In 1941, a farm specializing in growing wheat and corn was chosen to become the future site of the 911th Airlift Wing. At the request of the United States government, the Allegheny County Commissioners studied the Bell Farm as a location for a defense base. The farm area was located approximately two miles from today's Pittsburgh International Airport.
Construction began in April 1942 on the site for an Air Defense Unit. Of the more than 100 acres, about 96 acres were leased by the county to the military. The Air Force Reserve retains most of the property today. Units operating the base from 1945-1957 were the 444th Air Base Unit, the 2239th Air Force Reserve Training Center, the 71st Fighter Interceptor Group, the 81st Fighter Interceptor Group and the 2253rd Air Base Group. Since aviation, it was under the command of:
-Air Transportation Command, 1945-1946. The base operated as a refueling stop for aircraft being ferried from coast to coast.
-Continental Air Command, 1946-1952. This was the predecessor of the present Headquarters Air Force Reserve. During the 1946-1952 period, the base was a post-war reserve training center.
-Aerospace Defense Command, 1952-1958. The first jet fighter-interceptors came to the area under this command. When the ADC was discontinued, the 758th Troop Carrier Squadron, a reserve flying unit, was activated on November 16, 1957.
-Continental Air Command (again), 1958-1962. Training of reservists included flight proficiency and related operations and maintenance.
The 911th Troop Carrier Group was activated Jan. 19, 1963 at the then Greater Pittsburgh Airport (now Greater Pittsburgh International Airport) by Continental Air Command Special Order G-1 dated Jan. 2, 1963. The 758th Troop Carrier Squadron relinquished the base support function to the newly-created group and reported to the 911th rather than to Wing. The re-organization meant that troop carrier squadrons, who had formerly reported to Wings geographically distant, began reporting to Groups located on the same base. The new system made for easier administration and allowed more flexibility in calling units to active duty. The Pittsburgh unit changed names twice by 1972. It became the 911th Military Airlift Group in 1967 upon conversion to the C-124 Globemaster aircraft and the 911th Tactical Airlift Group when the organization changed to C-123K Providers in March of 1972.
The Pittsburgh-based unit was under several commands from 1963-1972. They were first assigned to the 459th Troop Carrier Wing, Medium (later 459th Military Airlift Wing) Jan. 1963. They were later subordinate to the 94th Military Airlift Wing for less than a year, beginning April 21, 1971. Upon the 1972 conversion, they were assigned to the 302nd Tactical Airlift Wing. The unit was trained to maintain combat readiness, ability to respond to national emergencies and to help maintain national security. The 911th participated in two-week encampments and mobility exercises as required. They flew airlift support missions for Air National Guard, ROTC, Army, Marine Corps and Coast Guard units. In addition, the Group was responsible for activities at the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport.
The 911th did its part to aid in the Vietnam War effort from 1965-1972. In 1965, the year President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered the first combat troops into Vietnam, the 911th participated in a limited airlift of Christmas gifts to servicemen in that Southeast Asian country. Gifts were brought to the base adjacent to greater Pittsburgh airport, where they were then processed for transport to bases with larger aircraft. The bigger planes then flew the gifts overseas. A local junior Chamber of Commerce even delivered 10 live Christmas trees to the 911th for processing.
The following summer, the 911th flew Vietnam transferees (both inbound and outbound) to and from stateside departure points during the 1966 airline strike. The unit hauled 1,771 passengers in 64 flights from Jul 11- Aug 31.
Upon conversion to C-124 Globemasters, the 911th was able to fly overseas to aid the war effort. The aircraft transported cargo to Vietnam. Each trip to that theater required about 15 days, as aircraft on-loaded and off-loaded cargo at various based in the Pacific and the United States. The 911th won the Vietnam gallantry cross for their efforts from Jan. 1, 1969 – Feb. 19 1972.
The unit remained busy following Vietnam operations in 1972. 911th aircrews flew to panama 1973 – 1975 to support southern command (SOUTHCOM) commitments. The unit also participated in Gallant Crew 77, involving 30,000 military people, during that time period. The 911th also participated in NATO Reforger in 1978.
In the 1980’s, SOUTHCOM commitments evolved into Volant Oak operations, as the 911th converted to C-130A models. The unit’s first Panama rotation with the “Herks” was Dec. 5-31. For the first time, they were able to fly missions throughout Central and South America, not just around the Howard Air Base. The C-123K’s were limited to the immediate vicinity of the Panama airbase.
When the 911th converted to C-130A’s, they became part of the 439rd Tactical (later Military) Airlift Wing Oct. 1, 1980. The 911th’s sister unit was the 914th at Niagara. That status remained as of the date of this report (911 TAG).
Another major deployment during the 1980’s was Operation Brimforst in Alaska, Jan. 24 – Feb. 7, 1985, testing the unit’s ability to perform in a frigid climate. The 911th also took part the following year in Red Flag, in which simulated combat operations were flown against aircraft with enemy marking, Volant Partner in Germany and Autumn Forge in several countries.
The 911th converted to factory-fresh C-130H Hercules models beginning March 4, 1987. The trend of Air Force Reserve units receiving new aircraft had begun in 1981. It was during President Reagan’s administration, starting in ’81, that the Reserves began to be considered as part of the total military force.
The conversion to C-130H aircraft meant an enhanced performance for the 911th in Panma in December 1987. The Pittsburgh-based unit flew for 30 days without a home station departure delay. This was the first time that had been accomplished in three years. The record reflected great credit upon the 911 Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
During December the following year, another unit was deployed to a Latin American nation. The 911th Tactical Airlift Clinic (later 911th Medical Squadron) deployed personnel to Honduras in 1988 to provide natives of that country with medical services they would have been unable to afford otherwise. Those on annual tour to the Central American nation appreciated the training, since this was the first time many had functioned under primitive conditions.
The beginning of the 90’s marked an ever increasing Reserve involvement in world affairs. To the 911th, this first took the form of three volunteer groups going to Southwest Asia for Desert Shield from Aug.–Oct. 1990. In addition, 911th volunteers served in that operation in this country.
The following year, 1991, people were mobilized by order in January and February. Members of the 33rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron were sent to Saudi Arabia and Turkey during Desert Storm, the Medical Squadron filled in for deployed active duty people at Andrews Air Force Base, Washington, D.C. and four members of the Communications Squadron were mobilized. This was the first time 911th reservists were mobilized.
The 911th participated in Operation Desert Shield/Storm August 1990 until March 1991, as more than 400 reservists served as volunteers or were activated. The 33rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron was activated and deployed to locations in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Germany. The 911th Medical Squadron was activated and deployed to Andrews AFB, MD. Volunteers from the 758th Airlift Squadron, 911th Maintenance Squadron, 911th Mission Support Squadron, 911th Mobility Support Flight and 911th Security Police Flight flew airlift missions or performed other tasks.
When Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992, the 911th aircrews and support personnel airlifted food and personnel to aid disaster relief efforts in south Florida. During 1993-1994, the 911th aircrews and support personnel have augmented Air Mobility Command operations for the humanitarian relief flights to Bosnia, in the former Yugoslavia, and airlift support for Operation Southern Watch in the Arabian Gulf Region. The 911th aircrews performed C-130H airdrop missions over eastern Bosnia and airlift missions into the city of Sarajevo.
When USAir flight 427 crashed in nearby Beaver County in September, 1994, 911th personnel volunteered to assist at the crash site, and base facilities were used for emergency response activities until October 1994. More than 500 wing members assisted during that period.
In October 1994 the 911th was re-designated the 911th Airlift Wing, the 33rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron was renamed the 911th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron and the 911th Medical Squadron became the 911th Aeromedical Staging Squadron. The 911th Airlift Wing reported to the 10th Air Force, Carswell ARS, Texas.
In February 1995, the base was nominated for closure by the Department of Defense. In June 1995, the base was removed from the closure list by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. In March and April 1996 the 911th Airlift Wing aircrews and support personnel deployed to Europe in support of Operation Joint Endeavor, the NATO-led peacekeeping mission to Bosnia. In October 1996, the 911th Airlift Wing received one C-130H aircraft, which increased its inventory to nine C-130H aircraft.
In April 1997, the 911th and other C-130 airlift units were reassigned to 22nd Air Force, Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia. In June and July 1997, 911th aircrews, support personnel and aircraft were deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Southern Watch. In July and August 1997, 911th aircrews were deployed to Europe for Operation Joint Guard in Bosnia. In August and September 1997, 911th aircrews, maintenance and support personnel and aircraft were deployed to Panama for the Coronet Oak rotation.
During 1998, 911th aircrews, maintenance and support personnel deployed to Panama in June and July to support the Coronet Oak rotation providing airlift in that region. Members of the 911th Security Forces Squadron deployed to Egypt in support of Exercise Iron Cobra. In 1999, 911th personnel deployed to Europe in support of NAT O operations for the Kosovo crisis. Also, 911th personnel deployed to Panama in February-March, 1999, and members of the 911th Security Forces Squadron deployed to Kuwait in 1999.
During 2000 and 2001, aircrews, maintenance and support personnel from the 911th deployed to Puerto Rico for Coronet Oak rotations in support of the U.S. Southern Command, and wing members deployed to Europe and Southwest Asia in support of Aerospace Expeditionary Force missions.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the 911th Airlift Wing responded to the call, flying numerous missions at McChord Air Force Base, Wash., in support of Operation Noble Eagle. In addition, the 911th has currently deployed more than 600 personnel to Southwest and Central Asia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The 911th Airlift Wing is assigned currently to the Air Force Reserve Command's 4th Air Force, March Air Reserve Base, Calif.