By Tech. Sgt. Terri Paden, 15th Wing Public Affairs
The 96th Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) officially deactivated Sept. 3 during a ceremony held at hangar 13 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
Base leaders and members of Team Hickam gathered to witness the casing of the 96th ARS guidon, which signified the official deactivation of the squadron.
“We’re here to salute a mission well done, honor those who proudly wore the patch, and look forward to the day when the 96th will once again be pulled from the pages of history and assembled to answer the nation’s call,” said Col. Charles Velino, 15th Operations Group commander.
Though the inactivation process actually took a full year to complete, Velino said the “Screamin’ Eagles” implemented the inactivation in exactly the same way they executed their flying mission—”with passion, with precision, with pride and with the unequaled professionalism we’ve come to expect from the men and women of the 96th.”
The Screamin’ Eagles of the 96th Air Refueling Squadron trace their heritage to the Army Air Corps’ 6th Reconnaissance Squad-ron (heavy) at March Field, Calif. Originally constituted on Nov. 20, 1940, the unit conducted anti-submarine patrols at the beginning of World War II.
On April 22, 1942, the unit was redesignated as the 39th Bombardment Squadron (medium) and conducted air offensive operations until the end of the war, operating from Hickam Field, Tarawa Atoll, the Philippines and Okinawa, Japan.
Since its inception, the 96th ARS has flown multiple aircraft including PT-17, B-18, B-25, KC-97 and, most recently, the KC-135. The unit has earned numerous awards including a Distinguished Unit Citation, five Outstanding Unit Awards, and a Meritorious Unit Award.
The 96th Air Refueling Squadron was reactivated on July 23, 2010 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam in response to an increased demand for in-flight air refueling support throughout the Pacific theater. The Screamin’ Eagles were an active associate of the 203rd Air Refueling Squadron, a Hawaii Air National Guard unit, and together formed a total force enterprise organization.
Since its reactivation, the 96th Air Refueling Squadron flew more than 1,800 sorties, totaling more than 6,500 hours and offloading more than 36-million pounds of fuel to thousands of joint and multinational aircraft.
The unit has participated in Operations Enduring Freedom, Inherent Resolve and Noble Eagle, as well as multiple exercises including Cope Tiger, Northern Edge, RIMPAC, Red Flag, Sentry Aloha, Cobra Gold and Cope Taufan. The unit has also flown numerous aeromedical evacuation missions and supported movement of the president of the United States throughout the Pacific region.
“When I took command 16 months ago, I expressed how humbled I was by this organization,” said Lt. Col. Jason Work, former 96th ARS commander, during his closing remarks.
“After getting to know them and seeing them in action, I am simply awestruck. Each and every Airman has exemplified and exceeded the eagle standard, and I am deeply honored to have been their commander.”
Work said as this chapter in the 96th ARS history comes to a close, the Air Force will note the squadron’s operational contributions and continued legacy of service to the nation, but that’s not the only thing he will remember.
“What I will note is that our legacy is not solely the number of sorties flown, the number of aircraft refueled, or the pounds of fuel offloaded, but rather the quality of the Airmen who served in the 96th,” he said.
“It is these Airmen who made the Screamin’ Eagles an exceptional organization worthy of remembering. This is their legacy and it does not end here. It goes forward with these men and women to the betterment of our Air Force and our nation.”