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Military Unit Numbering System?

Sat Mar 20, 2004 4:41 pm

Could someone explain to me how the Unit numbering system works? For example, There's the 72nd Security Forces Unit, the 445th Air Refueling Wing, the 52nd Bomb Wing...etc.

Where do these numbers come from? I'm mostly interested in the Air Force Units. Are they arbitrary or do they have a meaning?
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RE: Military Unit Numbering System?

Sat Mar 20, 2004 7:10 pm

They're mainly historical.
At one point they were likely handed out in sequence, but many of the units have been deactivated or destroyed whole (in WW2 for example) and their numbers disappeared.

Once in a while an old unit is brought back to life, which can be quite a ceremony if that unit has a distinguished history, with the unit insignias being officially presented to the new unit commander after being taken out of storage.

So, originally the numbers had no meaning but over time many units have aqcuired a history which they are extremely proud of.
When a unit is deactivated and the number and insignia reused later that new unit will have to live up to that and feels it's continuing the proud tradition.
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RE: Military Unit Numbering System?

Sun Mar 21, 2004 10:07 am

I know a lot of units are deactivated when bases close only to reactivate a day later at a different base. Does anyone know the longest running active unit serving today?

There are 3 types of people. Those who can count, and those who can't.
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RE: Military Unit Numbering System?

Mon Mar 22, 2004 12:15 am

The 2nd ARS at McGuire AFB came from the original 2nd Aero Squadron, 1914ish, I don't know what happened to the 1st Aero Squadron, but the 2nd is definitely close to the oldest in the US.

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RE: Military Unit Numbering System?

Tue Mar 23, 2004 5:32 am

Daren3006, it sounds like you might enjoy a visit to the Air Force Historical Research Agency at www.maxwell.af.mil/au/afhra/
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RE: Military Unit Numbering System?

Tue Mar 23, 2004 5:50 am

I took my own advice, and a visit to AFHRA's database has shown that the 1st Aero Squadron has evolved into the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale AFB.
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RE: Military Unit Numbering System?

Fri Mar 26, 2004 9:08 am

It would sure make a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne wonder - what happened to the other 81 divisions?

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RE: Military Unit Numbering System?

Fri Mar 26, 2004 9:17 am

They would just be a bunch of legs. No one in the 82d would care.  Smile
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RE: Military Unit Numbering System?

Fri Mar 26, 2004 3:48 pm

The Air Farce has a number for everything...

the 421st Window Cleaning Flight...375th Vehicular Maintenance Squadron...the 12347th Engineering Wing....

You get the idea lol...it's tough to keep it all in line. I rather prefer the Navy...the word "squadron" is used more to describe a squadron of aircraft...or a group of destroyers, etc...not little things...plus the numbers are smaller  Smile

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RE: Military Unit Numbering System?

Fri Mar 26, 2004 10:55 pm

Delta guy;

LoL I know what you mean, but at least the AF uses simple acronyms, IE ARS= Air Aefueling Sqdn, and Squadron always represents 2 or more flights, which is 2 or more elements......

Besides who can figure out those Nave acronyms??? My father has been in the Navy for 41 years now, and I never can figure out who he is working for;

Navcomronpatroncincsoutpacnatsubconron 3 and a half........

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RE: Military Unit Numbering System?

Sat Mar 27, 2004 2:31 am

now I might be wrong but Im sure someone will correct me if thats so... but I think the AF used to have a number for Everything, I think thats why you saw some really high numbers like 4472nd window washers, these days we're all consolidated into 1 group, 88 ABW,88MSS,88OSS,88CEG
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RE: Military Unit Numbering System?

Sun Mar 28, 2004 7:02 am

ChD you hit the nail on the cranium, Comstrattelmuelinknav.. what is up with that.

BTW, THe oldest Fighter squadron in the Air Force is the 27th Ftr Sqd at Langley, they will also be the first to get the F/A-22 frontline.

The flying Units numbers are all based on mainly history as noted above.

Other Units take the number of the parent Wing and/or group.
I.e. the 72 ABWing has the 72d Security forces sqd, 72d Services sd, Finance etc etc. The flying and test units will have different numbers.

It is a simple system Wing, Group, Squadron (then flights within Sqds most often). Example I am in the 552 Air Control Wing, 552 Ops Group, 964th AACSqd, etc etc. We are under Air Combat Command, 8th Air Force also.

Deployed Units will take Expeditionary unit numbers.

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RE: Military Unit Numbering System?

Mon Apr 12, 2004 2:09 pm

USAF units went through a big reorganization back in the early 1990s. "Tactical" was dropped from fighter and airlift squadrons. Most all of the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserves Groups were upgraded to Wing status. Strategic Air Command was dissolved into Air Combat Command for bombers and Air Mobility Command for tanker assets. US based C-130s were briefly in Air Combat Command which was a throwback to thier original assignment to ACC's predecessor, Tactical Air Command.

It would have been good to have had stock in a stationery store for all the letterhead changes. As a insignia collector, historian and photographer, it was a busy time for my hobbies.
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