434th ARW marks 50 years at Grissom

  • Published
  • By Brian Knowles
  • 434th ARW Historian

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the 434th ARW being established at Grissom Air Reserve Base.

The 434th moved to Grissom from Bakalar Air Force Base, near Columbus, Ind., on Jan. 15, 1971.

Lineage of the 434th ARW “Hoosier Wing” dates back to Oct. 1, 1942, when it was founded as the 434th Base Headquarters and Air Base Squadron, formed at Mitchel Field, New York.

On Jan. 30, 1943, the unit was renamed 434th Troop Carrier Group. The headquarters staff were stationed at Alliance Army Air Base, Nebraska, to receive C-47 Skytrain transports, tasked to train personnel and to form the 71st, 72nd, 73rd, and 74th Troop Carrier Squadrons, all focused on airborne and glider-towing operations.

The unit’s tasking during World War II, directed by the U.S. Army Air Forces consisted of a litany of tasks: drop glider-troops in the Normandy (D-Day) invasion, provide supplies to Patton’s Third Army as it raced across France, deploy glider-troops again in Operation Market Garden (Netherlands), airdrop troops in Operation Varsity (Germany), and to conduct air supply and aeromedical evacuation operations throughout Europe.

After World War II, the 434th TCG was inactivated but just a few years later reestablished and stationed as an Air Force Reserve unit at Stout Field, Ind. and then at Atterbury Air Force Base, Indiana, which became Bakalar.

The 434th TRG was called to active service for the Korean War, Cuban Missile Crisis, and Vietnam. Soon after returning from Vietnam, the TCG was inactivated on Dec. 31, 1969.

On Jan. 15, 1971, then known as the 434th Tactical Airlift Wing, the 434th TAW was reestablished at Grissom as a special operations unit, acquiring the A-37 Dragonfly fighter-bomber, the O-2 Skymaster, a forward air controller observation aircraft, and U-3A Blue Canoe a liaison, cargo, and utility transport aircraft. The wing was renamed the 434th Tactical Fighter Wing in 1973.

The first KC-135 Stratotankers to arrive at Grissom were assigned in 1959, when Strategic Air Command units were housed at then Bunker Hill Air Force Base, Ind.

On May 11, 1968, Bunker Hill AFB was renamed Grissom AFB, in honor of astronaut and Air Force test-pilot Lt. Col. Virgil I. ‘Gus’ Grissom.

In April of 1981, the 434th TFW received the A-10 Thunderbolt II and close-air-support mission. They kept that mission until July 1987, when the wing was redesignated 434th Air Refueling Wing, subsequently swapping the A-10s for KC-135s.

The 434th ARW was called to active service for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm between 1990 and 1991, joining air refueling forces supporting coalition air combat operations. The wing performed more than 7,000 refueling missions and offloaded fuel to more than 25,000 receiving aircraft.

In June 1992, the 434th ARW and the 930th Tactical Fighter Group, another Air Force Reserve unit at Grissom, merged to form the first ever reserve composite wing. This new unit, the 434th Wing, consisted of KC-135 and A-10 aircraft. It conducted combined aerial refueling and close air support missions. The 930th TFG was renamed the 930th Operations Group.

The Hoosier Wing lost the A-10 aircraft with the inactivation of the 930th OG on Sept. 30, 1994. The 434th Wing’s designation was returned to 434th ARW Oct. 1, 1994.

At the same time, on Oct. 1, 1994, the official name change of Grissom Air Force Base to Grissom Air Reserve Base occurred.

Realignment of the base under the Air Force Reserve transformed its role and the size of the base. The 434th ARW became the host unit, consolidating base and wing responsibilities. Active duty personnel were transferred or retired, while active units were inactivated or transferred.

The cantonment of Grissom was reduced to 1,265 acres. More than 2,000 acres of former base area was set aside for civilian use. The reduction in acreage and personnel meant the closure of many base facilities, including the service station, base theater, exchange, commissary and the chapel.

The inactivation of the 930th OG, permanent departure of active attachments and squadrons, and the base’s name change led to comments such as, “Grissom closed in the 90s, etc.” Some residents still believe the base is closed.

Contrary to these misconceptions, Grissom and the 434th ARW remain a fixture in the area.
In the past 50 years, Grissom and the 434th ARW have created a long and distinguished history in which all Airmen and Americans can be proud.