The 433rd Airlift Wing, also known as the "Alamo Wing," is an Air Force Reserve unit with approximately 3,400 members stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
The wing headquarters and 20 subordinate units are tenants at Lackland AFB. The wing also supports two attached units, the 307th Red Horse Squadron, on Kelly Field Annex, and the 710th Intelligence Flight, at Brooks AFB. The 433rd AW's flying squadron is the 68th Airlift Squadron, the first Air Force Reserve squadron to fly its own C-5A Galaxy aircraft. The world's second largest aircraft, the C-5A is designed to provide massive strategic airlift for deployment and supply of combat and support forces worldwide. It can carry unusually large and heavy cargo at intercontinental ranges and jet speeds.
The 433rd AW traces its history to an active duty Air Force unit organized in 1943, which distinguished itself in combat during World War II. In 1955, it was activated in the Reserve at Brooks AFB and moved to Kelly in 1960. Four years later the 433rd AW became the first unit in the Air Reserve Forces (Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard) to win the coveted Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, an award the unit has won three times since. In 2001, with the closure of Kelly Air Force Base, the 433d AW realigned with Lackland AFB, which is currently the wing’s host base.
The primary mission of Reserve units is to train for mobilization in times of emergency. Then the units of the 433rd AW would become active-duty components of Air Force major commands. But as a Reserve unit, its activities aren't limited to "training" because many of the "training" missions yield valuable by- products of passengers and cargo moved for the active force.
Reservists travel worldwide in support of the Air Force mission. In contrast to active-duty members, reservists aren't normally subject to involuntary assignment. Most Alamo Wing members live in San Antonio and the surrounding area, and that has contributed to an unusually high esprit de corps and community spirit. Enlisted members, officers and civilians of the wing look upon their unit as a community resource. As such, they have helped the needy and worked extensively with youth groups, senior citizens, the handicapped and other disadvantaged citizens. The wing community has also set a record for the most blood ever donated on a one-day drive in San Antonio.
On a global scale, the Alamo Wing played a major role in providing aeromedical evacuation support as well as cargo relief during the invasion of Panama, or Operation Just Cause, in 1989. The wing was also a primary participant in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm when the wing's C-5As helped fly the massive airlift of supplies, heavy Army combat equipment, and troops to the Persian Gulf in 1990-91. Additionally, 1,400 wing reservists of various career fields were called up to active duty and more than 500 deployed overseas in support of the conflict. Following the war, the wing participated in Operation Provide Comfort, when the airlift of food and supplies provided much-needed relief to the beleaguered Kurds of Turkey.
The wing also assisted in Operation Provide Hope by transporting critical cargo to the Commonwealth of Independent States. And in 1992-93, the 433rd AW was the first Reserve wing to fly relief missions and provide medical support to famine stricken Somalia during Operation Restore Hope.
The Alamo Wing again flew missions into Africa, this time to aid refugees fleeing Rwanda in 1994. In the same year, it helped in efforts to restore democracy in Haiti, and supported operations to halt renewed Iraqi aggression against Kuwait during Operation Phoenix Jackal.
The wing played a critical role in Operation Joint Endeavor, hauling hundreds of tons of cargo as well as hundreds of duty passengers to Europe in support of NATO's peace initiative in
Bosnia. Further, the 433d AW became the first Reserve wing to deploy personnel to Germany,
Hungary and Bosnia for 179 days as part of Joint Endeavor's support contingent -- 39 members of the 433d Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.
Then, in late 1996, the wing participated in Operation Desert Strike to once again help halt renewed threats by Iraq on the Kurdish population. In 1998, the wing was called again to participate in Operations Phoenix Scorpions I – III and in Operation Desert Fox when Iraq refused to cease manufacturing weapons of mass destruction.
In early 1999, the Alamo Wing responded to another area of the world that threatened the peace and security, again in the Balkans. Wing C-5s and aircrews airlifted essential cargo and passengers to support the NATO-led Operation Allied Force to halt Serbia’s policy of ethnic cleansing in neighboring Kosovo. After the peace accord with Serbia, the wing assisted in NATO’s efforts to resettle ethnic Albanians into a secure environment.
The Alamo Wing once again responded to a national crisis in the immediate aftermath of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 11, 2001. Hauling thousands of tons of cargo in support of America’s War on Terrorism, the wing proved yet again that it stands ready to answer the call whenever the United States faces a threat to its homeland and vital national interests.
Over the years, the wing has also flown many humanitarian relief missions to aid victims of natural disasters, the latest being Central American aid in the wake of Hurricane Mitch.
Since its activation, the Alamo Wing has enjoyed the esteem of the San Antonio military community as well as that of the Reserve forces. Under today's Total Force Policy the wing is an integral part of America's defense forces. As a C-5 unit, the Alamo Wing stands ready to perform airlift and many other types of missions around the globe on a moment's notice. The future promises even more exciting challenges for the men and women of the 433rd Airlift Wing.
(Current as of January 2003)