920th Rescue Wing marks 60th year since activation

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Ian Phillips, 920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs

January 15, 2023, marks the 60th anniversary of the birth of the lineage of the 920th Rescue Wing in the United States Air Force Reserve.

The wing has a storied history that began in Memphis, Tennessee, as the 920th Troop Carrier Group, Assault, on Jan. 15, 1963. As an independent group of the 445th Troop Carrier Wing, the 920th was originally established and activated to perform military transports of personnel and equipment using the C-123 Provider cargo aircraft.

As a result of Air Force organizational changes in 1965 the wing was inactivated. On April 25, 1973, the wing was once again activated into the Air Force Reserve as the 920th Tactical Airlift Group at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, with the same airlift mission as before but with the new WC-130 cargo aircraft. Mission changes redesignated the 920th Tactical Airlift Group into the 920th Weather Reconnaissance Group. Under their parent wing, the 403d Weather and Reconnaissance Wing, the 920th gained credibility as "Hurricane Hunters" with the added mission of rescue operations.

The 920th remained in this role until Nov. 1, 1983, when they were once again inactivated. However, Air Force Reserve Command's consolidation of the rescue missions required a new group to be activated and the 920th reactivated again on April 15, 1997, as the 920th Rescue Group, paralleled with the 943d Rescue Group under the parent 939th Rescue Wing in Portland, Oregon. As a result, the 920th gained control of the 39th and 301st Rescue Squadrons with HH-60 helicopters and C-130 aircraft.

In 2003, the Air Force determined that U.S. Air Force Rescue should be a stand-alone mission, and the 920th RQG was redesignated the 920th Rescue Wing on April 1, 2003, stationed at Patrick AFB, Florida. The wing inherited all of Air Force Reserve Command's rescue mission, including the 943d RQG and their subordinate squadrons, the 304th and 305th Rescue Squadrons, in 2005. Simultaneously, the pararescue personnel were removed from the flying squadrons and assigned their own independent function. Thus, the 306th and 308th Rescue Squadrons were activated.

The 920th RQW is the only Air Force Reserve Command unit with a mission to search for, locate and recover U.S. Armed Forces personnel during military operations. Air Force rescue is the only DoD entity specifically organized, trained, and equipped to conduct personnel recovery operations into hostile or denied areas as a primary mission.

The wing is comprised of 24 subordinate groups and squadrons, including three geographically separated units: the 943d RQG at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, the 304th RQS in Portland, Oregon, and the 920th Aerospace Medicine Flight at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.