Year in Review: AFSOC welcomes the 137th Special Operations Wing

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kasey Phipps
  • 137th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
The recent re-designation ceremony at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base, Oklahoma City, officially recognized the 137th Special Operations Wing and its subordinate units as part of the Air Force Special Operations Command, adding "Special Operations" to most of the units' names.

However, these changes are more than name-deep.

It started when the last KC-135 Stratotanker flying mission marked the closing of the 137th's air refueling chapter, call sign Sooner 26.

With more than 13,500 flying hours in the KC-135 and 206,000 accident-free hours amassed in the last 30 years, the Wing was primed for a change of mission.

"I think we proved that we could transition fast and proved again our unit's perseverance, resilience, and adaptability," said Lt. Col. Mark Hole, former tanker detachment commander, 185th Air Refueling Squadron. "That will serve us well in this next challenge and the challenge that's likely to follow after that."

That next challenge came in hot on the tails of the MC-12W, a medium-to low-altitude, twin-engine turboprop aircraft with a primary mission to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support directly to ground forces serving overseas. It effectively brought flying operations back to WRANGB while solidifying the mission change for Airmen.

"This is important to bring flying operations back to Will Rogers because it allows our Airmen to actually see the mission," said Col. Devin R. Wooden, 137 SOW commander. "It lets everyone know that what they're supporting is actually taking place and just gives a visual indicator of what it is we're here to do."

Since its arrival, the special operations tempo has ramped up (and continues to soar) while Airmen base-wide equally rise to the challenge. The landscape of the base has changed as units are activated and deactivated and structures are erected to better support the details of the mission.

Unit changes:

- L3 Communications was contracted for MC-12 maintenance, while the 137th Maintenance Group and the 137th Airlift Control Flight were deactivated.
- To support the influx of intelligence data inherent to the ISR platform, two intelligence squadrons were activated - the 285th Special Operations Intelligence Squadron and the 189th Intelligence Squadron - Sept. 28, 2016.

Technological and structural changes:

- Aircraft shelters were built on the WRANGB flight line to protect MC-12s from the elements.
- An accredited Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, an enclosed area within a building used to process, discuss and store sensitive information, was built and installed.
- A 60-foot-tall, 138,000-dollar antennae tower that took nearly a month to complete was built at the end of September 2016.
- WRANGB received several simulators for aircrews and pilots to use in training, along with computer systems that allow MC-12 aircrews to practice in a virtual environment.

Now, with all of the recent changes, AFSOC's newest Air Commandos are training to join the fight. The first combat systems officer from WRANGB graduated Combat Systems Officer school and the Wing's first deployment as a special operations wing is well underway.

"Throughout our history the Airmen of the 137th have made a habit of being ready when called," said Wooden. "Whether at home or overseas, you are ready to lead, ready to sacrifice, and ready to develop vital skills to remain relevant - all while looking after each other and the health of your units. Good luck to each and every one of you in this new endeavor, and Godspeed to the 137th Special Operations Wing."

As the Wing and its Airmen begin to fall into the special operations rhythm, more special operations "firsts" are sure to follow.