History of the 186th Air Refueling Wing


Welcome to the 186th Air Refueling Wing, where in-flight refueling was perfected. When Al and Fred Key took off in their Curtis-Robbin monoplane nicknamed the "Ole Miss" on June 4, 1935, they could not have known the impact their 27-day flight would have on not only their city and state, but the entire world. The equipment and methods used by these pioneers of air refueling allowed them to remain airborne until July 1, 1935. The members of the 186th Air Refueling Wing are proud to say that Key Field Air National Guard Base is named after these two Meridian brothers whose 653 hour and 34 minute world record remains unbroken today in conventional aerial refueld flight. The "Ole Miss" is on display in the air and space museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

The Key Brothers are also among the founders of our parent unit, the 153rd Observation Squadron, which was federally recognized on September 27, 1939. This was Mississippi's first Air National Guard unit and one of the first 13 in the United States. The unit began with 110 members, the Douglas O-38E aircraft, and a tactical reconnaissance mission. Since that time, the unit has flown many different types of aircraft including the

P-51 Mustang
the Supermarine Spitfire Mark V
the Republic P-47
the Lockheed RF-80
the Republic RF-84 Thunderflash
the McDonnell Douglas RF-101 Voodoo
and the McDonnell Douglas RF-4C Phantom II.

With these aircraft, the 186th has been activated on several occasions, including service in England and France during World War II, the Korean Conflict, the Berlin Crisis, Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

We came full-circle to our historical roots in April of 1992 when we converted to the air refueling mission with the KC-135 R-model Stratotanker. Today, the 6,000 gallons transferred to the "Ole Miss" back in 1935 over a 27-day period would take only six minutes and 15 seconds to transfer with the Stratotanker. To give you a better idea of how much fuel that really is, that six minutes worth of transferred fuel would last the average single-car family seven years and three months.

The 186th has been and is determined to be "The Best Total Air Mobility Unit, the Standard by which others are measured." Just three years after the conversion in our first Organizational Readiness Inspection, the 186th Air Refueling Wing established its dedication to excellence with the highest rating of outstanding. It was the first outstanding ever earned by any refueling unit, Active Duty, Reserve or National Guard. Over the years, the 186th has been depended on to serve in Operation Display Determination, Operation Provide Relief, Operation Restore Hope, Operation Support Justice, Operation Deny Flight, and Operation Northern Watch. With the national tragedy experienced on September 11 of 2001, the 186th Air Refueling Wing has been called upon to provide support in Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn.

With over 1,200 officers and Airmen, the 186th is made up of mostly traditional guardsmen who live and work throughout Mississippi and surrounding states. About one third of our members are full-time Air technicians or Active Guard/Reserve. Additional units on Key Field include the 238th Air Support Operations Squadron, the 248th Air Traffic Control Support, and the 186th Air Operations Group as well as two Army National Guard units located next to our base.

The 186th Air Refueling Wing also supports a C-26B aircraft, modified to conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Stateside, the C-26 supports local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in counterdrug efforts. Additionally, the unit provides incident assessment for manmade and natural disasters. The C-26 program has worked directly with law enforcement agencies since 1996 providing National Guard unique support to battle illegal narcotics and illicit drugs. The C-26 is managed through the Mississippi National Guard Counterdrug Coordinator's office in conjunction with other counterdrug programs that assist our communities and nation.

The Wing's 248th Air Traffic Control Squadron was commissioned on October the first of 1997. The squadron consists of approximately 90 members who are responsible for all air traffic control operations at Key Field including military, commercial, and civilian flights. Assets include a Mobile Tower, Mobile Radar and Mobile TACAN. The tower, radar and TACAN can be deployed and operational within 24 hours.

The 238th Air Support Operations Squadron began in 1954 as a communication service flight and has undergone numerous changes. The most recent designation as an Air Support Squadron occurred in 1999. The 238th ASOS mission is to provide liaison between Army units and Air Force aircraft which provide combat air support. The squadron advises the ground commander on the capabilities and limitations of combat aircraft weapons and assists in planning for combat air support. Since becoming fully operational in 2003, the 238th has participated in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom as well as numerous joint service exercises.

The 186th Air Operations Group, which provides First Air Force staff augmentation to support the homeland defense mission and deliver defense support to civil authorities during domestic events. Members serve as the focal point for planning, directing and assessing operations across the spectrum of Air, Space, Maritime and Cyber Operations.

In addition to elements that make up the wing, the 186th is home to the Regional Operations and Security Center, a National Guard Bureau center that maintains a classified and unclassified wide area data network and houses some 50 DOD information systems for 15 flying units and 51 units across 11 states and territories.

In 2008 the wing was selected as the only unit in the country to provide mission qualification training to service members supporting Project Liberty, a newly developed ISR platform utilizing the MC-12 aircraft. From early 2009 until 2012 Key Field members trained over 1,200 individuals who immediately put those skills to work by deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan in support of the war on terror.

At the conclusion of the MC-12 mission, the 186th converted to the C-27J tactical airlift aircraft. Despite possessing the aircraft for less than two years, the 186th embraced the mission, training and deploying aircrew in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The 186th was selected to be the future schoolhouse for C-27J training, but the Air Force the early divesture of the aircraft prevented that from occurring.

A ceremony was held in August 2013 to celebrate the return of aerial refueling to the skies above Meridian and the return of the KC-135R “Stratotanker” Aircraft. This ended a period where the aircrew flew three different primary aircraft in as many years! Currently the 186th Air Refueling Wing continues to operate the legacy KC-135R aircraft in support of the National Military Command, Combatant Commanders, and the state of Mississippi.

With a wealth of history and a bright future, the 186th Air Refueling Wing remains one of the best Air National Guard units in the country. Dependability and professionalism are qualities that help the 186th Air Refueling Wing live up to the high standards we have always set for ourselves.