58th SPecial Operations Wing (Kirtland AFB, NM)
Today, the 58 SOW continues the training mission of the 542 CTW, a mission that began at Kirtland AFB in 1976 with the 1550th Aircrew Training and Test Wing (ATTW).
The 1550 ATTW first activated on 1 April 1971 at Hill AFB, Utah. It relocated to Kirtland AFB on 20 February 1976. The unit was re-designated as the 1550th Combat Crew Training Wing (CCTW) on 15 May 1984. On 1 October 1991, the 1550 CCTW inactivated and the training mission transferred to the 542d Crew Training Wing, which as mentioned earlier, transferred to the 58 SOW on 1 April 1994.
The wing also plays a vital role in local/regional search and rescue missions. While training is the primary mission here, search and rescue members assigned to the wing are typically called upon two or more times each year to support civilian rescue operations. To date, aircrews from Kirtland AFB have participated in more than 280 rescue operations and its members have been credited with saving more than 225 lives.
On 11 September 2001, immediately following a series of terrorist attacks launched against the United States, the 58 SOW flew an MC-130H carrying a federal emergency response team to the crash site of United Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. Since then, personnel and aircrews from the 58 SOW have supported and played a significant role in Operations ENDURING FREEDOM, IRAQI FREEDOM and other contingencies around the world.
To aid the war on terrorism the 58 SOW began providing a variety of specialized mission rehearsal simulator training courses including high altitude, low-visibility dust-out training for special operations helicopter crews projected to deploy. By better preparing these aircrews, the 58 SOW has made high altitude combat helicopter operations safer. Since 2001, the wing has deployed more than 160 personnel in support of the global war on terror.
On 23 November 2003, the 58 SOW suffered its first casualty of the war on terrorism. On this date, Maj Steven Plumhoff, an MH-53J pilot, was killed in a helicopter crash while deployed to Afghanistan for Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.
In addition to training at Kirtland AFB, the 58 SOW also oversees UH-1H specialized undergraduate pilot training-helicopter (SUPT-H) at Fort Rucker, Alabama.
The first Air Force SUPT-H students began attending Army sponsored helicopter pilot training at Fort Rucker in 1971. Prior to 1970, the Air Force conducted its own helicopter pilot training at places like Sheppard AFB, Texas and Stead AFB, Nevada. From 1971 to 2004, SUPT-H at Fort Rucker primarily operated as an Army owned and controlled program. In 2004, this changed. The training remained at Fort Rucker, but the Air Force assumed ownership/responsibility for conducting Air Force SUPT-H.
In May 2004, the Army transferred six UH-1Hs to the 23d Flying Training Squadron at Fort Rucker. By the fall of 2004, 40 UH-1Hs were transferred to the Air Force. This virtually doubled the wing’s total number of assigned aircraft. Today, the Air Force and 58 SOW have full ownership of Air Force SUPT-H at Fort Rucker.
A contract crew chief steps aside as an Air Force UH-1H takes off at Fort Rucker, Alabama
Looking to the future, members of the 58 SOW will continue serving at the leading edge of technology, training and development. As the Air Force’s premier special operations combat aircrew training wing, the 58 SOW will be called upon to train America’s best in the Air Force’s next generation special operations tilt-rotor aircraft—the CV-22. The first Air Force CV-22 Osprey is scheduled to arrive at Kirtland AFB in 2006. (for more info: http://www.58sow.kirtland.af.mil/index.htm )