6th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing

6th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing

In July 1960, the Strategic Air Command stationed the 4157th Combat Support Group (later Strategic Wing) at Eielson. The 6th Strategic Wing (6 SW) replaced the 4157 SW on 25 March 1967, relocating from Walker Air Force Base, New Mexico after its closure. On 1 April 1988 the 6th SW was renamed the 6th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing (6th SRW)

The 6th SRW flew RC–135 strategic reconnaissance missions with an assigned squadron, and, with KC–135s deployed to Eielson from SAC, AFRES, and the ANG, conducted Alaska Task Force (ATTF) missions to support reconnaissance and numerous exercises for the Air Force and Navy.

In winter 1962, an Eielson KC-135 crashed on takeoff, killing the crew, two passengers, and one person on the ground. The accident was thought to be a result of pilot vertigo caused by ice fog.

From April 1968 to July 1972 the wing periodically served as the airborne monitor of the Alaskan ballistic missile early warning station. The wing maintained a detachment at Shemya AFS, in the Aleutians, and operated from there.

The Wing won the P.T. Cullen Award for greatest contributions to the photo and signal intelligence efforts of Strategic Air Command, 1973, 1978, and 1983. The 24th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron left Eielson AFB on 7 Jul 1992. The mission of the 6th SRW and assigned aircraft were transferred to the 55th Wing at Offutt AFB, Nebraska.

Notable events at Eielson during the 6th SRW's tenure were:

* 5 June 1969 - Rivet Amber, an RC-135E assigned to Eielson, crashed in the Bering Sea minutes after leaving Shemya Air Force Base. Nineteen crewmembers died. Amber Hall, the headquarters building at Eielson, was named for the crew a year later.

* 1 February 1959 - Captain Perry Amidon, suspecting the aircraft he was in to be out of control, ejected from the B-58 Hustler at 24,000 feet. The aircraft’s pilot thought otherwise, however, and landed the plane at Eielson a few minutes later. The uninjured Captain Amidon, flew back to base about an hour later in a helicopter.

* 21 April 1964 - A WB-47 belonging to Detachment 1 of the 55th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron crashed on takeoff. Three of the five crewmembers died in the accident.

* 30 September 1965 - An Eielson helicopter crew rescued two Baptist ministers after their light plane crashed between Nome and Moses Point. Throughout the 1960s, Eielson crews averaged several rescues each year.

* 17 November 1967 - The quick response of the 5010th Combat Support Group to the Chena River flood (12 August21 August 1967) and the subsequent help provided to Fairbanks and other communities led to the 5010th’s third Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.

* 8 July 1971 - When Lieutenant Colonel James O. Swanson became commander of the reincarnated 25th Tactical Air Support Squadron, he had a borrowed desk, a telephone, and a promise for nine aircraft and accompanying personnel. It took two months to get the first O-2A "Mosquito," and the unit’s complement of 14 officers and eight NCOs would not be complete until June 1972.

* 9 December 1974 - An O-2A, assigned to the 25th Tactical Air Support Squadron at Eielson, crashed while on a routine training mission on the Fort Greely training area near Delta Junction. The pilot and co-pilot were both killed.

* 29 November 1975 - President Gerald R. Ford stopped at Eielson en route to China. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger accompanied Ford, only the second President to visit Interior Alaska and the first to tour Eielson.

* 7 December 1975 - All crewmembers died when a KC-135 assigned to Plattsburgh AFB in New York crashed after takeoff from Eielson.
* February 1977 - Cold weather testing of the A-10 aircraft took place through the end of the month. As part of the test, the aircraft participated in the "Jack Frost" exercise also hosted by the base.

* 12 January 1979 - Five-hundred Eielsonites braved sub-zero temperatures to view the Air Force's newest aircraft, the as yet unnamed F-16, present for cold weather testing.

On 22 December 1993 the 6th was redesignated the 6th Air Base Wing and activated on 4 January 1994 at MacDill AFB Florida with a primary mission of supporting two unified commands, U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Central Command. On 1 October 1996 the wing returned to its flying mission and was renamed the 6th Air Refueling Wing. On 1 January 2001 the 6th ARW reorganized and became the 6th Air Mobility Wing (6th AMW).


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