Back to reaper roots: All-call highlights history of 3rd Wing

  • Published
  • By Maria Galvez

U.S. Air Force Col. Kevin Jamieson, commander of the 3rd Wing, recently held an all-call connecting the Wing's heritage and lineage to their recent exercises. He highlighted the Wing's legacy, including their success during the Battle of the Bismarck in World War II, when they were previously called the 3rd Attack Group.

“We really started to make a name for ourselves during World War II,” said Jamieson. “That's what I want to talk to you a little bit about today, as well as some of our heritage and lineage as far as where we came from and how that applies today with what we're doing with Agile combat employment and our recent exercise, Agile Reaper.”

In 1943, Japanese forces were making their way to Australia, and the U.S. Navy was not available for the fight. The Army Air Corps was called upon to help, and the 3rd Attack Group was tasked with attacking the ships moving towards Australia with their B-25 bombers. The innovative Airmen modified their bombers, pioneering the technique of skip bombing and for their success earned the nickname “The Grim Reapers.”

"The men and women that came before you also had to face challenges and had to figure things out, just like we do today,” said Jamieson. "We've been here before, and we were successful."

The Group would undergo another name change in 1948, renamed as the 3rd Bombardment Wing when it was officially activated under the Air Force's new organizational configuration. Ultimately, it would be re-designated as the 3 Bombardment Wing, Tactical in 1955 and the 3 Tactical Fighter Wing in 1964. It wasn't until Dec. 19, 1991 that it would be renamed the 3rd Wing.

Today, the 3rd Wing is going back to its roots and will now be referred to as the Grim Reapers - the nickname of the 13th Bombardment Squadron during World War II.

Jamieson stressed the importance of the Wing's history. He encouraged the Airmen to take pride in their work and to understand that they are standing on the shoulders of those who came before them. He believes that having a name adds to the Wing's identity and legacy, and gives a sense of pride to its service members.

“We have an outstanding legacy within the 3rd Wing,” said Jamieson. “That should give you some pride of what you do, day in and day out.”

In addition to the Wing’s history, Jamieson also highlighted Agile Combat Employment, which was an important concept during the recent exercise, Agile Reaper 23-1. He believes that the Wing's success will come from taking current technology and tactics and modifying them for potential challenges.

AR 23-1 was designed to prepare the Wing for combat in the Pacific. The exercise involved moving forces to Guam and establishing a hub and spoke, which presented new challenges for the Airmen. It also highlighted the importance of building relationships with the local community and living off the local economy.

The ACE framework, announced in 2022, provides the Air Force the ability to develop, maintain, and share timely, accurate, and relevant mission information across dispersed forces despite adversary attempts to deny or degrade it. It also prepares leaders to make and disseminate risk-informed decisions with limited information.

For the Grim Reapers, this will include training like they expect to fight, traveling light, living off the local economy, and proficiency in agile combat employment. With exercises coming up later this year, more service members will have the opportunity to participate and continue learning about this approach to military operations.

Jamieson stressed the importance of being flexible and adaptable in the face of new information and changing circumstances. He also reinforced the idea that multi-capable Airmen must be prepared to help out in whatever capacity necessary, even if that means going outside their normal duties.

“Agile combat employment requires proficiency,” said Jamieson. “I also need you to hold each other accountable. We have a mission to accomplish, and every person in this room has a part to play in achieving that mission. We need to be ready for whatever comes our way, and that means being trained, prepared, and focused on the task at hand.”

Jamieson closed with an emphasis on the importance of being good humans, professionals, and performers to meet the high standards and accountability set forth by combatant commanders.

“It also means being good humans, treating each other with respect and dignity, and helping each other be better,” continued Jamieson. “We have a sense of urgency to meet the challenges ahead, and we need to keep that momentum going. So let's continue to work hard, stay on track, and keep striving for excellence, because together, we can achieve anything.”

Ultimately, he hopes that the Grim Reapers will continue to make a name for themselves in the Pacific and beyond, building on the legacy of their predecessors.