The bomb wing includes a total force of approximately 5,470 military members as well as 722 civilian employees.
The 5th Bomb Wing aligns under Eighth Air Force and Air Force Global Strike Command. The 5 BW consists of four groups:
5th Operations Group
5th Maintenance Group
5th Mission Support Group
5th Medical Group
Primary Supported Unit
91st Missile Wing, also headquartered at Minot AFB, ND
The B-52H Stratofortress is a long-range, nuclear and conventional heavy bomber that can perform a variety of missions. The bomber can fly at high subsonic speeds at altitudes reaching 50,000 feet. It has an unrefueled combat range in excess of 8,800 miles. The B-52H can carry precision guided ordnance with worldwide precision navigation.
The 5th Bomb Wing emblem dates back to the very beginning of the unit. The green and black fields are the colors of the Air Service at the time the 5 BW was activated and are symbolic of the historical infancy of aviation under Air Service. The vertical line, dividing the shield of the emblem, is symbolic of the clouds in the sky and of the wing's bombardment mission in the upper realms. The winged death's head is the militant representation of the function of the aerial bombardment. Motto: 'Kiai O Ka Lewa' translates to 'Guardians of the Upper Realm'--a Hawaiian expression, highly respected by ancient Hawaiian warriors. The expression was frequently used in battle as a war cry. Tradition has it that there were two birds, Kiwaha and Halulu, which were birds of state, or guardians of the realm.
The wing's history dates back over nine decades to the infancy of military aviation. It originally activated as the 2d Group (Observation) on Aug. 15, 1919, at Luke Field in the Territory of Hawaii. In 1921, the group was redesignated the 5th Group (Observation). A year later, it became the 5th Group (Pursuit and Bombardment) with its crews flying DeHaviland DH-4 aircraft.
In 1935, the group helped save the city of Hilo, Hawaii during the eruption of the Mauna Loa volcano. Ten Keystone B-3 and B-4 bombers from the group's 23rd and 72nd bombardment squadrons dropped 20, 600-pound bombs around the volcano to divert molten lava away from the town.
The 5th Bombardment Group lost several men and the majority of the group's planes were damaged during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hickam Field and other targets on the island of Oahu on Dec. 7, 1941. In spite of the confusion following the attack, the group went on to become the first U.S. military forces to take to the air following the attack.
During the nearly four years of war, the 5th BG participated in 10 major campaigns, flying from fields in the South Pacific such as Guadalcanal, Munda, and Samar. The group flew more than 1,000 combat missions and earned two Distinguished Unit Citations and the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation. During the time, its members accumulated more than 13,300 medals and decorations.
Between 1947 and 1959, the group underwent several name and assignment changes while continually upgrading its aircraft. While stationed at Travis AFB, Calif., the 5th Bombardment Wing (Heavy) entered the jet age in February 1959. Strategic Air Command assigned the wing its first B-52G to replace its B-36 fleet. With that change, the wing gained the 916th Air Refueling Squadron and its KC-135A air refueling aircraft.
The wing began its long association with Minot, N.D. when it moved just north of the town July 25, 1968. The move brought a transition to the B-52H, adding vigor to its strategic deterrence mission. The 5th BW lost the 916th AREFS but gained the 906th AREFS as a result of the reassignment to Minot. Immediately after the move, the wing and its people saw combat again over Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. Its crews attacked targets and provided refueling support in the region while supporting American and allied air and ground forces during Operations Arc Light, Linebacker II, and Young Tiger.
Entering the turbulent 90s, the wing marked a historic moment in September 1991, in the final days of the Cold War, when it pulled its aircraft from continuous alert status - a job it performed for 35 years. Although the wing no longer had an alert mission, events of the 90s saw the wing participating in combat operations around the world.
The bomb wing saw combat again in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Fox in December 1998. Months later, three Minot B-52s and crews joined the 2nd Air Expeditionary Group at RAF Fairford, England, in support of Operation Allied Force over the former Republic of Yugoslavia.
In the weeks following the terrorist attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, the 5th BW deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Flying from a forward operating location, bomber crews attacked strategic targets in Afghanistan to topple the Taliban regime.
In 2003, the wing deployed approximately 550 people and 14 B-52s to the U.S. European Command region in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During the war, the wing's B-52s flew more than 120 combat missions and logged more than 1,600 combat flying hours. The bombers dropped more than 3 million pounds of weaponry, including conventional air-launched cruise missiles, joint direct attack munitions, gravity weapons, laser-guided bombs and leaflet dispensers.
In 2009, as part of a change to the Air Force nuclear enterprise, the 69th Bomb Squadron activated at Minot AFB, to become the fourth active B-52 squadron.
On Feb. 1, 2010, the 5th BW officially transferred from Air Combat Command to the Air Force's newest major command focused on the nation's nuclear enterprise, Air Force Global Strike Command.
The summer of 2011 saw major flooding in the City of Minot, impacting nearly 1,200 Minot AFB personnel and family members. The 5th BW provided personnel and equipment via the Stafford Act to assist the city in levee construction and evacuation efforts.
The newest 5th BW unit, the 705th Munitions Squadron, activated in Dec. 2011, replacing the 17th Munitions Squadron, an Air Force Material Command Unit.
Members of the 5th Bomb Wing are continually deployed around the world, taking part in combat and support operations as a part of the Global War on Terrorism. Bomber deployments to Andersen AFB, Guam, support U.S. Pacific Command operations and provide a stabilizing military force in the region.
Through its nearly 90 years of continuous service, the 5th BW has stayed true to its motto Kiai O Ka Lewa: "Guardians of the Upper Realm."
(Updated Nov. 9, 2021)