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McCHORD AFB - 1990 to 2000
"Global Reach for America"
A line-up of 62 AW C-141B loading troops for deployment. 

              PHOTO BY DEN PASCOE                                          DEN PASCOE - airliners.net

As a reflection of the changes within USAF organizations, unit designators worn on McChord C-141's would change from 62nd MAW / 446th MAW (Military Airlift Wing)  to 62nd AW / 446 AW (Airlift Wing), much like this example carried on the "City of Tacoma" C-141B 66-0137. 


In August of 1990, totalitarian Iraq invaded Kuwait, on the shores of the Persian Gulf. Within days the 62nd poured a stream of C-141s, aircrews, and support crews into Operation Desert Shield, the effort to deter further aggression from Iraq. The  97th MAS from the 446th MAW, was called to active duty and became, temporarily, part of the 62nd MAW. The operations tempo was unprecedented. By October, the United States had over 210,000 troops in Saudi Arabia, with more coming every day. USAF airlift, including the 62nd, made it all possible. This was a mobilization of troops and materiel like the world had never seen.  

In September of 1990 McChord lost one of it's longest serving units with the deactivation of the 25th Air Division. The Northwest Air Defense Sector (NWADS) would takeover the functions of the 25th AD.

By January 1991, Desert Shield became Desert Storm, as allied air power was unleashed upon the invaders with irresistible force. The 62nd and 446th joined the rest of the Military Airlift Command and the US Air Force Reserve in providing round-the-clock airlift to the Middle East, keeping the air war supplied, and aiding the build up of ground forces for the highly successful, though brief ground war in February. Before long, Kuwait was free, although the tremendous effort put forth by the 62nd and 446th had accelerated the aging process of their C-141s. The increased payloads and almost incessant flying would have lasting negative effects on the fleet of StarLifters.

After the war, the 62nd found itself involved, once again, in the business of saving lives. In June 1991, Mt. Pinatubo, in the Philippines, erupted. Within days Americans in that country were ordered to evacuate, and the 62nd plunged head first into Operation Fiery Vigil, bringing most of them to McChord. 


Two McChord C-141 show off the two camouflage schemes worn in the 1980's and 90s

Sweeping changes occurred within the Air Force organizational structure, one of those changes was the deactivation of the Military Airlift Command on June 1, 1992. To replace the Command the Air Force formed the Air Mobility Command, a command with greater responsibilities. As a reflection to those changes, the 62nd Military Airlift Wing became the 62nd Airlift Wing on December 1, 1992. The renamed Wing's squadrons were also effected, now called Airlift Squadrons.

In early 1992, 62nd AW and 446th AW crews and aircraft began participating in Operation Provide Hope, helping to deliver hundreds of tons of food and medicine to the former Soviet Union. 

The 446th AW not only proved to be one of the best C-141 units, but the best Airlift Wing during Rodeo ‘92 held at Pope AFB, N.C., the 446th was recognized as Best Overall Wing. 

By August, Operation Provide Relief (later known as Restore Hope), rushing food supplies to the starving people of Somalia, the relief of victims of hurricane Andrew in our own country, and relief efforts for the Guamanian victims of typhoon Omar kept our crews and aircraft on the move.

Tragedy struck the 62nd on 30 November 1992. Six C-141s were taking part in what was supposed to be a routine local air refueling/airdrop mission. The six StarLifters were refueling with two KC-135 Stratotankers of the WA ANG's 141st Air Refueling Wing over north central Montana. Two of the C-141s -- S/N's 65-000255 and 66-000142 -- collided in mid-air, killing all 13 crewmembers. Ten of the men were from the 36th AS, two from the 8th, and one from the 4th.

On October 30, 1992 C-141 66-0206 was dedicated as the "City of Tacoma" and carried the three colors (red, silver, and blue) of the 62d's three Maintenance organizations . C-141B -0206 would later be reassigned to Altus AFB.



During their time at McChord A-10A "Warthogs" from the 354th FS had been one of the USAF’s most deployed units. 


On January 5 1993, the 354th Fighter Squadron "Bulldogs" were activated at McChord AFB as a geographical separated unit from it's parent Wing, the 355th Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan, AZ. The 354th's 26 aircraft (twelve A-10s, nine OA-10 and five back-up aircraft) were tasked to support the troops at Fort Lewis, WA and the Yakima Training Center in Eastern Washington State. The "Bulldogs", one of the USAF's most deployed Squadrons  flew more than 15,000 sorties during 11 deployments to operations and exercises in Argentina, Chile, Italy, Japan, Turkey, and the Persian Gulf.

The squadron stay  was a short one, on October 1, 1994 the squadron was inactivated at McChord and reactivated at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ. The last 5 Bulldog A-10's left Washington State for  Arizona on December 14, 1994.  


PHOTO BY RUSS CARMACK                                                                                 TACOMA NEWS TRIBUNE

Squadron Commander Lt Col Danny "Maddog" Clifton waves farewell to the remaining members of the 354th FS "Bulldogs" as he taxis his A-10A, s/n 76-0684 on his way to Davis-Monthan AFB AZ after the squadrons deactivation at McChord.


A strong earthquake hit Los Angeles, California, in January of 1993. Within hours an 8th AS crew was on its way to that area with a 60-person Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) team, plus 37,937 pounds of search and rescue gear, tents, generators, and other equipment.

On October 1, 1993, the 62nd lost one of its squadrons, the 36th AS, as that designation was to be moved to Yokota Air Base, Japan, and the C-141 unit at McChord to be redesignated as the 7th Airlift Squadron, last based at Travis AFB, CA. The 62d  was once again made up of its three original squadrons, the 4th, 7th, and 8th.  

Great skill and airmanship paid off once again for the 446th AW in Rodeo 1993 at Little Rock AFB, Ark  The win took home trophy's for grading out as the Best Airlift Wing, Aircrew, Airdrop, Maintenance Preflight Inspection in the C-141 category in the competition.

In mid October a C-141 flown by the 7th AS and two members of the 446th AW's 40th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron took part in the freedom flight of Army Warrant Officer Michael Durant and 61 other injured soldiers from Ramstein AB Germany  to a hero's welcome at Andrews AFB, MD. Durant was held captive for 11 days after his MH-60 Blackhawk "Super 64" was shot down in the middle of Mogadishu, Somalia. The story of the raid was later the subject of a book "Blackhawk Down" which was later made into a movie .

Ongoing relief efforts kept the 62nd busy throughout 1993 and 1994. In July 1994, a 4th AS crew was fired upon while flying a Provide Promise mission into Sarajevo, in the former Yugoslavia. The very next day, four 62nd aircrews and C-141s, along with approximately 140 airmen and 70,000 pounds of supplies, left for Operation Support Hope, the Rwandan humanitarian relief effort. Just flying Provide Relief / Restore Hope, the 62nd off-loaded more than 8,000 tons of cargo between December 1992 and August 1994.

McChord Air Museum's C-124C Globemaster II at Rodeo '94.

After many months of preparation, McChord played host for its first  AMC's Airlift Rodeo Competition began in late June of 1994, Since 1979, the Airlift rodeo has featured the best Airlift Crews from the Air Force and from Countries across the world. The 446th Airlift Wing earned the Best C-141 Airlift Wing in Rodeo ‘94, picked up their fourth Best C-141 aircrew award in the last five Rodeos and also earned the Best C-141 Airdrop and Best C-141 Preflight titles.  

After a grueling 10 day competition , the 178th FS / 119th FG from the North Dakota ANG compiled the highest overall score during the 1994 William Tell Meet and topped  11 of the best USAF Fighter Squadrons for the overall Championship. Later that year the Unit won the 1994 Hughes Trophy becoming the only Air National Guard unit to win the award twice. The "Hooligans" are also the only F-16 unit to ever win the award.


On January 1, 1995 the Northwest Air Defense Sector and the Southwest Air Defense Sector would combined and reformed as the to Western Air Defense Sector (WADS) responsible for more than half of  the air defense of the Continental United States .  

Following the terrorist bombing of the Oklahoma City Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in April 19, 1995, both of McChord's Airlift Wing were called on to help. Four hours after the bombing an aircrew from the 313th AS / 446 AW flew a 62-member Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) team into Oklahoma City, three days later, another aircrew from the 97th AS / 446 AW flew four badly needed special burn beds, and a box full of stuffed animals, to the Children’s Hospital of Oklahoma City. Later a 4th AS / 62 AW aircrew left Andrews AFB, Maryland, carrying 56 members of the Montgomery County, Maryland, Urban Search and Rescue team (including four dogs and 16 tons of equipment). Eventually, more than 26 tons of equipment were delivered by 62nd AW crews.  

62d AW C-141 StarLifters line up for takeoff.

In late 1995, Bill Clinton ordered the deployment of 20,000 U.S. troops to the former Yugoslav Republic of Bosnia, as part of a multinational peacekeeping force. Eighteen crews and six aircraft from the 62nd were in place at Rhein Main Air Base, Germany, by 18 December, ready to do their part. In spite of severe weather conditions, McChord crews and aircraft were soon flying troops and equipment into Tazsar, Hungary, for Operation Joint Endeavor.

In January 1996 nearly 170 McChord members, operating under a provisional wing located at Rhein Main Air Base Germany, continued supporting airlift missions into Tuzla and Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzogovina. and Taszar, Hungary in support of Operation Joint Endeavor. Six aircrews and five propositioned McChord C-141 StarLifters received aid from 122 ground support augmentees. Led by the 62nd Operations Group Commander, Colonel Thomas R. Madson, support personnel from McChord serviced C-5 Galaxy, C-17 Globemaster and C-141 StarLifter aircraft, delivering more than 9,480 troops and 21,600 tons of cargo.

On the night of May 15, 1996, aircrews from the 4th, 7th, and 8th Airlift Squadrons took part in Big Drop III, the largest airdrop since World War II. The 62nd was one of 28 participating units flying a total of 144 airlifters to simultaneously deploy 6,000 U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division, U.K. 5th Airborne Brigade personnel, and their heavy equipment onto three drop zones on Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

McChord C-141's played an important role in Big Drop III.

In April 1996, aircrews from the 4th, 7th, and 8th Airlift Squadrons provided equipment and personnel transportation in support of an Air Power Expeditionary Force in the Middle Eastern Kingdom of Jordan. A four-ship contingency from McChord flew missions into the region as part of Operation Southern Watch.

McChord played host to the Bases second International Airlift Rodeo this time hosted by the U.S. Transportation Command. The 62d and 446th AW's did very well in the competition with the 446th defending its crown as best C-141 Aircrew for the fifth time. The unit was also named as the Best C-141 Wing during the competition. 

In July 1996, a 4th Airlift Squadron crew evacuated 68 injured troops from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, following a bomb blast that killed 19 airmen. The crew diverted to Dhahran from Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany, flying a C-141 configured for aeromedical operations. A 17 hour flight, with one refueling stop completed the transport of passengers to Eglin AFB, Florida.  

Beginning in 1996, Teams that attended the William tell Weapons Meet  were to be assembled differently than the had been in the past. In previous Meets teams competed as units (Squadrons or Wings) , in the 1996 each major Command, the Air Force Reserve, the Air National Guard, and a combined Canadian team would compete against each other for the right to be known as the best in the Air. Team ANG would be represented by WADS 123d FS / 142d FW from Portland, OR and the 1994 Champions, North Dakotas 178th FS / 119th FG "Hooligans".  Another Northwest Fighter squadron, the 114 FS / 173 FW flying the Air Defense F-16 flew for its command, Air Education and Training Command.

McChord Air Force base achieved another environmental first by having a cleanup site de-listed from the National Priorities List (NPL). The site was a 22 acre stretch of land where aircraft used to be cleaned and drained of fuel. After nearly 10 years of self-repair, the site met the requirements for de-listment from the NPL.

Throughout 1997, the 62 AW provided airlift support for numerous joint and combined training exercises such as Cobra Gold, Tandem Thrust, Northern Edge, Green Flag, Cooperative Nugget and Joint Task Force Six. The wing also participated in several accident response exercises, in addition to sustaining high operations tempos.


Two penguins pass by a C-141 from 62d AW as it sits on the ground in Antarctica.


In January 1997, the 62nd Airlift Wing received the tasking to be the primary airlift for the re-supply of the US Antarctic Program, commonly referred to as Operation Deep Freeze. From August 16-30, 1997, Lt Col Ray Phillips and crew flew the first WINFLY 97 missions to Pegasus Airfield in preparation for the Annual Operation Deep Freeze missions. During the annual mission, September 30, - November 15, 1997, the 62 AW along with crews from the 446 AW, delivered 1,039,001 pounds of cargo and 1,478 passengers to McMurdo Air Station, Antarctica.  

On March 7, 1997 a coin flip determined that  McChord's last Globemaster II Squadron would be the first Globemaster III unit, that Squadron being the 7th Airlift Squadron. 

On March 27, 1997, Major Randy Woodward and crew, 4th Airlift Squadron, flew through the reduced vertical separation minimum (RVSM) airspace over the North Atlantic. This flight represented one of the most significant changes in oceanic air traffic management in the last 40 years.

The 62nd Airlift Wing provided humanitarian relief throughout 1997 as well. On  April 21, 1997, three C-141s and crews flew missions in support of the relief efforts at Grand Forks, North Dakota. These missions included delivering Federal Emergency Management Administration personnel, more than 20,000 pounds of equipment and cargo to Grand Forks Air Force Base to assist the city of Grand Forks just 13 miles from the base. On April 23, 1997, a crew from the 8th Airlift Squadron flew an additional relief mission to Grand Forks to deliver equipment and 32 Civil Engineering personnel from McConnell AFB, Kansas.

During a regular channel mission, Captain Brian J. Mullin and crew, 7th Airlift Squadron, volunteered and flew a 120 flight hour, 21 day augmented air refueling mission. While dodging Typhoon Tina and Super Typhoon Winnie the crew airlifted an emergency burn and trauma team to Guam after a Korean Airline 747 crashed, performed an emergency evacuation of a two day old infant and flew 16 missions moving elements of III MEF, a Navy Special Warfare Unit.  

In mid 1997 WADS would be in its final stages of it's second major restructure in over a year, Air National Guard Col Scott Powel would assume command of WADS from his active Air Force counterpart Col R.O. Smith signaling the beginning of the end of the active Air Forces last responsibility of the Air Defense mission in the Pacific Northwest. On October 1, 1997 the Washington Air National Guard officially assumed responsibility for the air sovereignty and air defense mission of the Western Air Defense Sector. An official change of command ceremony for new WADS Commander Col. John Cromwell proclaimed the end of a challenging three year operation that saw a virtually seamless transformation from an "active duty-owned" to an "Air National Guard-owned" mission.

An additional humanitarian mission included the deliverance of relief supplies from Kadena AB, Japan to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam after Typhoon Linda devastated the area in early November 1997. The typhoon unleashed torrential rains and winds that wiped out coastal villages, killed hundreds of people and left thousands homeless.

In June 1998 McChord hosted its third Airlift Rodeo, the host unit, the 62d AW was named the best C-141 Wing in the competition. 


                     PHOTO BY ERNEST WHITE, II                                         McCHORD AIR MUSEUM

Onlookers view McChord's newest Airlifter C-17A "The Spirit of McChord" 


On July 30, 1999 hundreds of onlookers witnessed the dawn of a new era for airlift in the Pacific Northwest as they saw the arrival of two of the most capable transport planes ever made  - the Boeing C-17A Globemaster III. C-17A named "The Spirit of McChord"  flown from Boeing's Long Beach plant by  Gen. Charles "Tony" Robertson, Jr., commander-in-chief United States Transportation Command and commander Air Mobility, was the first of 48 planes to be assigned to McChord and the 62d AW. The arrival of the C-17 Globemaster signaled the beginning of the end for the Wing's workhorse the C-141 StarLifter. As C-17 arrived C-141 were flown  the "bone yard" at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona.

A combined Air Force Reserve and active-duty C-141 aircrew from McChord scramble to airdrop emergency medical supplies to the South Pole for a doctor who discovered a lump in her breast. The 97th Airlift Wing aircrew gains international attention as they airdrop six bundles of medical supplies as well as fresh fruit in outside temperatures of close to 100 below zero in the back of the C-141 with the doors open.

The McChord reservists aboard one the new C-17's transported 11 sets of what are believed to be American servicemen from the Korean and Vietnam wars. It was the first time remains from two separate wars were repatriated at the same time. 


               PHOTO BY ROBERT STETTER                                     www.robert-stetter.de                

Three 62d AW C-141's can be seen in this lineup of retired StarLifters. These aircraft and other C-141 stored in the Davis-Monthan AFB “Boneyard” provide many valuable components to keep other C-141's in the air.   

McChord History 
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