Key Field Air National Guard Base --
Beginning with 110 members back in 1939 to now realizing over 1,100 Citizen Airmen who travel in from all over the country to complete their monthly drills and train, the 186th Air Refueling Wing (186ARW) at Key Field Air National Guard Base in Meridian, Mississippi provides support to the local community, nation and world.
At home, Citizen Airmen support the community in a variety of ways such as blood drives and through Key Field’s adopt-a-school program where Guard members volunteer their time.
“We are fortunate to be a part of a community that supports the military in an outstanding manner with the Navy League, the Rotary Club, the Optimist Club, and different business associations throughout the city,” Col. Mike Nabors, 186th ARW commander, said. “We don’t get new missions because we’re in this by ourselves.”
“When we have temporary duty personnel here, the community works the hotels and restaurants, and they work well with us,” Nabors said. “The community helps by giving a positive picture to the Air Force which in turn gives them confidence to offer us new missions.”
The 186ARW’s primary mission is with the KC-135R refueler which augments Air Mobility Command for worldwide contingency operations. Service members are in a constant state of training in order to be able execute the KC-135’s nuclear deterrence mission.
“We recently completed our nuclear readiness inspection, and did very well on it,” Nabors said. “We were certified by the Air Force to fulfill our primary mission with the KC-135.”
In addition, the wing supports domestic, counter-drug and emergency response missions as well as overseas combatant commander requirements with the RC-26B aircraft. This mission has opened up new opportunities at Key Field.
“We got the offer to expand our RC-26 mission and receive a support squadron for the counter-drug and US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) aircraft,” Nabors said. “So, that’s a new mission addition.”
There are a variety of other tenant unit missions that fall under the wing. The 186th Air Operations Group is the command staff for any Air Force events that might occur such as a regional conflict or natural disaster.
“We have received an offer in our Air Operations Group for another Air Combat Operations Squadron (ACOS),” Nabors said. “We have one that supports AFNORTH which is the U.S. Northern Command's air component. They support local, state, regional and federal emergency service agencies in the event of man-made and natural disasters when tasked.”
The second ACOS will support Air Force Korea (AFKOR) which is Korea peninsula operations. Guardsmen will back fill the command structure in South Korea.
Currently, there are about 130 Airmen from the base who are deployed overseas supporting the war in the Middle East through air refueling, anti-terrorism and ground support operations.
“We have an operations and maintenance group deployment overseas to the Middle East in support of the war effort that will be occurring in the February to March time frame that will involve approximately 100 people,” Nabors said.
Another future endeavor that Key Field hopes to achieve is acquiring a flight training simulator like the one that was once housed at the base.
“We are continuing to push forward for getting our simulator back to Key Field,” Nabors said. “It is the only piece of our pre-BRAC equipment that we don’t have.”
“We came out of conversion with the KC-135, so we’ve closed the door on the many years since the 2005 BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) decision,” Nabors said. With the end of the conversion for the 135, we’re steady and capable in that mission.”
There are a variety of other diverse squadrons and groups at Key Field Air National Guard Base that all work together to achieve a common goal of providing support to the mission.
The 248th Air Traffic Control Squadron provides all local air traffic control and deployed air traffic control for operations.
The 238th Air Support Operations Squadron provides close air support and ground control to fighter aircraft in support of Army operations.
The Operations Group includes the 153rd Air Refueling Squadron, intelligence, plans, scheduling, training, standardization and evaluations, and Air Field Operations.
The Maintenance Group maintains the aircraft fleet with mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, fabrication, and other specialists working in maintenance shops. Flight line personnel handle minor aircraft maintenance and aircraft launching and recovering operations.
The Mission Support Group furnishes a wide range of services, including communications, supply, fuels, transportation, personnel, civil engineering, security forces, crash/fire rescue, environmental management, food service, contracting and readiness.
Lastly, the Medical Group manages the health services for all assigned Air Guard units and provides flight physicals for the Army National Guard.
The missions of Key Field have evolved over the years, but what has remained is the dedication of the Citizen Airmen who support the needs of the community, our country, and the warfighting effort overseas.