KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
The 403rd Wing saw many changes in 2016; it was a year of beginnings and adventure. The wing added two new squadrons, traveled stateside and abroad to train, and, like they do every year, hunted hurricanes. Here are a few of the highlights from the year.
January - The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, “Hurricane Hunters,” flew a winter storm to gather data for the National Weather Service on the blizzard that hit the Eastern Seaboard. The storm produced up to 3 feet of snow in areas of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
February – The 815th Airlift Squadron welcomed a new commander, Lt. Col. Stuart Rubio, and continued to rebuild. As part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, the Air Force announced plans to transfer 10 of the wing’s C-130J aircraft. A 2015 report from the Secretary of the Air Force reversed that recommendation, beginning the programming and budgeting work to restore personnel and mission capability of the Flying Jennies.
March - The wing successfully completed its second unit effectiveness inspection March 8 with a rating of “Effective" in managing resources, leading people, improving the unit and executing the mission.
The 81st and 403rd Force Support Squadrons integrated March 8 for a more capable and efficient organization to serve active duty and Reserve Airmen, their families and retirees who utilize FSS services.
April - Two crews from the 815th AS participated in the U.S. Army Europe’s Saber Junction 16 exercise throughout April at Aviano Air Base, Italy. The exercise, which included nearly 5,000 participants from 16 nations, featured a multi-battalion, multi-national airborne jump, followed by several days of air-land operations on the Army’s Hohenfels Training Area's Short Take-off and Landing air strip.
May – The 403rd Wing’s Airman and family day event was held near the base marina May 14. This year’s event included performances by 403rd Wing members, a rock wall, corn hole, face painting, a pie-in-the-face fundraiser, a bench press competition, inflatable jousting, bounce houses and a bungee run.
June - The 815th AS, along with 400 U.S. troops, participated in several ceremonial events to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the D-Day invasion. U.S. European Command established Task Force D-Day 72 to lead U.S. forces’ participation, which included representation from eight historical units, to include the 815th AS, then the 815th Bombardment Squadron, which participated in the June 6, 1944 campaign.
July - The 81st Training Wing, 403rd Wing and outside agencies conducted an anti-hijacking exercise June 21. A WC-130J Super Hercules played the role of the hijacked aircraft where a crew member took hostages and taxied down the flight line in an attempt to take off. Keesler used the exercise to test and maintain its units’ abilities to react and respond to a developing situation.
August – Unit members and the community bid farewell to Col. Frank L. Amodeo, 403rd Wing commander, during a reception at the Bay Breeze Event Center Aug. 6. Amodeo is now the wing commander of the 927th Air Refueling Wing, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. Col. Michael Manion is the current wing commander.
After the devastating flooding in south Louisiana, the 403rd Wing came together immediately to help. They collected bottled water, food, charcoal grills, cleaning supplies, clothing, other basic essentials and four couches with hideaway beds, then delivered the items to wing members across the Baton Rouge area Aug. 19.
September - The new 803rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron activated in a ceremony at the Roberts Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Facility Sept. 11. The 803rd AMXS inspects, repairs, launches and recovers the wing’s 10 C-130Js flown by the 815th AS. The new maintenance squadron is hiring and, when fully staffed, will employ 145 reservists, 55 of which will be full-time Air Reserve Technicians.
That same day, the 815th AS flew a four-aircraft training exercise, their first multi-element training mission since the squadron found out in 2015 that it was no longer scheduled for inactivation.
Members of the 41st Aerial Port Squadron took part in a joint training scenario, Patriot Mustang GRIP II, with members of the Army and the Navy along the Mississippi Gulf Coast Sept. 10-11. The mission provided an opportunity for members to work with agencies and equipment they don't normally work with, but would see in a deployed environment.
October – Starting Sept. 26 until it made landfall Oct. 8, the 53rd WRS conducted around-the-clock operations flying into Hurricane Matthew to collect critical weather data for the National Hurricane Center in Miami to improve the center’s computer models that forecast movement and intensity. Crews flew 12 missions into the storm, which was responsible for the deaths of more than 1,600 people and caused in excess of $10.5 billion from the Caribbean to the southeastern United States.
The 36th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron moved from Pope Field, N.C. to become a part of the 403rd Wing during an Oct. 16 ceremony. The unit, which is hiring and scheduled to include 40 officers and 83 enlisted personnel, consists of specialized teams that routinely move critically ill or injured troops after they've been stabilized or received damage-control surgery.
November - To show employers the value of their Citizen Airmen’s time away from their civilian workplaces, the 403rd Wing hosted an Employer Appreciation Day Nov. 5. This event gave employers the opportunity to see the wing’s mission and learn about what their Citizen Airmen do for their country.
The 2016 hurricane season came to an end Nov. 30. The Hurricane Hunters flew 75 missions into 13 storms, 10 in the Atlantic and three in the Pacific. There were 15 named storms in the Atlantic including seven hurricanes. Five of these storms made U.S. landfall. In the Pacific, there were 21 named storms of which 11 were hurricanes.
December – Airmen and their families had the opportunity to unwind at the end of the year and connect with one another by attending two wing holiday parties in December. One was geared toward children with bounce houses, crafts, games and a visit from Santa Clause and one was geared toward adults with food and entertainment.