459 ARW Fact Sheet

Unit Designation: 459th Air Refueling Wing, Joint Base Andrews, Md.

Mission: Provide Unsurpassed Air Refueling, Aeromedical Operations, and Agile Combat Support From our Nation's Capital to the World

Vision: Liberators --  Ready to Answer our Nation's Call, Anytime and Anywhere... Prevailing through Agility, Innovation, and Strong Esprit de Corps

Parent Unit: 4th Air Force

Commander: Col. John C. Reed

Subordinate Units: 459 OG, 459 OSF, 756 ARS, 459 AES, 459 ASTS, 459 AMDS, 459 MXG, 459 AMXS, 459 MXS, 459 MSG, 459 FSS, 459 LRS, 459 SFS, 69 APS, 759 LRF 

Gaining Command: Air Mobility Command

Type of Aircraft Flown: KC-135R Stratotanker

Major Operations and Exercises: World War II, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Inherent Resolve, and Resolute Support.

Significant Unit History: The World War II predecessor to the 459th Air Refueling Wing was the 459th Bombardment Group (Heavy). The unit was constituted on May 19, 1943, and activated on July 1, 1943, at Alamogordo Army Air Field, N.M. The 459th Bombardment Group was assigned four bombardment squadrons: the 756th, 757th, 758th, and 759th. After training for six months on the B-24 bomber in New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, and Massachusetts, the 459th Bombardment Group was sent to Giulia Airfield, Italy, for the war.

As part of the 304th Wing, 15th Air Force, the 459th Bombardment Group engaged in nearly 200 strategic bombardment missions between March 1944 and April 1945. Targets were oil refineries, munitions, and aircraft factories, industrial areas, airfields, and communications centers in France, Germany, Austria, and other southern and eastern European nations. The 459th Bombardment Group returned home in August 1945, and was inactivated on August 28, 1945, at Sioux Falls Army Air Field, S.D.

On April 19, 1947, the 459th Bombardment Group was activated at Long Beach Army Air Field, Calif. In June 1949, the organization was redesignated the 459th Bombardment Group (Medium) and transferred to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., where it remained until being inactivated on June 16, 1951.

The Reserve flying mission began at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., in the summer of 1954, when the 756th Troop Carrier Squadron was activated and equipped with the C-46 aircraft. Nearly eight months later, the unit had grown enough to activate its parent organization, the 459th Troop Carrier Group (formerly 459th Bombardment Group) and its parent the 459th Troop Carrier Wing. Later that year, another squadron, the 757th Troop Carrier Squadron, was activated at Byrd Field, Richmond, Va., and assigned to the group. A third flying unit, the 758th Troop Carrier Squadron, was added in 1957 and equipped with the C-119 "Flying Boxcar" at Greater Pittsburgh Airport, Penn. In November of 1957, the 757th relocated from Byrd Field to Youngstown Municipal Airport, Ohio.

On July 1, 1966, the 459th was redesignated 459th Military Airlift Wing and converted to a strategic, long-range mission with the C-124 "Globemaster" aircraft.

In June 1971, the 459th converted to the C-130 "Hercules" and was redesignated as the 459th Tactical Airlift Wing. In December 1974, with the consolidation of all Air Force strategic and tactical airlift resources under a single manager, the 459th's Active Duty gaining command switched from Tactical Air Command to Military Airlift Command.

In July 1986, the Wing converted to the Lockheed C-141B "Starlifter" aircraft. The conversion resulted in an increase of wing personnel at Andrews from 900 to almost 1,600.

Since its activation, the 459th has participated in many exercises and contingencies to include: Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Operations Northern and Southern Watch, Operation Noble Anvil (the American component of Operation Allied Force), Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. As a result of these operations, the Wing has participated in places around the globe to include: Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba, Bosnia and Kosovo.

The 459th Airlift Wing converted to the air refueling mission on October 1, 2003. This also resulted in a conversion from the C-141 aircraft to the Boeing KC-135R "Stratotanker." The wing was also reassigned from 22nd Air Force to 4th Air Force.

Awards and Decorations: Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (Six times); Armed Forces Expeditionary Streamer (Grenada); Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross.

Bestowed Honors: Authorized to display awards earned by the 459th Operations Group prior to January 26, 1955.

European, African, Middle Eastern Campaign Streamers (10: Air Offensive Europe, Rome Arno, Normandy, Northern France, Southern France, North Appenines, Rhineland, Central Europe, Po Valley and Air Combat EAME Theater).

Decorations: Distinguished Unit Citation - Bad Voslau Austria 1944.

Number of Personnel Assigned: More than 1,200

Current as of October 2023