349th AMW Celebrates 80th Anniversary

  • Published
  • By Grant Okubo, 349th Public Affairs
  • 349th Air Mobility Wing

For 80 years, Airmen from the 349th Air Mobility Wing, the largest associate wing in the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command, have supported the Air Force mission to fly, fight, and win – delivering airpower anytime, anywhere in defense of our nation.

To mark the occasion, Reserve Citizen Airmen, honorary commanders, commanders from the wing's past and present, and other distinguished guests celebrated this historic anniversary during a ceremony held on Oct. 14 at the Heritage Center at Travis Air Force Base, California. 

The wing's commander attributed the unit's success and longevity to its Airmen and their commitment to volunteerism.

"What we do is based on volunteerism," said Col. Terence McGee, 349th Air Mobility Wing commander. "We couldn't do what we do without the people willing to give up weekends, family time and holidays. We're the Air Force Reserve for a reason: people always volunteer, people are patriotic, and they want to help, and we're there at a moment's notice."

McGee also highlighted that what is interesting about this anniversary is that the 349th AMW is older than the Air Force Reserve and the larger Air Force.

"It's a landmark; we should appreciate that not many things reach 80 years," said McGee. 

The anniversary has drawn significant support from the community and local officials, who helped the wing celebrate the milestone.

Recognizing this historic occasion, the 349th AMW was presented a signed Congressional Record from the office of U.S. Congressman John Garamendi, from California's 8th District. 

The 349th AMW was also honored with a California Legislature Resolution congratulating the wing from California Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa), 3rd Senate District. 

McGee and the other guests gathered at the 80th-anniversary celebration and shared stories from the wing's past.

"We're here to celebrate 80 years of the 349th Air Mobility Wing's accomplishments and valiant stories of individuals such as Major Edward Tanner, who served during World War II and was shot down covering the invasion of Salerno and became a prisoner at a German internment camp," said McGee." Upon his return home, he signed up with the 349th Air Mobility Wing and the Air Force Reserve, serving 39 years before retiring.

"We celebrate the heroic efforts of 301st Airlift Squadron crews during Operation Nickel Grass, U.S. airlift support of Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, who delivered necessary material and munitions in austere conditions," said McGee. "We also celebrate the serious, but lighthearted efforts of Lt. Col. Chester H. Bear, a teddy bear commissioned in the Air Force, and whose commission was signed by then Maj. Gen. Nathan Twining, a future chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff." 

The wing began during World War II. as the Army Air Corps' 349th Troop Carrier Group on Oct. 23, 1943, and was deployed to Europe in March 1945, said Dr. Michael Blodgett, 349 AMW wing historian. After undergoing various reorganizations and relocations in its history, the then 349th Military Airlift Wing moved from Hamilton AFB, California to Travis AFB in July 1969, where the unit is located today.

From 1969 to the present, the 349th AMW's partnerships with the 60th Air Mobility Wing make Travis AFB one of the most crucial and versatile bases in the entire Air Force. In August 2021, aircrews from the wing played a pivotal role in aiding and evacuating approximately 124,000 people from Afghanistan.

After 80 years, the 349th AMW looks to the future to serve the nation for another  80 years and beyond.

"Our folks have to start developing the wing for the next 80 years," said McGee. "A majority of the equipment on the ramp is older, whereas the KC-46 (Pegasus) is a new piece of equipment. There will be some things different 80 years from now and changes to how we operate, whether drones or cyber, but that all starts now. These things have all rolled along, so our Airmen will have to prepare for something (new) in the future. And I think that will be the key to our future success."