Sumpter Smith Air National Guard Base
Sumpter Smith Air National Guard Base is located at the Birmingham–Shuttlesworth International Airport. It covers of approximately 147 acres and essential facilities to support the mission of the 117th Air Refueling Wing (117 ARW).
Alabama Air National Guard Base
5401 E. Lake Blvd
Birmingham, AL 35217
Provide quality worldwide air refueling, airlift, support, logistics, intelligence, and medical services in support of our community, state, and nation.
A world-class team of empowered men & women committed to continuous improvement and excellence, operating as the model Air National Guard unit into the twenty-first century.
The 117th Air Refueling Wing began life as the 117th Fighter Group, a re-designation of the 354th Operations Group in 1946. The 354th Operations Group was active in the Pacific theater during World War II. Ten years later, the 117th would be retroactively designated the 117th Tactical Reconnaissance Group so that the 354th Operations Group could be reactivated as a regular unit. The 117th Air Refueling Wing is based at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Birmingham, Alabama. Units at the wing include the 117th Operations Group, the 117th Medical Group, the 117th Maintenance Group, the 117th Mission Support Group, the 99th Air Refueling Squadron, the 106th Air Refueling Squadron and the 117th Intelligence Squadron.
The 106th Air Refueling Squadron traces its roots back to World War I, when it was first organized as the 106th Aero Squadron. It was deactivated following the war and reformed as the Birmingham Flying Club, also known as the Birmingham Escadrille at Roberts Field in 1919. The Birmingham Flying Club then gained federal recognition as the 135th Observation Squadron in 1922, and was the first Air National Guard Unit in Alabama. In January 1924, it was re-designated the 106th Observation Squadron. By 1930, the facilities at Roberts Field were considered to be inadequate and a campaign began to build a new home in Birmingham. By 1938, the squadron moved into its current location at Birmingham Municipal Airport. In 1940, the 106th was ordered to active duty and participated in numerous missions in World War II, including anti-submarine patrols, combat observation and bombardment. During this time it was briefly re-designated as the 100th Bombardment Squadron, but in 1946th was re-activated and re-designated as the 106th Bombardment Squadron, returning to the Alabama National Guard.
The 117th Tactical Reconnaissance Group went to active service to serve in the Korean War in 1950. There, it first elevated from group to wing status and deployed RF-84s on reconnaissance and photography missions, returning in 1952 and downgrading back to group level. In 1961, the group was federalized again with the 106th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron deploying to France for air support during the Berlin Crisis.
Approximately 80 members of the 117th Tactical Reconnaissance Group took leave from their unit from 1960 to 1961 for a covert CIA operation later known as the Bay of Pigs invasion. Personnel volunteered as B-26 bomber advisors to the Cuban Liberation Air Force in an attempt to invade Cuba and depose Fidel Castro. They also participated in aerial support in B-26 formations, as an act of solidarity with their Cuban trainees. Four 117th personnel died when communist forces shot down two B-26 bombers on April 19, 1961. All participants were sworn to secrecy until the mission was declassified in 1998.
The 117th was expanded to a wing, now known as the 117th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, in 1974 with the addition of the 117th Combat Support Group, 117th Medical Group and 117th Maintenance Group. In 1990, the 117 TRW sent RF-4Cs and personnel from the 106th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron to the United Arab Emirates, where they conducted surveillance in support of Operation Desert Shield. This was the last major operation before the RF-4C would be phased out and the wing would begin a new mission.
In 1994, the wing was designated the 117th Air Refueling Wing. The RF-4Cs were sent to retirement and replaced with KC-135R Stratotankers. The refueling mission continues to this day. On September 14, 2001, the refueling mission was employed in Operation Noble Eagle. In the aftermath of the terror attacks on 9/11, the wing’s participation in this operation included refueling F-15 and F-16 aircraft in Combat Air Patrol missions over major cities in the Southeastern USA to prevent further terror attacks. The wing was mobilized in October 2001, for one year flying refueling missions from Incirlik AB, Turkey in support of Operations Enduring Freedom in the Global War on Terror. In March 2003, the wing was again mobilized to Al Udeid AB, Qatar and flew combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring
The 117th Air Refueling Wing remains heavily engaged and deployed at the highest rates in unit history in support of contingency operations globally in addition to its 24/7 support of the nuclear enterprise.
Lineage of Aircraft
1922-1933– JN-4, JN-6, DH-4, TW-3, PT-1, BT-1, O-2, O-11, and O-17
1941-1942– O-49, A-20, and P-40
1942– P-39, P-43, O-46, L-3, and L-4
Talk with a RecruiterVisit the the Recruiting Office to speak directly with a Recruiter. They can answer your questions, tell you more about life in the ANG, or help you join.
Alabama Air National Guard Base
At our Birmingham base, our primary mission is providing In-flight Refueling to all US Armed Forces and allied nations' aircraft extending their flying range with the capability of transporting cargo, personnel and medevac operations. The Intelligence Mission is also conducted at this location.
Base Contact InformationAlabama Air National Guard Base
5401 E. Lake Blvd
Mission Types in Alabama Air National Guard Base (2)
117th Air Refueling Wing
The 117th Air Refueling Wing provides quality worldwide air refueling, airlift, support, logistics, intelligence, and medical services in support of our community, state, and nation.
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Sumpter Smith Air National Guard Base
For civil use of the airfield, see Birmingham–Shuttlesworth International Airport.
Sumpter Smith Joint National Guard Base (IATA: BHM, ICAO: KBHM, FAALID: BHM) is a United States Air Force (USAF) installation located at a Birmingham, Alabama in the United States. It hosts the 117th Air Refueling Wing, part of the Air National Guard, which operates the KC-135R Stratotanker. The base was previously known as Alabama Air National Guard Base.
The base is named after United States Army Air ForcesColonel Walter Sumpter Smith who was born on 12 February 12 1896 in Belle Ellen, Alabama and became an electrical engineer and a pilot. In 1921, Smith was appointed to the 106th Observation Squadron of the Alabama National Guard and commissioned as a first lieutenant at Roberts Field in Birmingham, Alabama. He reached the rank of lieutenant colonel on August 12, 1932 and colonel in 1942.
In 1934, the facilities at Roberts Field became less adequate and the local government decided to build a new facility which became Birmingham Municipal Airport. In 1938, after four years of construction, the 106th Observation Squadron moved to the new base.
As a testimony to Smith’s role in the development and construction, the base was eventually named Sumpter Smith Joint National Guard Base. It remained that way until sometime during the early 1990s when the name evolved to the Alabama Air National Guard Base, Birmingham, Alabama. It’s not really clear why the name changed and no official documents have been found. A push was made to restore the name of the base to Sumpter Smith Air National Guard Base and was made official during the summer of 2017.
Flying and notable non-flying units based at Sumpter Smith Joint National Guard Base.
Units marked GSU are Geographically Separate Units, which although based at Sumpter Smith, are subordinate to a parent unit based at another location.
United States Air Force
Air National Guard
Air Mobility Command
This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Air Force document: Senior Master Sgt. Ken Johnson. "A Return to Sumpter Smith". Retrieved 22 February 2020.
- See: Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport for civil airport information
Birmingham Air National Guard Base is the home of the United States Air Force117th Air Refueling Wing.
Birmingham ANGB consists of approximately 147 acres and essential facilities to support the mission of the 117th Air Refueling Wing and its assigned units.
The 117th ARW occupies 101 facilities including offices, mission support structures, maintenance hangars, POL storage and refueling station and a Joint Hospital. As of 2002 the Wing had 9 authorized KC-135 Stratotankers. The current complement of personnel is 275, including military and civilian employees. This expands to 1,243 personnel for UTA weekends and during activation.
The Alabama Army National Guard (ARNG) has facilities and units co-located on the base. These facilities provide for aircraft hangar and maintenance, the 109th Evacuation Hospital and OMS storage facility. The 109th Evac Hospital also supports ARNG/ANG weekend drill activities and unit activation's. In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration has two radar sites within the confines of the base
World War II
The airport was opened in April 1940 as Birmingham Municipal Airport, and was the commercial airport for Birmingham, Alabama. During World War II the airfield was leased by the United States Army Air Forces for $1.00/year and it became a joint Civil Airport/Military Airfield, being designated as Birmingham Army Air Base. Birmingham AAB was initially used by 3d Air Force as a staging airfield for combat units prior to their deployment to overseas combat theaters. The XII Tactical Air Command was formed at Birmingham AAB on 10 September 1942. On 16 April 1944, Birmingham AAB was transferred from 3d Air Force to Air Technical Service Command with Joint Use by Air Materiel Command and Air Transport Command. Materiel and Technical Service Commands used the base as a major aircraft modification center and air depot under the Mobile Air Materiel Area (MOAMA). Transport Command operated large numbers of cargo and passenger aircraft from the base as part of its Domestic Wing. In 1948 the airport was returned to civil control.
Alabama Air National Guard
In 1946 the 106th Reconnaissance Squadron (Bomb) and the 160th Fighter Squadron, flying F-51s were assigned together to the 117th Fighter Group, which later became the Alabama Air National Guard117th Tactical Reconnaissance Group and established its headquarters on 31 March 1946 at Birmingham AAB. It was Federally recognized on 26 November 1946. In the present day, the Air National Guard has a base which includes nine KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft assigned to the 117th Air Refueling Wing (117 ARW), an Air Mobility Command (AMC)-gained unit of the Alabama Air National Guard. The 117 ARW was previously designated as the 117th Tactical Reconnaissance Group (117 TRG) and later as the 117th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing (117 TRW), a Tactical Air Command (TAC) / Air Combat Command (ACC)-gained unit operating the RF-4C Phantom II reconnaissance aircraft.  A lease between the Federal Government and The Armory Commission of Alabama, dated 22 January 1961, currently with four Supplemental Agreements, established the initial boundaries and conveyed the lands and buildings for the purpose of military aviation. A Lease Amendment between the Birmingham Airport Authority and the Commission in 1988 established the real estate relationship between the airport authority and the Armory Commission. The lease term expires in the year 2036 but shall continue year to year without notice unless terminated by the Commission.
Prior to 1996, the base was bisected by two city streets - East Lake Blvd and Shelby Blvd. As a part of the Master Plan update, East Lake Blvd was rerouted around the base perimeter, Shelby Blvd was transferred to the ANG with a lease amendment, and the individual land parcels were consolidated into one tract of land. This consolidation greatly improved internal traffic circulation, security and unit operations. Prior to the road relocation, this area was in a municipal environment with the utilities routed along the city street easements and rights of way. Electric service was initially supplied by overhead wires and buildings individually metered for consumption and billing. This was changed recently to economize energy costs by establishing with the utility a main feeder with a single primary meter. The ANG provides secondary distribution to the on-base facilities through a system of underground conduits. The overhead wiring remains in service to provide electrical service for street lights and other units occupying the base.
In September 1994, the 117th Air Refueling Wing and 106th Air Refueling Squadron were formed and equipped with KC-135 tanker aircraft. Simultaneously, a major revision outlined in the Base Master Plan was initiated to complete improvements in the infrastructure to support the new mission, to unify the existing real estate holdings into one contiguous environ and to implement facility improvements and additions necessary to support the mission. The Master Plan recommendations included the relocation of a city thoroughfare, consolidation of three real estate parcels and the completion of almost $64 million in facility improvements and construction. To date, all but one of the recommended projects are complete, and it is in the final stages of design.
This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.
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