Chronology of Altus Air Force Base


Date Event

1891 Residents of Frazier abandoned their town on the Red River because of a flood. They traveled a few miles east to a new site on higher ground and established a new community that they named Altus, meaning high place. Residents were originally subject to Texas laws because of a 40-year old surveying error. Cowboys who regularly drove cattle through the area nicknamed Altus "Buttermilk Station" because residents frequently offered them buttermilk for refreshment.

17 June 1942 The War Department established Altus Army Air Field as an advanced flying school.

Summer-Autumn 1942 Workers began construction projects on future site of the Army Air Forces Advanced Flying School. Above average rainfall that hampered the Army's construction efforts at Altus boosted area farmers' incomes. Although it was difficult for the construction workers to operate their heavy machinery, farmers produced a record alfalfa crop, as well as bumper cotton and wheat crops. Additionally, the experimental peanut crop was a success.

25 December 1942 Residents of Altus hosted the newly arrived soldiers in their homes for Christmas dinner, starting a tradition not unlike the newcomers of today receiving a friendly and welcoming invitation to dinner from Altus' Committee of 100.

10 January 1943 The first consignment of trainers, a formation of AT-10s, landed at the field.

14 January 1943 A formation of AT-9s arrived, allowing the flying training program to start 2 days later.

18 April 1943 Col. John M. Price hosted the first Open House at the recently redesignated Altus Army Airfield.

1943 - 1944 The training tempo at Altus peaked with new classes of aviation cadets entering the 70-hour courses every 4.5 weeks. Almost 5,400 Altus graduates received their wings, then went on to attend more specialized bomber or transport training.

15 May 1945 The Army placed the field on temporary inactive status, and declared it surplus five months later.

1946 The field became temporary home to thousands of World War II surplus aircraft. Civilian concerns bought some of the aircraft for commercial use, while many others were salvaged at Altus. The most famous visitor was the Memphis Belle, which Altus eventually sent to the city of Memphis, Tennessee, for permanent display.

14 September 1948 The War Assets Administration Office in Dallas, Texas, deeded Altus Army Air Field to the city of Altus for $1. The city used the installation as a municipal airport.

9 January 1951 An Air Force inspection team visited Altus, raising local hopes of a reactivation of the base.

20 June 1951 The Air Force requested almost $18 million for construction to reactivate the field at Altus. The request followed months of effort by Altus' government officials and Chamber of Commerce. Chamber representatives had traveled to Washington on four occasions to confer with defense officials.

8 January 1953 The Air Force assigned the 63D Troop Carrier Wing to the airfield, under control of the Tactical Air Command. Stationed at Altus for only nine months, the wing operated C-47s and C-45s.

15 October 1953 The Strategic Air Command (SAC) assumed control of Altus Air Force Base and started a major construction project to include: a chapel, jet fuel storage facilities, hangars, wing headquarters, flight simulator building and runway extensions. Altus' mission under SAC was operating B-47s and KC-97s.

18 November 1953 HQ SAC activated the 96th Bombardment Wing, (Medium) and stationed it at Altus. Strategic Air Command also activated and assigned to the wing the 337th, 338th and 339th Bombardment Squadrons (Medium), as well as the 96th Air Refueling Squadron.

19 April 1955
Col. Audrin R. Walker, Commander, 96th Bomb Wing delivered the B-47 Stratojet to the base, named the City of Altus.

13 December 1957 The 11th Bombardment Wing, (Heavy), moved from Carswell AFB, Texas, to Altus, following the transfer of the 96th to Dyess AFB, Texas.

21 January 1958 Altus received its first B-52 Stratofortress, later christened The Lady Altus.

6 June 1958 Strategic Air Command began switching out the KC-97 Stratofreighters assigned to the 96th Air Refueling Squadron for the new KC-135 jet tankers.

16 March 1960 A mayoral proclamation placed Altus AFB within Altus' city limits.

1 May 1960 Construction began on the first of 12 Atlas "F" intercontinental ballistic missile sites in the area surrounding Altus AFB.

1 June 1961 A new squadron, the 577th Missile Squadron, activated to operate a complex of 12 Atlas F missile sites within a 40-mile radius of Altus. The squadron would become operational on 10 October 1962.

April 1965 The 577th Missile Squadron was inactivated when the Department of Defense phased out the Atlas "F" missile.

December 1965 The Defense Department announced the B-52 aircraft at the base would be phased out between 1967 and 1971.

August 1966 The 4th Mobile Communications Group transferred from Hunter AFB, Georgia to Altus. The unit's mission consisted of providing mobile and transportable communication services, aids to navigation and air traffic control for use in any area of the world. The arrival of this unit also offset the impact the local community experienced with the loss of the missile squadron and B-52 mission.

8 May 1967 HQ USAF announced that Altus would be the site for the Military Airlift Command's airlift training center.

1 July 1968 Military Airlift Command (MAC) assumed control of Altus AFB from SAC, during a ceremony that took place in front of military officials and local civic leaders.

1-2 October 1968 Lockheed-Georgia Aircraft Corporation and MAC jointly hosted a tour of Lockheed's C-5 facility in Georgia for 39 Altus civic leaders. Altus' mayor and its Chamber of Commerce president expressed their eagerness to provide a home for the C-5 during an interview with an Atlanta television newscaster.

18 April 1969 The first seven (of 19) C-141As arrived at Altus from Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, as part of MAC's movement of the 443d Military Airlift Wing and 57th Airlift Squadron.

17 December 1969 The first C-5 Galaxy, tail number 67-0170, Spirit of Altus, arrived at Altus AFB.

17 December 1969 The arrival of the first C-5A marks the activation of the 56th Airlift Squadron as the first operational C-5 unit in the United States Air Force.
January and

March 1972 Crews of the 57th Airlift Squadron fly missions to Peking, China in support of President Richard M. Nixon's visit.

1 May 1974 The first aerial refueling between a KC-135 and a C-5. Both aircraft were assigned to squadrons at Altus. The refueling took place at approximately 26,000 feet between Amarillo, Texas and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

27 September 1974 A C-5 from the 56th AS makes an emergency landing at the Clinton-Sherman Airport, Clinton, Oklahoma. All nine crewmembers escaped the burning aircraft before the fire destroys the aircraft.

September 1977 Two of the first ten women pilots in the Air Force began advanced pilot training in the C-141 aircraft. The first female pilot to graduate was 2nd Lt. Kathleen A. Rambo. The other pilot in the program was Capt. Kathy LeSauce. The first female navigator, Capt. Betty Jo Payne, began her training on 14 November 1977.

21 December 1979 The 443d Military Airlift Wing received its first C 141B.

9 September 1984 The space shuttle Discovery (OV-103) transited through Altus AFB on a ferry flight from Palmdale, California, in route to the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. After its first mission STS-41D.

1 October 1984
The 340th Air Refueling Group was redesignated as the 340th Air Refueling Wing.

29 October 1984 The 443d's Chief of Training hosted representatives from McDonnell-Douglas to acquaint them with training facilities and techniques used at Altus. This was the initial step in preparation of the C-17 training mission.

21 January 1987
The Honorable Edward C. "Pete" Aldridge Jr. presided over the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Airlift Training Center, Building 87. In his speech, Secretary Aldridge announced that C-17 crews would train in this very building in the future.

8 August 1990 - June 1991 Units from Altus flew missions to support Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM. It's C-5s and C-141s deployed 3,863 passengers and 611 short tons of cargo. They redeployed 8,344 passengers and 112 short tons of cargo (2,000 x short tons = actual tonnage). Meanwhile Altus' SAC tankers flew 2,234 sorties, and offloaded almost 110 million pounds of fuel to over 8,900 receivers.

27 August 1991 HQ USAF redesignated the 443d Military Airlift Wing as the 443d Airlift Wing.

15 March 1991
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4876 staged a parade welcoming returning members of Operation DESERT STORM to Altus.

1 June 1992 HQ USAF inactivated Military Airlift Command, Strategic Air Command, and Tactical Air Command. In their place, two new commands were created: Air Mobility Command (AMC) and Air Combat Command. Altus became an AMC base.

1 October 1992 HQ AMC activated the 97th Air Mobility Wing as the host unit at Altus. The 97th replaced both the 443d Airlift Wing and the 340th Air Refueling Wing, which were inactivated.

1 July 1993 Air Education and Training Command assumed control of the 97th AMW and Altus AFB.

29 August 1993
The Air Force's only two operational C-17s arrived at Altus, after having left Charleston AFB, South Carolina, to avoid the threat of Hurricane Emily.

20 January 1994
The 97th inactivated its 330th Flying Training Squadron at Castle AFB, California, and activated the 97th Training Squadron at Altus. This was the first move in the overall transfer of KC-135 training from Castle to Altus.

22 June 1994
The first C-17 students arrived at Altus for loadmaster airdrop academic training. They would receive flying training at Charleston AFB.

9 November 1994 HQ AETC activated the 55th Air Refueling Squadron at Altus and assigned it to the 97th Air Mobility Wing. The 55th assumed responsibility for training active duty, guard and reserve KC-135 aircrew members.

March 1995 The wing completed the transfer of the KC-135 Combat Crew Training School from Castle AFB, California, to Altus, with no degradation to training.

3 November 1995
Deputy Secretary of Defense John White announced the Defense Acquisition Board's decision to buy 120 C-17s, with Altus to receive eight of them for crew training.

30 January 1996 The USAF activated the 58th Airlift Squadron to conduct all formal C-17 Globemaster III training.

26 February 1996 The east runway (9,000 feet) opened for increased Visual Flight Rules (VFR) training.

23 March 1996 Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman personally delivered the wing's first C-17A, tail number 93-602, The City of Altus.

28 June 1996 The space shuttle Discovery (OV-103) transited through Altus AFB on a ferry flight from Palmdale, California in route to the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) 747 carrying the shuttle diverted to Altus due to deteriorating weather. The pair remained at Altus for only a few hours.

31 January 1997 The 97th Logistics Support Squadron and the 97th Maintenance Squadron officially inactivated. The active duty maintenance personnel for the C-17 are reassigned to the 58th Airlift Squadron.

1 February 1997
The new Civil Service maintenance organization called the Most Efficient Organization (MEO), Altus Team Excellence in Aircraft Maintenance (A-TEAM) assumed primary maintenance responsibility for all aircraft assigned to Altus AFB, with exception of the new C-17A.

8-19 September 1997 A 58th Airlift Squadron C-17 aircrew deployed and participated in a multinational exercise called CENTRAZBAT 97. As part of the exercise, the aircrew participated in the longest airdrop in history spanning over 7,780 miles only air refueling three times.

16 January 1998 Headquarters, Air Education and Training Command inactivated the 97th Training Squadron and activated the 54th Air Refueling Squadron.

28 January 1998
Two 97th Air Mobility Wing C-141s from the 57th Airlift Squadron participated in Operation Big Drop. The airdrop consisted of 67 Air Force aircraft and approximately 2,900 army airborne troops was the second largest airborne operation since World War II.

5 August 1999 The 97th Maintenance Squadron is reactivated to support the C-17 Globemaster III. The squadron is assigned to the 97th Logistics Group. Previously, active duty personnel assigned to the 58th Airlift Squadron had provided the maintenance of the C-17.

28 April 2000 Col. Aaron C. Burleson, USAF, (Ret) and his wife Myra attend a ceremony dedicating Bldg 52 as the Col. Aaron C. "Burley" Burleson Consolidated Support Facility. Col. Burleson served as Base Commander here from 1 Sept 73 to 28 June 74. At the time of the dedication, Col. Burleson was the director of military development for the City of Altus Chamber of Commerce.

2 November 2000 NASA's space shuttle Discovery (OV-103) is ferried through Altus AFB on the back of a NASA 747 after completing mission STS-92 and landing at Edwards AFB, California. During the mission, the crew delivered supplies to the International Space Station preparing it for the arrival of the first space station crew.

1 March 2001 NASA's space shuttle Atlantis (OV-104) is ferried through Altus AFB after completing its mission (STS-98) and landing at Edwards AFB, California. During the mission, the space shuttle crew delivered the U.S. Destiny laboratory module and supplies to the first crew of the international space station. The tandem remained at Altus for 4-days waiting for clear weather on the rest of its route to the Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

8 May 2001 NASA's space shuttle Endeavour (OV-105) transits through Altus AFB aboard a NASA 747 after competing mission STS-100 and landing at Edwards AFB, California. The crew's primary mission was to deliver and install Canadarm2, a new generation robotic arm for the International Space Station.

26 June 2001 The last two students of the C-141 aircrew training programs, Capt Doug Hall and SSgt Marc Bollinger, complete their studies and C-141 qualification flights with the 57th Airlift Squadron.

15 July 2001 The 97th Aeromedical-Dental Squadron inactivated and transferred all personnel to the 97th Medical Operations Squadron.

28 July 2001 The 57th Airlift Squadron is formally inactivated after 32 years of service at Altus AFB.

11 September 2001 The installation is placed in Force Protection Level "Delta" by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper, following the terrorist attacks, at the World Trade Center, New York City, New York, and the Pentagon, Washington D.C.

12 September 2001 Thirteen members of the 97th Medical Group deployed to McGuire AFB, New Jersey, aboard a C-17 from the 58th Airlift Squadron to provide medical assistance to victims of the terrorist attacks the previous day. The C-17 is one of only a few aircraft allowed to fly over the nation due to all air traffic ordered to land during the terrorist attacks and the nature of the attacks.

12 May 2002 The 97th Maintenance Squadron inactivated transferring all maintenance responsibilities to the civilian maintenance organization.

28 June 2002
The space shuttle Endeavour (OV-105) stops at the base aboard a NASA 747 in route back to the Kennedy Space Center. The crew of STS-111 delivered the Expedition Five crew to the International Space Station and returned the Expedition Four crew to Earth. Space Shuttle Endeavour also delivered and the Mobile Base System, a new platform for its robotic arm.

30 August 2002 The wing reorganizes in accordance with an Air Force wide restructure. During a ceremony at the parade grounds, the 97th Logistics Group and the 97th Transportation Squadron were inactivated. During the ceremony the 97th Supply Squadron was redesignated the 97th Logistics Readiness Squadron, inheriting the duties of the transportation squadron and the logistics plans flight. Also, the 97th Contracting Squadron placed under the newly renamed 97th Mission Support Group (previously the 97th Support Group) and the civilian maintenance organization was recognized as the Altus Maintenance Directorate.

6 January 2003 Men and women of the U.S. Army's 1120th Maintenance Company, from the Oklahoma National Guard Army began augmenting members of the 97th Security Forces Squadron at the installation gates.

25 April 03 During the annual Boom Operators symposium, the Altus chapter unveiled a Boom Operators Memorial. Located outside the primary building for both air refueling squadrons, the memorial listed "boomers" who lost their lives while in the performance of their duties since the inception of aerial refueling. The local chapter raised all of the funding for the memorial.

2-4 May 03
Members of the 58th Airlift Squadron participate in a joint exercise with the 3d Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Ft. Lewis, Washington. The squadron flew 90 sorties in 46 hours, transporting 55 "Stryker" vehicles and 667 passengers with five C-17s, validating the readiness of the Army newest combat system.

18 October 2004
While deployed to Talil AB, Iraq Airman First Class Michael A. Possage, a deployed member of the 97th Logistics Readiness Squadron, was severly injured in a vehicle accident. During the accident he sustained, burns, broken bones, internal injuries and a collapsed lung. After being trapped under the 5-ton vehicle for several hours A1C Possage is flown, first to Rhien-Mein AB, Germany then to Wilford Hall Medical Center, Lackland AFB, Texas where regains consciousness and began to recover from his injuries. A1C Possage was the first member assigned to the 97th Air Mobility Wing to be severly injured while deployed in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.

1 November 2004 After 20-months of duty, the members of the 1120th Maintenance Company, 45th Infantry Brigade, Oklahoma National Guard are relieved of duty.

10 March 2005 While flying a low-level training mission near Lubbock, Texas the crew of C-17 97-0042 struck a red tailed hawk. The impact shattered the nose of the aircraft causing the loss airspeed and altitude information. Upon impact pieces of the radome also passed through the number 3 engine. Immediately assuming command of the aircraft from the student, Capt. Andreas H. Ix, Instructor Pilot, 58th Airlift Squadron, gained control of the aircraft and began assessing the situation. After coordination with the control tower at Altus AFB, Capt. Ix safely landed the aircraft, saving the lives of all six personnel onboard and the aircraft. For his actions Capt. Ix received the Air Force level 2005 Koren Kolligian Jr. Trophy given for "outstanding feats of airmanship by aircrew members."

22 June 2005 Staff Sgt. John W. Miller, A1C David A. Randolph, and A1C Hector R. Davalos, deployed members of the 97th Security Forces Squadron, survived the explosion of a improvised explosive device under the armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HUMVEE) they were in during convoy escort duties in Iraq. All three men received minor injuries and received the Purple Heart medal. The first three from the 97th Air Mobility Wing to receive the award during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.

5 July 2005
Aircrews from the 58th Airlift Squadron drop the first pallets on the expanded Sooner Drop Zone using the dual-row airdrop system.

28 August - 28 October 2005 Over a 41 day period, the crews of the 97th AMW flew 43 missions, delivered 957 displaced persons to safer locations, carried 831 passengers to and from disaster areas for support purposes, and transported 1,557,200 million pounds of food, clothing, equipment, vehicles, and supplies to the areas devastated by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma.

19 August 2005 After completing mission STS-114 from 29 July to 9 August the space shuttle Discovery (OV-103) landed at Edwards AFB, California. On its trip back to the Kennedy Space Center aboard NASA's modified 747 the space vehicle passed through Altus AFB long enough for the 747 to refuel. The space shuttle crew had just completed the first mission since the accident of the space shuttle Columbia (OV-102) on 1 February 2003.

6 September - 1 October 2005 Members of the 97th Air Mobility Wing comprise the backbone of the 97th Air Expeditionary Group deployed to Keesler AFB to aid in the recovery of the Gulf Coast region of the United States following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina's second landfall on 29 August 2005.

3 October 2005 1Lt. Anthony M. Fattizzi, graduated from the instructor navigator class. The last person to do so at Altus AFB.

8 November 2005
2Lt. Michael J. Sartain successfully completed his check ride and became the last graduate of the Navigator Initial Qualification course at Altus AFB.

14 October 2006 The crew of TEXON 01, Col. Carlron D. Everhart, 97 Air Mobility Wing Commander, Lt. Col. Tal W. Metzgar, 58th Airlift Squadron Commander, Capt. Brian E. Creighton, and Tech. Sgt. Mark R. Hafer, fly C-17, 93-0602, City of Altus, over the U.S. Air Force Memorial during the dedication ceremony. The 97th AMW aircraft was one of nine different aircraft and the USAF demonstration team "Thunderbirds" to pass over the memorial during the ceremonies.

29 June 2007 Col. Kyle J. Kremer relinquished command of the 56th Airlift Squadron to Col. Keith E. Tobin, Commander, 97th Operations Group during a ceremony honoring the 38 years of C-5 Galaxy training at Altus AFB. The 56th Airlift Squadron ceases C-5 training. The squadron is not officially inactivated until 30 September 2008.

24 July 2007 Senior Airman Bradon S. Eakins received the Purple Heart Award after sustaining injuries while on convoy duty in Afghanistan in 2006.

22 October 2007 The 97th Operations Support Squadron graduated the last four students from the active duty Airfield Officer Training Program.

5 May 2008
Wing personnel witness the inactivation of the 97th Mission Support Squadron and redesignation of the 97th Services Squadron as the 97th Force Support Squadron.

5 June 2008 Damages from a severe wind storm cost the base over $5,408,600.00. Many consider this wind event as "the tornado that wasn't."

30 August 2008 Crews from the 58th Airlift Squadron begin dispersing to areas in the projected path of Hurricane Gustav to drop off medical teams and move medical patients to hospitals in areas out of harm's way.

9 September 2008
The 97th Air Mobility Wing received tasking orders to assist in pre-hurricane airlift operations with C-17 support and as a staging area for response personnel after Hurricane Ike struck the coast of Texas near Port Arthur and Galveston Island.

1 April 2009 The 55th Air Refueling Squadron is inactivated and all KC-135 training is transferred to the 54th Air Refueling Squadron.

17 -22 January 2010 Within 14 hours of the initial request from Air Mobility Command the 97th Air Mobility Wing launched six C-17s, ten aircrews, civilian maintenance crew chiefs and a Public Affairs photographer to support humanitarian airlift operation UNIFIED RESPONSE to Haiti following a devastating earthquake. Over a 4 day period 58th Airlift Squadron crews deliver 1.5 million pounds of relief supplies and evacuate 1,366 people from the island.

28 January 2010 The worst ice storm in over 80 years strikes Southwest Oklahoma knocking out power for a 50 mile radius around Altus AFB. Over 95 percent of the base is left without electricity. The Base Gym, working on partial generator power serves as a shelter for families without heat and the Dining Facility provides limited rations. The temperature remains below freezing for seven days. On 2 February the wing commander issues a Limited Evacuation Order for non-essential personnel and families. Power slowly returns to the base after eight days.

12 November 2010
The wing suffers its first loss of an Airman during combat operations since the Vietnam War. Staff Sgt. Andrew S. Bubacz, 97th Communications Squadron, died from wounds incurred in the line of duty while deployed to Forward Operating Base Kalagush, Afghanistan. On 23 November 2010, a memorial ceremony is held at the Wings of Freedom Park attended by his wife, his family and wing personnel.

7 April 2011 Col. Jon T. Thomas, 97th AMW Commander, dedicates the southeast corner of the Wings of Freedom Park as the Combat Airmen's Grove. A memorial bench donated by the Altus Military Affairs Committee is placed in the grove in honor of Airman killed during combat operations. During the same ceremony, 5th Street is renamed Bubacz Street in honor of Staff Sgt. Bubacz killed in Afghanistan in November 2010.