MacDill adds an air wing

A Michigan unit with 583 members will relocate in April.

By William R. Levesque, Times Staff Writer
Published February 15, 2008

TAMPA - Nearly 600 additional personnel are coming to MacDill Air Force Base beginning in April with the relocation of a reservist air refueling wing from Michigan.

The 927th Air Refueling Wing is moving from the Selfridge Air National Guard Base just northeast of Detroit as part of an effort by the Air Force to streamline its forces and save money.

The relocated 927th will have 583 members, including 12 flight crews, who maintain and fly KC-135 air refueling tankers.

But as an Air Force Reserve unit, most of the people in the 927th are part-timers who may work only on weekends or a few weeks a year. A spokesman for the 927th said the unit has 153 full-timers, including 22 civilians.

No additional planes are moving with the 927th, which had operated eight KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft in Michigan.

MacDill is already home to the 6th Air Mobility Wing, which flies 16 KC-135s that the 6th will share with the new wing.

But Col. Robert Thomas, MacDill's commander, said the new wing will be fully integrated into his existing force and is not expected to overtax his resources.

"It's going to be a real plus for our wing here," Thomas said on Thursday. "What we want is a fully integrated, very efficient, very capable Air Force. We share the same mission."

The Air Force is providing MacDill $46.5-million to quarter the new unit. The wing officially transfers on April 27, though most people won't be here until late summer.

People in the 927th may transfer to MacDill. But for many reservists with roots in the Detroit area, the move is impossible, a spokesman for the wing said.

Some may have to meet their Reserve obligations by traveling to bases farther from home in New York or Indiana. Others are transferring to Reserve units in other military branches such as the Army or Navy.

Some who are making the move may face difficulties selling homes in a depressed real estate market, a spokesman said.

"It's just a bad time for all this to be happening," said 927th spokesman Tom Schmidt. "Most of these Reservists have roots. For them, it kind of upsets the apple cart. But for the most part, people are doing quite well with the move."

The Air Force can transfer reservists from other areas of the country, including Florida, to make up any shortfall, he said.

About 13,000 military and civilian personnel currently work at MacDill, including about 3,800 in the 6th Air Mobility Wing.

Aside from the wing, MacDill also is home to U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Central Command, which are leading the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@sptimes.com or 813 226-3436.

927th Air Refueling Wing

Current location: Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich.

The unit: Air Force Reserve unit with583 people,including 12 flight crews.

Mission: Maintain and fly eight KC-135 Stratotanker air refueling planes.

The move: The wing will join the 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill Air Force Base in April. The aircraft will not move to Tampa.