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Wing activated one year after Air Force

1950s -- Flashing through the sky above a U.S. Air Force C-124 Globemaster, F-84G Thunderjets of the 27th Fighter Escort Wing arrive at a Japan Air Defense Force base in northern Japan after completing a trans-Pacific flight.  The F-84s flew 7,800 miles from their home base to Japan and set a new record for over-water flight by single engine fighter aircraft.  They flew the last 2,575 miles of their trip using in-flight refueling, October 1952. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Flashing through the sky above a C-124 “Globemaster,” F-84G “Thunderjets” of the 27th Fighter Escort Wing arrive at a Japan Air Defense Force base in northern Japan after completing a trans-Pacific flight in October 1952. The 446th Airlift Wing flew the C-124 from 1971-1972. (U.S. Air Force photo)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- From dropping bombs to dropping cargo and people, the 446th Airlift Wing carries honors bestowed as far back as World War II. 

The 446th AW can trace its roots back to the 446th Bombardment Group (Heavy) of the Eighth Air Force, which flew B-24 bombers over Europe in WW II. Constituted in 1943 as part of the Army Air Corps, the bomb group inactivated in 1945, re-activated in 1948, and was inactivated again in 1951. 

When the unit re-emerged in 1955, it was redesignated as a Reserve unit, the 446th Troop Carrier Group at Ellington AFB, Texas. The group was inactivated one more time, in 1972, and brought back in 1973 at McChord as the 446th Military Airlift Wing (Associate). Dropping one word, the wing became the 446th Airlift Wing in 1992. 

The 446th AW changed aircraft as often as it changed designations over the years. It has flown the C-45, C-46, C-119, C-130, RC-130, C-124, C-141, and today, the C-17. 

While flying the C-119 from 1957 to 1968, the group entered the space age by airdropping Gemini space capsule mock ups for NASA parachute recovery tests.
A switch to C-130s in 1968 saw the 446th TCG train many new crews, as well as ferrying C-130s to Asia. 

With the move to McChord in 1973, the wing began flying the C-141 Starlifter. 

For the next 25 years, the wing made it's bread and butter flying the C-141 in operations such as Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and missions of humanitarian aid for victims of hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters. It even came to the aid of a whale named Keiko. 

The Airmen of the wing also were key in the repatriation of servicemembers killed in past wars, bringing home 11 sets of remains from Vietnam and Korea in 1999 alone.
In addition, the wing has supported, and continues to support with the C-17, the National Science Foundation through re-supply missions into Antarctica. 

Many claims to being the first can be found in the wing's history. The 446th AW was the first Reserve unit to implement the air reserve technician program. It was also the first Reserve unit to train active duty Airmen, when it operated a combat crew training school from 1958 to 1972. 

Today, the 446th AW continues to contribute to Air Force history, to include the first Antarctica air drop, its role in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and through the professional Reservists across the wing.