by Maj. James R. Wilson
939th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
7/14/2006 - PORTLAND AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ore. -- The first KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft from the 939th Air Refueling Wing departs Portland International Airport today, marking the beginning of a change in mission for the Air Force Reserve unit.
Under the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process, all eight of the refueling aircraft and 900 authorized positions will leave Oregon to realign the 939th ARW's mission. Members and equipment assigned to the operations and maintenance units will leave by Sept. 30, 2007. The executive staff and mission support group will remain until Sept. 30, 2010.
"Members of the 939th Air Refueling Wing have contributed to America's defense in ways many of us never imagined when the mission changed to air refueling three years ago," said Col. William N. Flanigan, wing commander. "There were many Herculean efforts that made a positive impact on the Air Force mission. We can and should be very proud of that.
"This is obviously a trying time for many people in the 939th," Colonel Flanigan said. "There are a number of emotions involved, but ultimately our reservists will see this time as the precursor to new opportunities and reap the rewards the changes will offer them."
The wing's lineage will live on, although it will take a different shape, in the future. Officials expect to establish 75 full-time and 400 traditional reservist authorizations by October 2010 to support the Reserve's growing space program. The tentative plan is for the 939th ARW's new mission to be located at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
"The story of the 939th will continue here at Oregon and later as part of the Air Force Space Command," said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Steinbach, the wing command chief master sergeant. "This change, while substantial, cannot affect what the 939th represents -- strength, honor and courage. Those values are at the very core of the 939th."
The Air Force Reserve will maintain a presence in Portland after the flying mission is gone. Along with the 939th ARW executive staff and mission support group, Portland International Airport remains home to the 304th Rescue Squadron. The 304th RQS, an organization of approximately 100 members, performs both civil and combat rescue operations by air, land and sea.