The 439th Airlift Wing is a unit of the Air Force Reserve Command and is commanded by Col. Steven Vautrain. The wing is assigned to Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass. and operates 16 C-5B airlifters. The 439th reports to 4th Air Force headquartered at March ARB, Calif.
Westover is the nation's largest Air Force Reserve base. Currently, 2,500 reservists are assigned to the wing at Westover. They train one weekend each month and also serve a 15-day annual tour of duty each year. The 337th Airlift Squadron is the wing's flying unit at Westover.
Westover is operated on a day-to-day basis by a workforce of about 1,000 civilians, including 456 air reserve technicians. During fiscal year 2011, $237,568,913 flowed into the economy of western Massachusetts from the base. Westover's total annual payroll for the year came to $140,154,269.
The Mission. The 439th Airlift Wing is capable of providing worldwide air movement of troops, supplies, equipment and medical patients. Support units provide communications, engineering, logistical, medical and security requirements.
The peacetime mission includes recruiting, training and supervision of personnel to assure mission readiness. The wing is also responsible for the management of aircraft maintenance and all assigned Air Force combat support real property, equipment and supplies.
The wing has five priorities: readiness, recruiting and retention, one standard, quality of life improvement, and facility improvement.
Some examples of Westover C-5A Galaxy missions involving outsized cargo include the transportation of presidential communications equipment, helicopters and Marine Corps aviators, plus Secret Service agents and vehicles.
In 1988, a wing C-5A airlifted Canadian soldiers and equipment to Turkey, from where they deployed to the Iran-Iraq border as United Nations peacekeeping forces. A Galaxy from Westover also transported firefighters and equipment for battling fires in Yellowstone National Park in September 1988.
The 439th flew several relief missions to Jamaica after Hurricane Gilbert devastated that island nation in the fall of 1988.
In 1989, the Patriot Wing again flew humanitarian missions to St. Croix, Puerto Rico, and Charleston, S.C., in the wake of Hurricane Hugo.
Within 24 hours of the initiation of Operation Just Cause, the 439th was pressed into service flying a total of eight missions into Panama in support of the national effort there in 1989.
When Saddam Hussein ordered Iraqi troops to invade the neighboring country of Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, C-5A aircrews from Westover immediately volunteered to rush troops and supplies to the region. On Aug. 22, the 337th Military Airlift Squadron was officially activated and proceeded to fly hundreds of missions in support of Operations Desert Shield and Storm.
Following Desert Storm, the Patriot Wing remained busy flying relief missions for Operation Provide Comfort.
In 1992 aircraft from the 439th were used to fly food, medical supplies and clothing to the new Commonwealth of Independent States in the former Soviet Union.
In August 1992, Westover C-5s ferried supplies, vehicles and personnel to Homestead AFB, Fla., to assist in the relief efforts following Hurricane Andrew.
Westover crews also came to the aid of civil war plagued Croatia when they brought humanitarian supplies there the late fall of 1992. They also assisted Pakistani citizens when floodwaters tore throughout the Southwest Asian nation.
On December 6, 1992, an eight-member C-5 crew from Westover left Westover to play roles in Operation Restore Hope, a United Nations effort in Somalia. The crew became part of the stage operation flying relief missions into the war-torn nation. Another 337th crew joined the stage on Dec. 29, 1992. In late March of 1993, Westover aircrews began flying relief missions from Cairo, Egypt into Mogadishu, Somalia. In April, 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron medics flew there to provide medical assistance.
In October 1993 tension in Somalia heightened and the U.S. sent more troops and equipment to Mogadishu. Westover sent three aircraft and three crews, for a total of six missions, to respond to the crisis in Somalia.
During the civil war in Yugoslavia, a Patriot Wing aircrew delivered 260 tons of food to Croatia in April 1994 to keep the UN lifeline flowing to the besieged Bosnian city of Sarajevo. As they had in Somalia, Westover reservists responded to the call for help from Rwandan famine and civil war victims during Operation Support Hope. In the summer and fall of 1994, they flew many missions to aid the effort in Rwanda, as well as missions to support Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti, and Operation Southern Watch in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, the nation's effort to deter Iraqi aggression on the Arabian Peninsula. Starting in January 1995, Westover also began serving as a refueling and maintenance stopover point for U-2 and the later version TR-1 high altitude reconnaissance planes flying to and from Europe.
In April 1995, a Westover C-5 aircrew delivered 24 tons of medicines, prosthetics, stretchers and other medical materials to Zagreb, Croatia during a period when the city was subject to rocket attacks. On July 9, 1995, a 439th Airlift Wing crew airlifted United Nation Rapid Reaction Force troops, vehicles and cargo from RAF Brize-Norton to Croatia.
Westover personnel supported Operation Joint Endeavor, the UN effort in Bosnia, through the end of 1995 and into 1996. In March, 1996, medics from the 439th Medical Squadron deployed to Honduras to provide much-needed medical care for the poverty-stricken villagers. Throughout 1996, Westover crews continued operational and humanitarian missions all over the world.
In June 1997, Westover hosted a 20-day "Patriot Medstar" training exercise for more than 2,000 active-duty and reserve airman, soldiers and sailors in the medical field.
Thirty members of the 439th Medical Squadron deployed to Guyana in July and August, 1997, to provide medical care to other deployed members and to citizens of Guyana.
In November 1997, Westover's 337th Airlift Squadron launched three missions in support of Operation Phoenix Scorpion, the U.S. buildup of forces in the Persian Gulf area.
Westover celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift in May of 1998. More than 700 Chicopee schoolchildren from Bowie and Selser Schools greeted Retired Air Force Colonel Gail Halvorsen and a C-54 dubbed the "Spirit of Freedom" which took part in the historic airlift. The plane and crew were en route to Berlin for the anniversary. Westover was their first stop on the journey.
In November 1998, Westover's 337th Airlift Squadron launched eight missions in support of the nation's military buildup in the Persian Gulf.
On November 20, 1998, a C-5 humanitarian mission left Westover headed for Honduras with 175 tons of donated food, water and medicine collected by Rotary International and the Central American Emergency Relief organization.
In December 1998, seven missions were launched by the 337th Airlift Squadron to ferry supplies to the Persian Gulf in response to Operation Desert Fox.
The 439th Civil Engineering Squadron sent 43 reservists to El Progresso, Honduras on March 1999 to help rebuild the community that was devastated by Hurricane Mitch in October.
Between April 16 and May 16, 1999, Westover C-5 aircrews from the 337th Airlift Squadron completed five missions in support of Operation Allied Force--the air war in Kosovo--to various sites in Europe. Members of the 439th Airlift Wing participated in Aerospace Expeditionary Force missions during the final quarter of 1999. In October, 15 reservists deployed to Southwest Asia while five more went to sites in Europe. In November, 11 went to Southwest Asia and three to Europe while in December 13 were dispatched to Southwest Asia. The dawn of the new millennium kept Westover's aircrews busy flying all over the globe.
In February 2000, a 439 AW C-5A airlifted radomes for Ballistic Missile Testing in Hawaii. The following month, a 337 AS aircrew, on a routine mission to Germany, diverted to Accra, Ghana, in support for Operation Atlas Response. The aircrew airlifted 64 tons of cargo and 68 members of the 86th Contingency Report Force from Ram stein AB, Germany. The cargo included equipment to help people in Mozambique recover from severe flooding. Westover crews flew redeployment missions during the remainder of the month from Africa as well.
Also in March, Air Mobility command honored the wing for its hard work with the prestigious 21 AF Lieutenant General Malcolm B. Armstrong trophy as the Outstanding AF Reserve Wing. The 439th competed against 20 other wings in AFRC. Thirty-seven members of the 439 AW participated in the Air Mobility Command Rodeo in May at Pope AFB, NC. The wing's maintenance team took first place for best C-5 pre-flight inspection.
In June 2000, a Westover C-5 provided Missile Defense System support by carrying a 65-foot submarine designated the Advanced SEAL Delivery System, from Andrews AFB, Md., to Hawaii. The sub weighed 55 tons. It was the first time the sub had been carried by air transportation. One of the more unusual payloads carried across the globe occurred in August, when a 337 AS aircrew stored eight single-engine stunt planes inside a C-5 and flew them to America following the 2000 World Aerobatic Championships in Muret, France.
In September 2001, a Westover C-5A aircrew that originally flew a routine mission to Travis AFB, CA, found itself heading suddenly eastward with emergency supplies following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC. The C-5 aircrew was on the first leg of a mission to Australia when it was tasked to transport a rescue team and equipment to New York City. The aircrew delivered about 72 members of an urban search and rescue team, their vehicles and nine pallets of equipment to McGuire AFB, N.J., early on Sept. 11. The team included medical people, firefighters, chaplains, and rescue dogs.
Throughout the fall of 2001, Westover's C-5 aircrews responded to the nation's call once again. In October, Operation Enduring Freedom called up more than 1,000 Air Force reservists to fight the war on terrorism. The Air Force recognized the 439 AW for its hard work in January, 2002, when the wing earned its third Air Force Outstanding Unit Award. The award honored the wing's accomplishments from Oct. 1, 1999, to Sept. 30, 2001.
By February, the number of activated Westover men and women had reached 1,150. Members of the 439 AW found themselves deployed to more than 20 countries across the globe. While most of the members of the 439th AW were demobilized by October 2002, the 439th Security Forces Squadron entered its second year of activation, tasked with around-the-clock security of Westover. When Operation Iraqi Freedom kicked off in early February, 2003, nearly 1,000 members of the 439th were again called to active duty. This time, it was a 'home game' for the Patriot Wing as the base was turned into a major C-5 stage operation that ran through May, 2003. In fact, Westover became the busiest C-5 operating center in the world, with 1,103 launches from February through May.
From Feb. 2 through early July, 8,487 passengers had transited the base along with 30,954,049 pounds of cargo. In addition, 17,948,283 gallons of JP-8 fuel had been pumped. In addition to supporting the C-5 stage operations, 439th reservists did their share of overseas deployments as security forces and many others found themselves serving in several sites around the Gulf Area. As the heavy fighting in Iraq ended, the 439th Airlift Control Flight found itself controlling military operations at Baghdad International Airport. For hundreds of Westover reservists, two years of activations and deployments drew to a close in February 2004. Reservists primarily in the maintenance career field processed through demobilization lines - the first step back into their civilian lives.
At year's end the wing was called upon to provide relief missions for the tsumani disaster in Southwest Asia. Aircrew members left Westover Dec. 31. The first C-5 and crew left Westover on December 31 to help haul needed relief supplies and food to the devastated areas. In early January, 2005, a second C-5 with two crews left bound for Asia. During the relief missions, C-5s delivering helicopters to Thailand, which were then used in the search and recovery operations. Westover crews hauled 686 tons of cargo during the three tsunami missions.
Seven months later, the Patriot Wing supported America's massive humanitarian relief efforts for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and for the Pakistan earthquake. Westover C-5s were among the first military cargo jets to fly into Lafayette, La., on Aug. 30 with FEMA supplies. Between August and September 2005, aircrews flew 10 missions that hauled more than 400 tons of cargo.
The Pakistan earthquake resulted in another round of humanitarian missions from Westover in October. The 439th flew four missions for the victims of the earthquake. Crews airlifted more than 270 tons of cargo, which included huge US Army CH-47 Chinook helicopters. The missions often spanned from Westover to Army posts in Oklahoma and Texas, followed by air refueling from Air Force tankers on the way to Spain.
In June 2006, the 439th AW began its conversion to the newer C-5B models.
At the end of 2009, the Patriot Wing had more than 20 reservists deployed worldwide. Westover's aerial port squadrons processed more than 2,100 passengers and more than 1,240,000 pounds of cargo. Aircrews flew more than 4,600 hours and hauled more than 16,200 tons of cargo.
As 2010 opened, the Patriot Wing responded to the plight of the citizens of Haiti, after that country suffered a major earthquake Jan. 12. Aircrews flew three humanitarian missions from Westover through Dover Air Force Base, Del., and Dobbins ARB, Ga. Forklifts, a fire engine, and 15 aerial port reservists arrived at Homestead ARB, Fla., by Jan. 18 to assist in the earthquake relief effort.
In late 2010 and early 2011, reservists of the 439th AW earned a spate of major awards, including Best Reserve Wing in the command, top Maintenance Group in AFRC, top Aircraft Maintenance Unit in AFRC, #1 Airman and Family Readiness Center, top HRDC program, and #1 team of club chefs. (The award names are: the 2010 Lt. Gen. Sherrard award as the #1/32 Reserve wings in the nation; 2010 Maintenance Effectiveness Award for top MXG in AFRC; AFRC Section of the Year for 439th AMU; the 2010 DoD Reserve Award for Family Readiness; the Maj. Gen. James McNeil Award for HRDC excellence for the second time in two years - tied for first place with the 445th AW at Wright Patterson; and the AFRC 2011Fer de Lance competition for club cooking competition.)
History. Westover ARB has been in operation since 1940 and served as a bomber training base and port of embarkation/ debarkation during World War II. Following the war, the base was a staging point for the Berlin Airlift,and headquarters of the Military Air Transport Service's Atlantic Division until April 1955. From that time until 1974, the base was a major Strategic Air Command installation. Since May 19, 1974 Westover has been an Air Force Reserve Command base. From that time until October, 1987 the 439th Tactical Airlift Wing operated C-130 Hercules and C-123 Provider aircraft. The wing converted to C-5As in 1987 and the unit eventually became designated as the 439th Airlift Wing.
(Current as of October 2011)