The New Mission

On 22 August 1977 , Major General Edward Fry announced that the 190th Defense Systems Evaluation Group was to become the 190th Air Refueling Group, converting from EB-57s to KC-135s. The official date of conversion was to be 1 Apr 1978 . The announcement could scarcely be called a surprise: There had been rumors circulating - and fairly accurate ones at that - for almost a year. Now, though, retraining, reorganization and re-equipment could begin.

Conversion to Aerial refueling meant a change in gaining command from Air Defense Command. It meant the phasing out of Electronic Warfare Officers and the ECM shop, and the training of in-flight refueling operators. It also meant increases in the size of the engine shop and the security police department. All told, it meant the raising of the unit strength of 850. Col Mahler frankly regarded recruiting 200 additional Air Guardsmen as the most difficult task in conversion.

If it was so, it wasn't by default. Conversion to the Stratotankers meant the retraining of all pilots and EWO's and virtually the whole of the maintenance squadron. It also meant practically a new inventory for the base supply.

From the 12th to the 19th of April, the 190th flew its last mission as a Defense Systems Evaluation Group. Like many before, it was an Air Defense exercise for the Alaskan Air Command. From the 12th to the 18th of April, the Canberras of the 190th tested the alertness of the Alaskan Air Command for the last time. On the same day that the exercise ended, that last Canberra left Forbes Field, bound for testing, for museums, and for the remaining DSE units. It was 20 years to the day from the arrival of the first B-57 at Hutchinson .

Four days later - 22 April 1978 - the first KC-135 arrived at Forbes (for training purposes, not one of those assigned to the unit.) The history of the 190th Defense Systems Evaluation Group had come to an end. The history of the 190th Air Refueling Group was about to begin.