More than 60 years ago, President Harry Truman signed the Air Force into existence as a separate military service. From the White House, he had the unique perspective to see the impact of American airpower on the closing days of World War II. Control of the skies over Europe and the Far East meant free reign for allied ground forces. Truman understood that airpower was essential to the preservation of our liberty and vital to the trade and commerce of a peaceful world.
The end of WWII saw tens of thousands of combat aircraft retire from service to the country. Planners within the U.S. government took into account the negative effect the flood of retiring military aircraft placed on civil aviation at the end of WWI — shutting down the American aircraft industry for many years. Policymakers set in motion plans to rapidly demilitarize and scrap the majority of warbirds in order to return their metals to a United States hungry for material goods after years of war rationing.
The facility that became the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group was established for exactly that purpose. The extremely hard "caliche" soil and dry climate in Arizona proved ideal for storing, preserving, reclaiming and scrapping those military aircraft. As the new facility broke down aircraft, it earned its lasting nickname — the "Boneyard."
Since their inception, the Boneyard and the Air Force have grown. Our nation's commitments during the 1948 Berlin Airlift and the Korean War saw the return from storage of hundreds of aircraft and thousands of spare parts. Our predecessors made that happen. The B-29s and C-47s are long gone, as are successive generations of aircraft, but AMARG's mission has proven relevant throughout the decades.
As our Air Force grew during the 1950s and 1960s, racing forward in research and development, moving from first to third generation jet aircraft in a decade, and taking the first fledgling steps into space, the Boneyard grew as well. By the end of the Vietnam War, this facility stored more than 6,000 aircraft, 1,800 more than the present day.
Our Air Force has grown and evolved to meet the challenges of the future, fulfilling the obligation to protect America, deter aggression, assure our allies and defeat our enemies.
Likewise, 309th AMARG has grown to support aircraft from all of our armed services and from a number of government agencies. Our people have broadened the organization's horizons from the very beginning — moving forward from storing, preserving and disposing of old aircraft, to reclaiming parts, to restoring aircraft to operation, and now to include depot-level maintenance in support of overflow needs at our air logistics centers.
Today's workload includes: C-130 Program Depot Maintenance; A-10 Service Life Extension; F-4 regeneration and F-16 regeneration for ACC's Aerial Targets Program; regeneration of aircraft (C-130, F-16, P-3, T-37, etc.) for foreign military sales; reception and preservation of 250-400 aircraft per year; disposal of 300-400 aircraft per year; and the pulling/inspecting/shipping of 18,000 parts per year!
Capable, experienced, hard-charging members of the 309th AMARG team, like their predecessors, have stepped up to the plate to answer the challenge and the call throughout AMARG's 63-year history. Although its nickname suggests old airplanes weathering in the desert, 309th AMARG and the people who make this outstanding industrial organization work, are in fact a vital elements of the 309th Maintenance Wing, our Air Force, our Department of Defense and of our nation.