The 163d Attack Wing, California Air National Guard, is one of five California Air National Guard units and is headquartered at March Air Reserve Base, Calif. Known as the ‘Grizzlies,’ the 950-member unit conducts flight operations with the MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft. The wing has both a federal and state mission. A provision of the U. S. Constitution, the wing’s dual mission results in each guardsman holding membership in the California National Guard and in the National Guard of the United States. The 163d Attack Wing is comprised of four groups – The 163d Operations Group; the 163d Maintenance Group; the 163d Medical Group; and the 163d Mission Support Group.
The 163d Attack Wing’s federal mission includes providing rapid combat support in times of war, as well as providing assistance during national emergencies. The wing’s wartime mission also includes maintaining support and combat-ready units assigned to most Air Force major and combatant commands. Missions include training, mobilization readiness, humanitarian and contingency operations, such as Operations Iraqi Freedom in Iraq and Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. In order to execute its federal mission the wing may be activated under Title 10 of the U.S. Code as prescribed by public law.
When the 163d Attack Wing is not mobilized or under federal control, it reports to the governor of California. The wing is supervised by the adjutant general (TAG) of the state or territory. Under state law, the wing provides protection of life, property and preserves peace, order and public safety. These missions are accomplished through emergency relief support during natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and forest fires; search and rescue operations; support to civil defense authorities; and maintenance of vital public services.
The 163d Attack Wing units are staffed primarily by dual-status military technician and guardsmen on active duty, who perform day-to-day management, administration and maintenance of the wing’s various functions. By law, dual-status military technicians are civil service employees of the federal government who must be military members of the unit that employs them. 163d Attack Wing technicians train with the unit and are mobilized when it's activated. Active-duty members serve under the command authority of the state of California unless mobilized for federal duty.
The 163d Attack Wing’s primary wartime mission is to provide commanders and war fighters engaged in combat operations around the world with real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and strike support against fixed and perishable targets determined to be of a time-sensitive nature. Utilizing the Reaper, the wing is able to provide clear battlefield assessments and responsive firepower where and when commanders need it.
The 163d Attack Wing traces its roots to the Army Air Corps' 411th Fighter Squadron during World War II. Originally the 196th Fighter Squadron (later to become the 163d Fighter Interceptor Group), the unit was federally recognized on Nov. 9, 1946 and was located at Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino, Calif. Initially, the unit was comprised of 12 officers and 28 airmen, but no aircraft. In December 1946, the unit received two Stinson L-5G and two T-6 Texan trainers. The unit then received a C-47 Dakota and B-26 Invader until the arrival of the P-51D Mustang in February.
After 21 months in active service, of which 15 were spent overseas, the 196th Fighter Squadron returned to the United States and resumed state-controlled Air National Guard status. The unit moved to Ontario International Airport in Ontario, Calif., and transitioned to the F-51 Mustang before the F-86 Sabre in 1953.
May 12, 1958, ushered in a new era for the unit when it was reorganized under the Air Defense Command and re-designated the 163d Fighter Group. F-86s took on the Air Defense Command Runway Alert mission. In 1959, the unit was reassigned under the 144th Air Defense Wing located in Fresno, Calif.
In February 1965, the unit received the highest peacetime award - the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award. Also, the unit transitioned from the F-86 to the first "century series" aircraft, the F-102 Delta Dagger. In 1968, during the unit's 21st anniversary celebration, the unit's distinctive tail flash was unveiled. Consisting of a blue stripe behind four white stars, the insignia would remain on unit aircraft for more than four decades.
On March 8, 1975, the unit was once again charged with a new mission. Reassigned under the Tactical Air Command and re-designated the 163d Tactical Air Support Group, the unit performed forward air controller missions, coordinating air strikes, while flying the O-2 Skymaster.
In October 1982 brought yet more change to the unit, which took on a new name, aircraft, mission and home. Re-designated the 163d Tactical Fighter Group, the unit transitioned from its O-2 aircraft into the F-4 Phantom and assumed a tactical fighter role flying the F-4C and later the F-4E. The group concurrently moved to March Air Force Base, an active duty installation, and operated from newly-built facilities.
In July 1990, the 163d was charged with a new mission and was re-designated Tactical Reconnaissance Group. Equipped with RF-4C Phantom, the unit maintained a dual state/federal mission. During this time 163d TRG aircrews accumulated over 30,000 hours of flying time and the unit deployed across both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
On Oct. 1, 1993, the 163d was re-designated the 163d Air Refueling Wing. Under Air Mobility Command, the 163d ARW provided air refueling in the KC-135 Stratotanker. Flying nearly every model of the KC-135, the 163d ARW projected the Air Force's Global Reach capability by supporting the combat air forces worldwide. Additionally, at the governor's request, the 163d ARW provided assistance to the State of California, responding to state emergencies.
In November, 2006, the Wing was re-designated the 163d Reconnaissance Wing, making it the first Air National Guard unit to receive the MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial system. Armed with a new mission and a new aircraft, the 163d RW is once again poised to distinguish itself as one of the Air Force's premiere flying units. In May 2014, the 163 RW began the process of converting from the MQ-1 Predator to the MQ-9 Reaper.
On July 1, 2015 the Wing was re-designated as the 163d Attack Wing transitioning from the MQ-1 Predator to the MQ-9 Reaper. The 163ATKW became one of the first Wings to pilot and station the MQ-9 mission on their home airstrip. This real world training enables the 163ATKW to be a paragon of excellence both locally and globally.
Point of Contact
163d Attack Wing Public Affairs, 1620 Graber Street, March Air Reserve Base, California 92518, DSN 447-2556 or (951) 655-2556. email@example.com (Current as of June 2017)