Ellsworth AFB

Ellsworth AFB
The 44th Strategic Missile Wing, based near Rapid City, South Dakota, became the second Minuteman Wing, initially equipped with Minuteman I missiles and later with Minuteman II. Among the six Minuteman wings, this one was unique in that it was the only one initially equipped with both Minuteman and Titan missiles! But when the 850 SMS was inactivated in 1965, it became, like the other wings, Minuteman only. The Minuteman tactical units were the 66th, 67th, and 68th Strategic Missile Squadrons. Configuration-wise, the biggest difference between Wing I and Wing II facilities was that the support equipment (back-up generator, etc.) for the Launch Control Center was moved underground, placed adjacent to the LCC. Back on the support base, the missile wing took advantage of the huge hangar that had been built for the recently retired B-36 bombers that had been based at Ellsworth, and constructed offices inside the hangar to house the wing headquarters and squadron offices. Ellsworth AFB became a showplace in the late 1980s and early 1990s, especially for U.S. presidents and Soviet/Russian delegations, because of its variety of weapons systems at a single location. Visitors could tour Minuteman facilities, sit in a new B-1B bomber, and walk through KC-135 tankers and EC-135 command post aircraft. At one point, there were four different wings at the base: 28th Bombardment Wing, 44th Strategic Missile Wing, 99th Strategic Weapons Wing, and 812th Strategic Support Wing. That’s a lot of colonels in one place! The personnel in all of these wings referred to themselves as the Black Hills Bandits, a moniker with a long and storied tradition at Ellsworth. The four wings at the base did not last long. The 812th was disbanded in September 1991 (the same month the 44 SMW became the 44 MW), the 4 ACCS with its ALCC aircraft inactivated in 1992, and then, in 1994, after the last of the missiles had been removed, the 44 MW and its one remaining missile squadron were inactivated, leaving only B-1B bombers and a few tankers at the base. But the silver lining is that one of the Minuteman II LCCs and one of its LFs was spared the wrecking ball and TNT blasts to serve as a reminder of what once existed on the South Dakota prairielands. The former Delta-01 and D-09, near Wall, SD, have been preserved and restored, and are now part of the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. Now, on to the patches from this wing. In this album, the wing patches are displayed first, followed by the missile squadrons, including their unofficial morale patches. Following the tactical units are the patches of the support organizations (maintenance, security, comm, medical, etc.), all presented in numerical-alphabetical order rather than being grouped functionally. At the end are the various Blackhills Bandits patches and the Ellsworth Minuteman II patch.
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