16th ACCS 27-year history comes to a close at Robins

  • Published
  • By Joseph Mather
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Air Combat Command’s 16th Airborne Command and Control Squadron closed a chapter in its 27-year history during an inactivation ceremony with the 461st Air Control Wing at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, Feb. 16, 2023.

The squadron’s inactivation follows the Air Force’s decision to divest the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System fleet.

Kevin Mulberger, 461st ACW historian, said the 16th ACCS originally reported to the 93rd ACW, at Robins.

“The squadron was redesignated to the 16th ACCS Jan. 15, 1996, and reactivated Oct. 1, 1996, at Robins AFB and equipped with E-8C JSTARS ground surveillance and battle management aircraft,” he said. “On Oct. 1, 2002, the 16th ACCS was assigned to the National Guard Bureau and the 116th Air Control Wing at Robins AFB.

“The unit remained with the National Guard Bureau until Oct. 1, 2011, when the 16th ACCS was reassigned from National Guard Bureau to Air Combat Command’s 461st Air Control Wing at Robins.”

Lt. Col. Joseph Maruska, 16th ACCS current and final commander, said the unit has been “lighting the way” for 27 years.

“The 16th ACCS flew over 5,030 combat sorties, provided 51,138 intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance hours, earned eight Headquarters Air Force Air Battle Management Aircrew of the Year awards, and contributed to numerous 93rd, 116th and 461st ACW Outstanding Unit Awards,” he said.

“Additional decorations included three Presidential Unit Citations, four Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards with Combat Valor, six Meritorious Unit Awards, eleven Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards, two Cited in the Order of the Day-Belgian Army Awards, Belgian Fourragere, and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm,” he continued.

During the inactivation ceremony the 16th ACCS was awarded the Air and Space Outstanding Unit Award and added one more streamer to their guidon before inactivation.

The formal inactivation ceremony was held at the Museum of Aviation Century of Flight Hangar and was followed by a ceremonial piano burning at the Warner Robins Veterans of Foreign Wars Post.

The piano burning ceremony is a longstanding tradition stemming from the Royal Air Force.

“As a part of a Bilateral Exchange Program with the United Kingdom, we have continuously had Royal Air Force officers in the 16th ACCS,” said Stramblad. “Royal Air Force Flight Lt. Steven Hagerty assisted with narrating the ceremonial piano burning and explaining the tradition to the audience.”

Mulberger said the unit has had several designations, missions and flown a variety of aircraft but can trace its origins back to World War II.

“The unit was initially established as the 380th Fighter Squadron on Feb. 11, 1943, and activated March 1, 1943, flying the P-39 Airacobra at Hamilton Field, California,” he said. “The 380 FS advancements led to its redesignation Aug. 20, 1943, flying the P-51 Mustang at Santa Rosa Airfield, California. Shortly thereafter, the 380th was deployed to fly in the European Air Offensive and Normandy from Keevil, Rivenhall and Staplehurst, England.”

Maruska said it has been his pleasure serving as the final commander of the 16th ACCS.

“It has been an honor closing out this chapter in 16th ACCS history,” he said. “The Airmen of the 16th are among the most outstanding with whom I’ve served. Our squadron’s success is a direct result of their hard work and dedication.

“The 16th has a rich heritage of excellence dating back to World War II, and the Airmen, both past and present, have much to be proud of.  As the 16th closes, I am excited to see what’s in store for Team Robins.”

Maruska said the unit inactivation paves the way for the new missions coming to the base.  

“The inactivation of the 16th ACCS is one of the first of several milestones for the E-8C JSTARS aircraft divestment,” he said. “This will ultimately make way for the bed down of four new missions at Robins that align better with the future Air Force design to prepare for near-peer threats.”