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911 ARS “Red Eagles”

  • By 916 ARW/HO

On May 28, 1958, the 911th Air Refueling Squadron, Heavy, was constituted. Stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base beginning in December of 1958, it was a component of the 4241st Bomb Wing, Strategic Air Command. Flying KC-135 Stratotankers, it was one of many refueling squadrons solely created to fuel the enormous bomber fleet of SAC.


The 911th realigned from the 4241st to the 68th Bombardment Wing on April 15, 1963. Under the 68th, the 911th flew refueling missions in Southeast Asia, supporting B-52 missions over



For 27 years, the 911th flew the KC-135, until 1985, when the squadron converted to the new KC-10 Extender. Also in that year, the 911th consolidated with the 411th Bombardment Squadron. This consolidation ensured the heritage of the 411th, dating back to World War I, would remain alive. The 411th was inactivated following World War II April 15, 1946.


                It remained “on a shelf” until September 19, 1985, when it was consolidated with the newly created 911th Air Refueling Squadron. The 911th Air Refueling Squadron had been constituted on May 28, 1958, under the 4241st Strategic Wing at Seymour Johnson AFB. The 4241st was a Strategic Air Command wing flying B-52s and KC-135s. Having consolidated with the 411th, the 911th now absorbed the 411th’s history as its own, and the two will never be separated.


In December of 1989, the 911th flew KC-10s in support of Operation JUST CAUSE, the removal of

Manuel Noriega from Panama. On December 23, a 911th KC-10, commanded by Capt. William Flanigan, received a particularly distressing refuel call. An OA-37 Dragonfly had been flying close air support (CAS) sorties, assisting Special Forces, and was critically low on fuel. To enable the OA-37 to remain as close

as possible to the ongoing battle, Flanigan took the enormous KC-10 over hostile territory and refueled the OA-37. Remaining on site, orbiting above the CAS airspace, the KC-10 performed several more contacts, allowing the CAS sorties to continue uninterrupted.


                On April 29, 1994, the 911th returned to the KC-135 when it began flying at Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota. During its time with the 319th Air Refueling Wing, the 911th supported operations across the world, including Africa, the Balkans, Jordan, and counter-narcotics operations in Central and South America. At the same time, the unit’s emblem changed to remove the KC-10 imagery.


The 911th deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Southern Watch, performing

refueling operations across the coalition force. Throughout, over 20 million pounds of fuel were transferred. Again, in support of our allies, in 1999, the 911th ARS supported Joint Task Force Noble Anvil, the NATO operation to stabilize the dissolution and civil war in Yugoslavia.


                In 2007, the 911th returned to North Carolina, assigned to Seymour Johnson AFB, but this time, as the first Active Associate unit to a Reserve Wing. While operationally reporting to the 916th ARW, the 911th would administratively belong to the 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill AFB. In an effort by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force to increase efficiency and flexibility, the 916th and 911th became a test wing for the “Integrated Wing” (I-Wing) structure. This structure would streamline the hierarchy,

enabling direct control of the unit and its missions, under a more traditional structure.


                In May 2011, the 911th ARS became the first refueling squadron to not only refuel the F-

35, but also simultaneously support both the F-35 and F-22.


                By the end of 2020, the squadron’s personnel had dispersed across the Air Force, awaiting the arrival and operational readiness of the KC-46A. The Red Eagle is the nickname of the 911th Air Refueling Squadron. This represents part of the past and future, i.e., past being the KC-135 and

the future, the KC-10. The motto, "First in Flight," depicts the close relationship of the 911th ARS with the state of North Carolina, where the first powered flight took place.


(Letter to 911 ARS from James Martin, Governor, North Carolina. Source: 916 ARW/HO Archive)