BIRMINGHAM, Ala. --
The 117th Air Refueling Wing was the first Air National Guard unit to receive the Omaha Trophy here on Saturday.
The 117 ARW won the award in the strategic aircraft category in recognition of the outstanding mission performance with the U.S. Strategic Command.
The ceremony was conducted in the maintenance hangar with about 700 people in attendance including distinguished visitors, retirees, and families. The award was presented to the unit by Brig. Gen. James R. Stevenson Jr., Mobilization Assistant to the Director of Operations, USSTRATCOM.
“To put it simply, the 117th Air Refueling Wing was the most outstanding in their Nuclear Operational Readiness Inspection and their dedication to the mission itself,” said Stevenson. “As a traditional Guard unit but with a total force, they have accomplished unique tasks and in an innovative way that we absolutely need to meet future challenges that STRATCOM faces and we want to recognize Col. Scott Grant and the Wing members for that amazing dedication to the STRATCOM strategic deterrent mission.”
Alabama Sen. Doug Jones has been an advocate for the 117 ARW and was in attendance.
“I’m just so proud of these men and women and I’m just so proud of the State of Alabama for having that mission out there, for having those opportunities to show who we are and what we can do and to show how Alabama, and in particular, this unit is to the security of the United States of America,” said Jones. “We pride ourselves in being the National Champions and that’s what this is. This is a National Championship and I’m just so proud of Col. Grant and the rest of this team.”
The citizens of Omaha presented the first Omaha Trophy to the Strategic Air Command Commander on the 25th Anniversary of the SAC in 1971. The citizens requested that it be awarded every year to the outstanding wing in SAC. USSTRATCOM stood up in place of SAC in 1992. The Omaha Trophy continued to be awarded each year to the outstanding STRATCOM unit. It was expanded to five units within the following categories: Strategic Aircraft, Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, Submarine Ballistic Missile, Strategic Bomber and Global Operations.
“This is a culmination of a lot of hard work on the part of the Airmen and families of the 117th Air Refueling Wing,” said Grant. “Our airmen have absolutely performed beautifully and we are committed to doing exactly what America needs to defend the American way of life.”
The 117th Air Refueling Wing can trace its roots back to a World War I era flying club. The Birmingham Flying Club, also known as the Escadrille's, was the seventh federally recognized flying squadron on January 21, 1922 by the United States War Department. Maj. James A. Meissner, a World War I ace who had flown with Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, led the effort to form the unit and served as its first commander. During World War II the observation mission expanded to include fighters and bombers. After WWII the squadron was re-organized into the 117th Fighter Group, which quickly became the 117th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing. In 1994, the unit began flying the KC-135R Stratotankers and was re-designated as the 117th Air Refueling Wing. The 117 ARW provides quality worldwide air refueling, airlift, support, logistics, intelligence, and medical services in support of our community, state, and nation.