Headquartered at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, the 91st Missile Wing (91 MW) is one of three operational intercontinental ballistic missile wings in Air Force Global Strike Command. The wing is commanded by Colonel Stephen L. Davis and is under the control of Twentieth Air Force, headquartered at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming. The mission of the 91st Missile Wing is to defend the United States with safe, secure and effective ICBMs in support of the President and COCOMS.
Both the 91st Missile Wing and the 91st Operations Group trace their history to the 91st Bombardment Group (91 BG). Activated on 15 Apr 1942, the bomb group flew B-17s from England, flying their first combat missions in November 1942. The group flew missions throughout the war, winning two Distinguished Unit Citations and eight campaign streamers. From holding the line against the Germans in 1942, the group followed allied forces across Europe, bombing the beach and inland defenses for the Normandy invasion, and supporting the ground troops in the Northern France and Ardennes-Alsace campaigns. After hostilities ceased, the group flew prisoners of war from camps in Germany to a camp in France for transportation home. Soon after, they went home themselves, and the group was inactivated on 7 Nov 1945. During their long combat service, the wing earned fame both from their combat exploits and from famous people and aircraft assigned. The Memphis Belle and her crew belonged to the 91st, and Clark Gable also flew missions with the group.
The brought back the 91st when they activated the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing (91 SRW) on 10 November 1948. Headquartered at McGuire AFB, New Jersey, the 91 SRW's mission was global strategic reconnaissance with an emphasis on aerial photography and mapping. When the Korean War broke out in 1950, a 3-plane detachment from the wing, flying the RB-45C, flew to Japan to provide the Far East Air Forces commander improved reconnaissance capability. The detachment remained there for the duration of the war and flew reconnaissance missions over North Korea and surveillance missions over the Sea of Japan. While flying an RB-45C to Japan for the detachment, Major Louis H. Carrington Jr. and his crew won the Mackay trophy for 1952 for making the first trans-Pacific flight of a multi-engine jet bomber. This flight followed the first unrefueled trans-Atlantic flight of a jet aircraft made by another 91 SRW RB-45C the previous year.
After the war, the wing continued operations until it's inactivation on 8 November 1957. The wing was dormant from November 1957 to November 1962 when the Air Force activated and redesignated it as the 91st Bombardment Wing (91 BMW). Stationed at Glasgow Air Force Base, Montana, the wing trained in strategic bombardment and aerial refueling with B-52C and D bombers and KC-135 tankers. In June 1968, Headquarters Strategic Air Command closed Glasgow Air Force Base as part of an Air Force-wide cost cutting measure. Rather than inactivate the 91st, upon which it had bestowed the 91st Bombardment Group's World War II history, Strategic Air Command (SAC) redesignated the wing as the 91st Strategic Missile Wing (91 SMW) and moved it, without personnel and equipment, to Minot Air Force Base. At Minot, the wing replaced the 455th Strategic Missile Wing, inactivated concurrent with the redesignation and relocation of the 91 SMW. The 91st took control of three squadrons of Minuteman I intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), the 740th, 741st and 742d Strategic Missile Squadrons. In 1971, the 91st moved to the forefront of the SAC missile force by becoming the first wing to convert to Minuteman III ICBMs. Through the 1970s and 1980s the wing continued to secure America's freedom by ensuring missiles stayed on alert.
On 1 September 1991, SAC restructured the entire command, redesignating the 91 SMW as the 91st Missile Wing (91 MW) and assigning it to the Twentieth Air Force (20 AF). When the Air Force inactivated SAC, TAC, and MAC in 1991, the newly activated Air Combat Command (ACC) took control of the nation's ICBM force, including the 91st Missile Wing. On 1 July 1993, the wing's command structure again changed when the Air Force realigned the 91st from Air Combat Command (ACC) to Air Force Space Command (AFSPC). The men and women of the 91st, known as the "Rough Riders," took the changes in stride, keeping missiles on alert and maintaining their mission of deterrence.
During the summer of 1994, the Air Force again changed the structure of the wing, inactivating the wing's two subordinate groups and redesignating the unit in July as the 91st Missile Group. The change occurred to comply with a Chief of Staff Air Force (CSAF) directive to implement his concept of "one base - one wing - one boss." However, the establishment of the unit as a group-level organization expanded the commander's span of control to such a degree that it proved potentially harmful to mission effectiveness and efficiency. Recognizing these factors, AFSPC again redesignated the unit, returning it to wing status on 1 February 1996.
Another name change occurred on 1 October 1997 when Air Force Space Command redesignated the 91st Missile Wing as the 91st Space Wing. AFSPC made this change to better describe the present and future mission of Air Force Space Command and its wings. The most recent name change came in 2008, when AFSPC again designated the wing as the 91st Missile Wing. The 91st, along with the other two ICBM wings, joined the new Air Force Global Strike Command on 1 December 2009.
Since coming to Minot Air Force Base, the 91 MW and its subordinate units have earned numerous Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards and a variety of other awards, including several Air Force-level, Major Command-level and Numbered Air Force-level awards. On 28 August 1997, Gen. Howell M. Estes III, commander, AFSPC, presented the wing with Air Force Space Command's inaugural Gen. Thomas S. Moorman Jr. Trophy as the best wing in the command for 1996 and again in 2002. Most recently, US Strategic Command presented the wing with the 2010 Omaha Trophy for best ICBM wing.
For more six decades, through three wars and the cold war, with vastly different missions, the 91st Missile Wing and its predecessors have answered America's call. Today, the 91st lives up to its motto, "Poised for Peace," providing strong deterrence that helps keep our nation free.
(Current as of December 2011)