September 26 and October 1, 2016 were very historic dates in the history of the Air Force. After more than 24 years, Tactical Air Command and Military Airlift Command, two of the most historic of the Air Force's major commands, became active again. This is the story of how they went away, and how they came back.
In the summer of 1992, as the Cold War ended, the leadership of the United States Air Force undertook an organizational revolution, to streamline itself and to save federal dollars. It inactivated five of its major commands: Strategic Air Command (SAC), Tactical Air Command (TAC), Military Airlift Command (MAC), Air Force Logistics Command (AFLC), and Air Force Systems Command (AFSC). In their places, it activated three new major commands: Air Combat Command (ACC), Air Mobility Command (AMC), and Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC).
The three new commands were not redesignations of any of the five commands they replaced. They were starting from scratch in 1992, with no years of service and no honors. While they had some of the same personnel, aircraft, bases and functions of the old commands, they were not lineally connected with any of them. All five of the inactivating major commands, each with more than 40 years of active service, was placed on the shelf, with the possibility that one day the Air Force might activate them again.
The inactivations and activations came in two stages. First, Strategic Air Command, Tactical Air Command, and Military Airlift Command were inactivated on Jun 1, 1992, while Air Combat Command and Air Mobility Command were activated. Air Combat Command received the fighters of Tactical Air Command and the bombers and missiles of Strategic Air Command, while Air Mobility Command received the transports of Military Airlift Command and the tankers of Strategic Air Command. One month later, Air Force Logistics Command and Air Force Systems Command were inactivated, while Air Force Materiel Command was activated. Air Force Materiel Command assumed the functions of the two inactivating commands, but the new command was not the redesignation of either of them.
The revolutionary changes of 1992 had merits. By dropping five major commands and establishing three new ones to take over their functions, the Air Force reduced its number of major commands by two. The move was expected to improve the administration of the Air Force and to save enormous amounts of money. But there was a problem in the transition.
Although Air Combat Command had absorbed resources and functions of Strategic Air Command and Tactical Air Command, it was not a redesignation of either. Still, it was inexplicably directed to use the emblem of Tactical Air Command, as if it were the Tactical Air Command transformed into the Air Combat Command. If that is what the leadership wanted, it could have merely redesignated Tactical Air Command as Air Combat Command, instead of ending the first and...