Tissue-resident memory T cells (TRM cells) in the airways mediate protection against respiratory infection. We characterized TRM cells expressing integrin αE (CD103) that reside within the epithelial barrier of human lungs. These cells had specialized profiles of chemokine receptors and adhesion molecules, consistent with their unique localization. Lung TRM cells were poised for rapid responsiveness by constitutive expression of deployment-ready mRNA encoding effector molecules, but they also expressed many inhibitory regulators, suggestive of programmed restraint. A distinct set of transcription factors was active in CD103(+) TRM cells, including Notch. Genetic and pharmacological experiments with mice revealed that Notch activity was required for the maintenance of CD103(+) TRM cells. We have thus identified specialized programs underlying the residence, persistence, vigilance and tight control of human lung TRM cells.