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Nebraska celebrates Lincoln Air Force Base return


Col. John Williams, 155th Air Refueling Wing commander, presents a picture of the newly unveiled “City of Lincoln” nose art to Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird of Lincoln, Nebraska, after a proclamation ceremony, April 16, 2021, at Lincoln Air Force Base, Nebraska. The 55th Wing will be relocated to Lincoln during runway renovations at Offutt Air Force Base for the next 18 months. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Shannon M. Nielsen)


LINCOLN AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. – Airmen of the 155th Air Refueling Wing and 55th Wing joined senior leaders and elected officials at the Nebraska Air National Guard base for a proclamation signing ceremony April 16, 2021, to symbolically reopen Lincoln Air Force Base.

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts signed a proclamation declaring March 1, 2021, to March 1, 2023, “Air Force Heritage Recognition Years” in Nebraska. During that time the 55th Wing, an active component command, will operate out of Lincoln while its permanent home at nearby Offutt Air Force Base undergoes an extensive runway reconstruction project. The proclamation pays homage to the Air Force’s rich history in Nebraska and shows how the 155th ARW, part of the Nebraska Air National Guard, is able to make adjustments and support others throughout the Total Force.

“Our relationship is much deeper than just a runway and that is because of the enduring relationship we have with the 155th Air Refueling Wing--the Hustlin’ Huskers,” said Col. Gavin Marks, 55th Wing commander.

Total force integration is imperative to mission requirements and Marks touched base on that. “Throughout that journey the one constant was the unconditional support from the Nebraska National Guard. No matter how untimely, or how frequent the many requests for support came their way,” Marks said. “The Nebraska National Guard, like their motto, always delivered.”

Col. John Williams, 155th Air Refueling Wing commander, attests to the mutually beneficial relationship between the 155th ARW and 55th Wing over the years.

“In 2006, when Offutt’s runway underwent maintenance, 55th Wing aircraft staged from Lincoln airport for nearly 18 months,” Williams said. “In 2014, when Lincoln’s primary runway was being repaired, the 155th used Offut as its go-to training base. Most recently, the [Lincoln] airport provided a safe haven from the historic flood of 2019.”

Strategic partnerships, such as the 155th ARW and 55th Wing, are an important asset to national security according to the current U.S. National Defense Strategy, published in 2018.

The 2018 National Defense Strategy states, “Be strategically predictable, but operationally unpredictable. Our dynamic force employment, military posture and operations must introduce unpredictability to adversary decisionmakers. The global strategic environment demands increased strategic flexibility and freedom of action.”

Whereas the signing of the proclamation highlighted current partnership, it also adds a new chapter in local aviation history by temporarily renaming the municipal airport to Lincoln AFB, which the U.S. Air Force divested in 1966.

Williams said that over 6,000 service members lived on the Lincoln AFB. It supported several types of aircraft, and the airfield was made into a Strategic Air Command base.

“The runway was lengthened to nearly two miles and adorned with hangars hardened to withstand earthquakes and whatever else might be needed,” Williams said. “Today, the same structures and runway built to support SAC forces, support the 55th Wing and the 155th Air Refueling Wing missions.”

Those structures built back then now help the 155th ARW play a vital role today not only locally, but also on a bigger scale according to Williams.

“Lincoln Air Force Base and the 155th Air Refueling Wing not only have the infrastructure to support several aircraft squadrons, but our strategic location gives us ready access to every geographic combatant command,” Williams said.

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