Francis E. Warren AFB

Francis E. Warren AFB
Francis E. Warren AFB is the oldest continuously active military installation within the Air Force. Established in 1867 by the U.S. Army as Fort David Allen Russell, it protected settlers in the west from “hostile Indians,” serving as both an infantry and cavalry post during those pioneer years. After the turn of the century, artillery units were assigned also, but the fort was used primarily for troop training. The last cavalry units left in 1927. In 1930, Fort Russell was renamed Fort Francis E. Warren, in honor of the first U.S. senator from Wyoming, who had just died the year before (Warren was the father-in-law of General “Black Jack” Pershing, commander of all U.S. soldiers in World War I). The troop training mission was continued after the facility came under control of the U.S. Army Air Forces on 1 June 1947, and then the U.S. Air Force three and one-half months later. Air Training Command was given responsibility for the fort that same year. In 1949, Fort Warren was renamed Francis E. Warren AFB, but troop training continued to be the base’s function; it couldn’t be used for much else because there is no paved runway (long ago, it briefly had a dirt airfield, upon which WWI ace Eddie Rickenbacker crashed his plane and survived). But little more than a decade after ATC was given control of the base, plans were laid to turn the installation into this country’s first operational ICBM base, and ATC handed the base over to SAC in 1958. Initially the ICBMs were Atlas missiles, 24 of them, assigned to the 706th Strategic Missile Wing (later renamed the 389 SMW) deployed in three tactical squadrons (564th, 565th, and 549th Strategic Missile Squadrons, the last of which later became the 566th). The wing’s first Atlas complex was declared operational on 9 August 1960, but by the mid-1960s, the Atlas missiles were replaced with 200 Minuteman missiles in the 90 SMW, deployed in four tactical units: 319th, 320th, 321st, and 400th SMSs. The 400 SMS was the last Minuteman unit activated with the Minuteman I-B model (1 July 1964). F.E. Warren AFB has the distinction of being the only Minuteman base with its missiles in more than one state; in fact, they are located in three states: Wyoming, Colorado, and Nebraska. During the early 1970s, the wing’s Minuteman I missiles were replaced with Minuteman IIIs and the command and control system was upgraded with a remote retargeting capability called Command Data Buffer (CDB). During the mid-1980s when Peacekeeper missiles were ready for fielding, the plan was to deploy 100 of them in silos of the 319th and 400th but when the number of missiles was cut to just 50, the 400 SMS was the unit chosen to receive them. From 1986 through 1988, the 50 missiles were back-fitted into the modified Minuteman silos. On 1 September 1991, the wing and its four missile squadrons lost the word “Strategic” in their designations during a reorganization that also added new “groups” to the wing. In October 1993, Twentieth Air Force relocated to F.E. Warren from Vandenberg AFB. Thus, the wing commander, a brigadier general, had to give up his historic, colonnaded house (the base is renowned for its historic buildings) to the NAF commander, a lieutenant general (RHIP!). Since 1991, Twentieth Air Force has had responsibility for all USAF ICBMs. In 1997, the 90 MW was renamed the 90th Space Wing, but the former name was restored in 2008. In the early 2000s, treaty mandates resulted in the gradual retirement of Peacekeeper missiles, and after its last missile was removed, the 400 MS was inactivated in the autumn of 2005, leaving F.E. Warren with three tactical units of Minuteman III missiles. For historical purposes, Quebec-01, one of the Missile Alert Facilities in the 400th, was preserved, turned over to the state of Wyoming, and is a popular tourist attraction north of Cheyenne, just off of Interstate 15. It is the last publicly viewable remnant of the Peacekeeper weapons system, except for the few missiles on static display. It’s interesting to note that after the closure of the 400 MS, nearly all of the wing’s missiles are in Colorado and Nebraska, not Wyoming. Of the 15 remaining Missile Alert Facilities, just one (A-01) is in Wyoming. One more distinction of this base is that from 1973 to 1993, and then from 2015 to the present, it has been the headquarters of the unit responsible for helicopter operations at all missile wings. Initially, that was the 37th Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron, which went through a series of names, and today it is the 582d Helicopter Group. That’s enough history. Now to the patches from this base. In this album, the wing-level patches are displayed first, followed by the ops group patches (official and unofficial), and then the missile squadrons, including their flight patches and unofficial morale patches. Following the tactical units are the patches of the OSS, maintenance, security, and other support units--all presented in numerical-alphabetical order (not grouped functionally), except for the hospital patches, which are grouped together in chronological sequence. At the end are the base morale patches.
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