News>Feature - Recounting the lineage of 91st Missile Wing
Missile crews in alert facilities like the one shown here support the mission of the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., to defend the United States by safely maintaining and securing a fleet of 150 Minuteman III missiles located in underground launch facilities scattered across the northwest part of North Dakota. The Minuteman weapon system has existed since the late 1950s, with a current force of 450 Minuteman III's on alert at three Air Force Global Strike Command bases. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The RB-45C Tornado jet bomber represents a part of the lineage that the 91st Missile Wing carries with it, dating all the way to before the Korean War. The 91st actually came into existence as the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing back in 1948 at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J. The Tornado played a vital role during the Korean War as both a bomber and a reconnaissance aircraft. (Courtesy photo)
Early 1950s maintainers from the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing pose next to an RB-45C Tornado. The jet bomber represents a part of the lineage that today’s 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., carries with it. The wing dates back to before the Korean War, coming into existence in 1948 at McGuire AFB, N.J. The Tornado played a vital role during the Korean War as both a bomber and a reconnaissance aircraft. (Courtesy photo)
by Airman 1st Class Jose L. Hernandez
5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
11/17/2010 - MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. (AFNS) -- Nov. 10 marked a birthday, the 62nd anniversary of Air Force Global Strike Command's 91st Missile Wing, a wing with lineage dating all the way back to before the Korean War.
Daniel DeForest, 91st MW historian, says it is a little complicated explaining the 91st MW lineage because, for historians, it's the story behind the wing's numbers that matters when talking about its history.
As a historian, part of Mr. DeForest's job is to research the wing's past and document its present actions and operations.
"When historians discuss the history of a particular wing, we actually like to talk about the history of the wing's number," he continued. "It's a little odd, but that is how things are."
It's important to understand a wing's number has a great significance, he said. For military buffs, a wing's number actually has a lot of meaning.
"The military keeps tabs on which units have the best track record in battle and in mission support," Mr. DeForest said. "As time rolls by, the numerals of the best-of-the-best units are kept alive by tradition."
Technically, he said, the number of the wing that is about to be deactivated could be transferred over to an existing wing, thus its lineage and past accomplishments remain alive. It's called a wing transfer without a move of personnel or equipment.
"A wing's number carries with it a symbol of honor and fortitude," he continued. "The 91st happens to represent and carry with it all its past accomplishments."
Mr. DeForest explained the 91st has not always represented the missile wing here.
"The 91st has been all over the place," he said. "It actually came into existence when it was activated as a strategic reconnaissance wing back in 1948 at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J."
He said its original mission was reconnaissance, aerial photography and mapping. As a reconnaissance wing it supported fly-over missions during the Korean War and it had record breaking accomplishments.
Mr. DeForest added, in 1951, at the outbreak of the Korean War, the wing sent a detachment of three RB-45C Tornados to Japan.
"While flying one of these aircraft, Major Louis H. Carrington, Jr. and his crew won the Mackay trophy for making the first trans-Pacific flight of a multi-engine jet bomber," Mr. DeForest said.
After the war, the wing remained low-key until it was re-designated as the 91st Bombardment Wing at Glasgow AFB, Montana.
"The wing was in charge overseeing B-52D Stratofortress aircraft," said Mr. DeForest. "The bombers deployed to Southeast Asia twice, in 1966 and 1968, conducting strategic and tactical bombing missions over Vietnam."
In June 1968, Strategic Air Command officials closed Glasgow AFB and relocated the wing to Minot AFB. The existing missile wing here, the 455th Strategic Missile Wing, was re-numbered the 91st.
"Despite the fact that technically the 91st was not always representative of a missile wing, it still carries the heritage of the past wings it represented," Mr. DeForest said. "The 91st has quite the reputation preceding it."
Since the 91st became part of Minot AFB, it has continued to live up to the heritage of all the units preceding it. It has earned eight Air Force outstanding unit awards as well as numerous Major Command and a number of Air Force-level awards.
Very few units in the Air Force have a legacy as notable as the 91st MW, said Col. Fred Stoss, 91st MW commander.
"Today, men and women in the 91st Missile Wing are proud to be a part of Air Force Global Strike Command, where together, we provide vital deterrence to potential aggressors as well as assurance to our allies," Colonel Stoss said.
11/30/2010 5:17:01 PM ET I spent five years in the 91st Missile Security Squadron. I have a lot of good and a few not so fond memories of the missile field. It was a great experience.
Retired MSgt SF, Texas
11/30/2010 9:10:26 AM ET God bless those 91MW Rough Riders. Missileers - Thank you for being on alert 24-7 365 days a year. We may never fully know your sacrifices but we are grateful nonetheless.
J. Page, Southwest USA
11/24/2010 10:47:11 AM ET The Nose art on the RB-45C Tornado in pic 3 of 3 is a nice touch.
JasonX, San Antonio TX
11/20/2010 10:09:48 PM ET Those missile bases kept us all safe.