377th Combat Support Group/Air Base Wing
The 377th Air Base Wing (ABW) was first activated as the 377th Combat Support Group at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Republic of Vietnam, on 8 April 1966, under the command of Colonel George Budway. Its overall mission was to provide the base with flying operations support, base defense, and act as an air liaison with members of the South Vietnamese Air Force. It was briefly responsible for these same mission requirements at Binh Thuy Air Base, South Vietnam, from 12 May to 1 July 1970.
Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Republic of Vietnam 377th Combat Support Group
Airmen at Tan Son Nhut Air Base line up to receive their pay. Col Grover K. Coe turns over the 377 CSG flag to incoming
commander Col Farley E. Peebles, October 1967.
The 377 CSG is most noted for its combat-tested Security Forces of the 377th Air Police Squadron (APS), later the 377th Security Police Squadron (SPS). While attacks by Viet Cong forces were always a threat, Tan Son Nhut suffered two notable incursions during its time that there that its Defenders were forced to repel. One took place on 4 December 1966, when the base perimeter was breached by approximately 180 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army soldiers attacking the flightline. The infiltration was ultimately repelled thanks to the efforts of several Military Working Dog and Defender teams. This included Airman Second Class George M. Bevich, Jr., who perished in the early hours of the attack and became the first Air Force military dog handler to die in combat in Vietnam; Bevich was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.
A little over two years later, on 31 January 1968, the 377 SP teams suffered through the most notable event of the war, when Tan Son Nhut came under direct attack by a combined force of over 1,500 Viet Cong and NVA troops as part of the Tet Offensive. Five Airmen in Bunker 051, the closest defense point to where the enemy breached the west perimeter, immediately engaged and notified defense forces of the attack. Although the bunker was overtaken by the enemy in the initial thrust, the stubborn defense of the area by the Security Policemen, despite intense mortar and small arms fire combined with several direct rocket hits, allowed the base’s security alert and quick reaction forces to set up blocking and engagement actions, and ultimately repel the attack. Four of the five Airman in Bunker 051 lost their lives, including Sgt. Louis H. Fischer, who continued fighting through mortal wounds and relayed enemy positions after running out of ammunition. The fifth, Sgt. Alonzo J. Coggins, miraculously survived when the enemy chose to release him from the bunker after they had taken it over. All five of the Defenders in Bunker 051 received the Silver Star for their actions.
In 1972, it operated the Southeast Asia Central Pilots Instructor School and a Combat Crew Training School. The group was elevated to Air Base Wing status that same year on 17 January. Its flying operations support at Tan Son Nhut included direct air strikes, psychological warfare, air liaison, forward air control, airlift, airdrop and airborne radio-direction finding missions. Towards the end of its active service in Vietnam, it provided turnaround service for McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantoms and Cessna A-37 Dragonflys from other units. Most of its assets were transferred to the South Vietnamese Air Force before it was inactivated on March 28, 1973.
Following its service in Vietnam, the 377 ABW remained inactive for a little over 12 years, when it was re-activated as the 377th Combat Support Wing (CSW) at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, in order to support the base’s new tactical combat fleet of General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets. The 377 CSW assumed host installation responsibilities for the entire Kaiserslautern Military Community, taking over for the 86th Tactical Fighter Wing. In addition to the personnel at Ramstein, the 377 CSW also supported numerous geographically separated units throughout Europe. The 377 CSW operated in this capacity through the end of the Cold War, inactivating once again on 1 May 1991.
The 377th emerged once again thanks to the large Base Realignment and Closure actions that took place throughout the Air Force during the early 1990s. Kirtland AFB was included in this process, initially combining the former 1606th Air Base Wing and 1550th Combat Crew Training Wing into a “Super Wing” called the 542d Crew Training Wing. The 542 CTW handled both host installation duties for Kirtland AFB, and initial qualification training for special operations aircrews and pararescue jumpers. This construct quickly proved unwieldy, so on 1 January 1993, the installation support functions were split off from the 542 CTW and the 377 ABW activated to assume those responsibilities. The 542 CTW was redesignated as the 58th Special Operations Wing on 1 April 1994.
Headquartered at Kirtland Air Force Base (AFB) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the 377th Air Base Wing (ABW) provides support for the nation’s nuclear enterprise, and installation and medical support to over 100 mission partners and tenant units both on and off base. The 377 ABW currently employs approximately 1,250 active duty and civilian personnel. The base has long been one of the most important contributors to the city’s economic landscape since it was established during World War II. The 377 ABW and organizations of “Team Kirtland” constitute 13% of Albuquerque’s workforce, with an economic impact of over $7 billion to the local area.
Don E. Alberts and Allan E. Putnam, “A History of Kirtland Air Force Base, 1928-1982,”
Albuquerque, NM: Kirtland Air Force Base, 1985.
Charles D. Beibel, Making the Most of It: Public Works in Albuquerque During the Great
Depression, 1929-1942, Albuquerque, NM: The Albuquerque Museum, 1986.
Robert F. Futrell, “Development of AAF Base Facilities in the United States, 1939-1945,” USAF
Historical Office, 1951.
“Kirtland Air Force Base History” archive files, 377th Air Base Wing History Office.
Kirtland Air Force Base Newspaper Collections, 377th Air Base Wing History Office.
Periodic Histories of the 1606th Air Base Wing, 542d Crew Training Wing, 377th Air Base Wing,
and Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center.