Oklahoma Air National Guard Unit Transitions to MC-12W

An MC-12 at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base, Oklahoma City. (photo by Air National Guard Master Sgt. Andrew LaMoreaux)

Talk about a paradigm shift! It was recently announced in an Air Force Public Affairs release that an Oklahoma Air National Guard unit, the 137th Air Refueling Wing (soon to be renamed), has began training with the MC-12W in a transition from being a refuel unit to an airborne surveillance unit. Their new missions will consist of low-altitude reconnaissance over enemy positions in order to gather information that will be relayed to ground-based U.S. soldiers and marine units.

“The 137th Air Refueling Wing is very excited to return flying operations back to Will Rogers Air National Guard Base and join Air Force Special Operations Command,” said Air Force Col. Devin R. Wooden, 137 ARW commander. “Our last eight years at Tinker Air Force Base and our partnership with the 507th Air Refueling Wing is an honored part of our great history. We proudly flew off of this ramp for 58 years before we left for Tinker and to be a part of the team to bring flying operations back is very satisfying. I feel like everyone is back home.”

The MC-12W is the perfect fit for medium-to-low altitude surveillance and to provide support directly to ground forces serving overseas. It is a far cry from the wing’s old aircraft, the KC-135, a tanker designed for high-altitude refueling flights.

The airmen will be trained on the new aircraft over the next year to 18 months, as the unit transitions to an Air Force Special Operations Wing. As an AFSOC unit, the wing will provide high-trained Air Commandos to complete global special operations missions. Four-member flight crews will be retrained (two pilots, two sensor operators) to learn the plane in order to perform the new missions. Some ground personnel will see duties change but mechanics will still perform maintenance and the wing’s medical group will still operate.

The first of 13 MC-12W aircraft arrived at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base, Oklahoma City on July 10th, 2015. The airbase’s geographical location is an ideal flying environment and has all the necessary training facilities, manpower, facilities, command structure and the support of local community leaders. The arrival of the MC-12W marks the first time flying operations have occurred since 2007.

AFSOC and the Air National Guard have a strong working partnership. This partnership, along with the high ANG member retention rate, were additional reasons that WRANGB was chosen. High member retention rate is crucial so that Manned Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance expertise can be fully developed and retained long-term.

“I am personally very happy to be back at the base at which I began my military career,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Justin Walker, 185th Air Refueling Squadron commander. “I am also very excited about the addition of new tactical Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance aircrew members to the squadron. The squadron, and ultimately the wing are poised for complete mission success due to the mix of current and new members.”

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