter Squadron became the first operational F-15E Strike Eagle squadron in 1989, and in 1991, the 4th FW became the first fully operational Strike Eagle wing in the entire Air Force.

The F-15E is a dual-role fighter designed to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. The Strike Eagle has fought in many operations, including, DESERT STORM, SOUTHERN WATCH, ENDURING FREEDOM, ANACONDA, IRAQI FREEDOM AND INHERENT RESOLVE.

The 4th FW has been commanded by many noteworhty officers, including Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager, the first person to travel faster than the speed of sound. He also travelled with the wing to Korea when the U.S.S. Pueblo was seized by North Korea in 1968. The wing was also commanded by then Col. Jeannie Leavitt, the first female to lead an active duty Air Force fighter wing and the Air Force’s first female fighter pilot.

Today the wing’s Airmen support operations across the globe, upholding our mission is to provide dominant Strike Eagle airpower … anytime, anywhere.

"The heritage of our wing is impressive. We have accomplished so much over the years. I am incredibly honored to be the commander during the year of our 75th anniversary," said Col. Christopher Sage, current 4th Fighter Wing commander. "We will celebrate this milestone with current and former 4th Fighter Wing heroes. Be on the lookout for more information about our upcoming weekend of heritage events in September. Fourth but first!"