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History of the 179th Airlift Wing

Airmen from the 179th Airlift Wing, Mansfield, Ohio, depart their home station in a C-130H Hercules, Feb. 21, 2021.

Airmen from the 179th Airlift Wing, Mansfield, Ohio, depart their home station in a C-130H Hercules, Feb. 21, 2021. 164th Airlift Squadron and 179th Maintenance Group will be flying and maintaining the C-130H aircraft in support of Operation Spartan Shield. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Joe Harwood)

Photo of five C-130's on the flight line in front of the airport tower.

Airmen from the 179th Airlift Wing Maintenance Group, Mansfield, Ohio, conduct aircraft maintenance on the C-130H Hercules May 15, 2019. Maintainers conduct regular inspections of the aircraft in order to maintain mission readiness with ready Airmen and ready aircraft. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Alexis Wade)

A photo of sun reflecting off the side of a C-130 that says Ohio Air Guard.

Airmen from the 179th Airlift Wing Maintenance Group perform daily operations on the C-130H Hercules on the flightline August 16, 2018, at the 179th Airlift Wing, Mansfield, Ohio. Airmen perform daily aircraft maintenance in order to ensure mission readiness at all times. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Amn Alexis Wade)

A photo of five military members walking on and around the tail of a C-130 aircraft while it was parked in the hanger.

The elevator panel on the tail of a C-130H Hercules is re-attached after repairs on Jan. 5, 2018, at the 179th Airlift Wing, Mansfield, Ohio. The 179th Airlift Wing maintenance group regularly inspects all aspects of their aircraft to maintain mission readiness with ready airmen and ready aircraft. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Joe Harwood\Released)

World War II Lineage

The 363d Fighter Squadron was established at Hamilton Field, California in December 1942. Began training on the P-39 Airacobra at Tonopah Army Airfield, Nevada.

Became part of the United States Air Forces in Europe army of occupation in Germany during 1945. Inactivated in Germany during August 1946.

Post War transfer to Ohio Air National Guard

The wartime 363d Fighter Squadron was re-designated as the 164th Fighter Squadron, and was allotted to the Ohio Air National Guard, on 24 May 1946. It was organized at Mansfield Lahm Regional Airport, Ohio, and was extended federal recognition on 20 June 1948 by the National Guard Bureau. The 164th Fighter Squadron was bestowed the lineage, history, honors, and colors of the 363d Fighter Squadron. The squadron was equipped with F-51D Mustangs and was assigned to the Ohio ANG 55th Fighter Wing, operationally gained by Continental Air Command.

Air Defense

With the formation and federal recognition of the Ohio ANG 121st Fighter Group at Lockbourne Field, near Columbus, the squadron was reassigned. The mission of the 164th Fighter Squadron was the air defense of Ohio. Parts were no problem and many of the maintenance personnel were World War II veterans so readiness was quite high and the planes were often much better maintained than their USAF counterparts. In some ways, the postwar Air National Guard was almost like a flying country club and a pilot could often show up at the field, check out an aircraft and go flying. However, the unit also had regular military exercises that kept up proficiency and in gunnery and bombing contests they would often score at least as well or better than active-duty USAF units, given the fact that most ANG pilots were World War II combat veterans. In 1949 the squadron exchanged its F-51Ds for F-51H Mustang very long range escort fighters that were suitable for long-range interception of unknown aircraft identified by Ground Control Interceptor radar stations.

With the surprise invasion of South Korea on 25 June 1950, and the regular military's complete lack of readiness, most of the Air National Guard was federalized and placed on active duty. The 164th Fighter Squadron was federalized on 10 February 1951. The 164th, however, was selected to remain in Ohio and continue the air defense mission, being operationally gained by the Eastern Air Defense Force, Air Defense Command. With the end of the federalization of the Air National Guard in 1952, the 164th again was assigned to the 121st Tactical Fighter Group at Columbus, however the squadron remained in an attached status to Air Defense Command.

In September 1953 after the Korean War, the 164th received its first jet aircraft, refurbished F-80A Shooting Stars that had been modified and upgraded to F-80C standards. The squadron only operated the Shooting Star for a year when in October 1954 the equipment was changed to F-84E Thunderjets that had returned from wartime duty in Korea. In August 1954, the 164th began standing daytime air defense alert at Mansfield, placing two aircraft at the end of the runway with pilots in the cockpit from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset. This ADC alert lasted each and every day until 30 June 1956.

In early 1957, the squadron sent their war-weary Thunderjets to storage at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona and received new F-84F Thunderstreak swept-wing interceptors. Later in 1957, the 164th Fighter-Bomber Squadron received the 1st Air Force Flying Safety Award for three consecutive years of accident-free flying, an impressive accomplishment as in the previous three years the squadron had flown three different types of aircraft.

On 15 October 1962, the Ohio Air National Guard's 164th Tactical Fighter Squadron was authorized to expand to a group level and the 179th Tactical Fighter Group was established by the National Guard Bureau, with the 164th TFS becoming the group's flying squadron. Other squadrons assigned into the group were the 179th Headquarters, 179th Material Squadron (Maintenance), 179th Combat Support Squadron, and the 179th USAF Dispensary.

Tactical Air Command

Equipped with F-84F Thunderstreaks, the new group was assigned to the Ohio ANG 121st Tactical Fighter Wing at Lockbourne AFB, Ohio. The 179th TFG was tasked with a tactical fighter-bomber mission to augment the Tactical Air Command (TAC).

The squadron continued normal peacetime training throughout the 1960s. Individual squadron members volunteered for duty during the Vietnam War, however the 164th was not federalized in 1968 as the F-84Fs were not considered front line combat aircraft. In February 1972, the squadron retired its Thunderstreaks and converted to the F-100 Super Sabre as a result of the American draw-down from the Vietnam War.

Tactical Airlift Era

The squadron flew the F-100s until the winter of 1976 when the 179th was transferred from Tactical Air Command to Military Airlift Command (MAC) on 5 January. At this time, the unit converted to the C-130B Hercules and received a complement of eight aircraft. With the change of equipment, the unit was designated a Tactical Airlift Group. Upgrade to the C-130H was completed in 1991.

The 179th Airlift Group was active during 1991 Gulf War providing airlift support throughout the Continental United States and Europe. Portions of the 179th were activated during Desert Shield/Storm and served in the US, Europe and Saudi Arabia.

In March 1992, the 179th adopted the USAF Objective Wing organization and became simply the 179th Airlift Group (179 AG) and the 164th as the 164th Airlift Squadron (164 AS). On 1 June of that year, Military Airlift Command was inactivated as part of the Air Force restructuring after the end of the Cold War. Air Mobility Command (AMC) initially became the gaining major command for the 179th, although on 1 October 1993, it was moved to Air Combat Command (ACC) along with the other C-130 units.

With the Air National Guard in the post-Cold War era providing nearly 50% of the USAF's tactical airlift capability, the 179th Airlift Group supported combat and humanitarian operations and exercises around the world, beginning in July 1992 as part of Operation Provide Promise; a humanitarian relief operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Yugoslav War. Ongoing until 1996 airlift units delivered food, medicine, and supplies and evacuating over 1,300 wounded people from the region. It the longest running humanitarian airlift in history.

In late 1992, the 179th began airlifting personnel, equipment and supplies to Somalia as part of Operation Restore Hope. The Air Force enlisted Air National Guard units being charged with carrying out United Nations Security Council Resolution 794: to create a protected environment for conducting humanitarian operations in the southern half of Somalia.

The 179th was also engaged in Operation Uphold Democracy (19 September 1994 – 31 March 1995) providing airlift support to United States military forces in Haiti during its military intervention designed to remove the military regime installed by the 1991 Haitian coup d'├ętat that overthrew the elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

On 11 October 1995, in accordance with the Air Force One Base-One Wing directive, the 179th Airlift Group was expanded and changed in status to the 179th Airlift Wing (179 AW). Under the Objective Wing organization, the 164th Airlift Squadron was assigned to the 179th Operations Group. Support groups to the wing were the 179th Maintenance Group, 179th Mission Support Group and the 179th Medical Group.

In mid-1996, the Air Force, in response to budget cuts, and changing world situations, began experimenting with Air Expeditionary organizations. The Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) concept was developed that would mix Active Duty Regular Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard elements into a combined force. Instead of entire permanent units deploying as "Provisional" as in the 1991 Gulf War, Expeditionary units are composed of "aviation packages" from several wings, including active duty Air Force, the Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) and the Air National Guard (ANG), would be married together to carry out the assigned deployment rotation.

In December 1996, the 164th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron (164 EAS) was first formed from 179th personnel and aircraft and deployed to Pisa Airport, Italy in support of Operation Joint Guard. It assisted in providing logistical support to NATO-led multinational peacekeeping force in Bosnia and Herzegovina which was tasked with upholding the Dayton Peace Agreement. This ongoing commitment continued until 1998. Other Air Expeditionary Force deployments in the late 1990s included Operation Joint Endeavor, Operation Joint Forge and Operation Shining Hope, all addressing the Yugoslavian crises of the era.

Post 9-11

After the events of 11 September 2001 the 164th EAS has been activated on several occasions, initially providing logistic support for Air Force fighter squadrons engaged in Combat Air Patrols over major cities during Operation Noble Eagle in late 2001 and 2002. The EAS has seen duty in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Pursuant to 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to close Mansfield-Lahm Municipal Airport Air National Guard Station, Ohio. The 179th Airlift Squadron would distribute its eight C-130H aircraft to the Air Force Reserve Command's 908th Airlift Wing at Maxwell AFB, Alabama (four aircraft), and the active duty Air Force's 314th Airlift Wing at Little Rock AFB, Arkansas (four aircraft). Flying-related Expeditionary Combat Support (ECS) would move to the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing at Louisville Air National Guard Base, Kentucky (aerial port) and the Ohio Air National Guard's 180th Fighter Wing at Toledo Air National Guard Base, Ohio (fire fighters). However, due to the base's superior record and recommendations for reconsideration by state and local officials, the base was incorporated into the Ohio Air National Guard's future by receiving a bridge mission of flying the C-21 Learjet operational support airlift (OSA) aircraft mission until it became operational in the C-27J Spartan.

On 20 July 2008, the 179 AW continued its growth by the standing up of the 200th Red Horse (Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers) detachment. The Mansfield base has been assigned with 200 RED HORSE personnel and another 200 assigned to Port Clinton. A new building across the airfield was to be constructed to house the detachment with an approximated completion date in 2010.

The 179 AW, along with the 175th Wing of the Maryland Air National Guard, was the first unit to train and deploy the C-27J Spartan in 2010. Airmen from the 179th Airlift Wing made Air National Guard history 26 July 2011, by deploying in support of Operation Enduring Freedom for the first time with the C-27J Spartan, one of the Air Force's newest aircraft. This joint mission was conducted with aircrew from the 164th Airlift Squadron, a subordinate unit of the 179th Airlift Wing, and Soldiers from the Oklahoma and Georgia Army National Guard, working in conjunction with the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade (159th CAB), from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in direct support of the U.S. Army for airlift and airdrop operations. The 179 AW made history with a nine-month overseas rotation, as opposed to the typical four-to-six-month Air National Guard deployment schedule. Due to budget constrained force structure changes within the Air Force eliminating all C-27s, the 179 AW's C-27s were retired and the 179th began transitioning back to the C-130 in May 2013 and has continued that mission, supporting domestic operations and supporting combatant commanders while deploying in support of global operations such as Operation Inherent Resolve.

Present Day

The C-130H Hercules continues to fly in Mansfield as of present day in 2021. The U.S. Air Force has made efforts to reduce the C-130H Hercules fleet and selected Mansfield as the preferred location to stand up the Air National Guard’s first Cyberspace Wing, with a plan to transition the unit from Air Mobility Command (AMC) to Air Combat Command (ACC). The proposed plan is contingent on congressional approval to retire eight C-130H aircraft from Mansfield, Ohio, and reduce the Air Force’s total C-130 inventory from 287 to 279 aircraft in fiscal year 2022. With congressional approval, the Airmen of the 179th AW will be resourced to convert to a Cyberspace Wing, carrying their proud legacy well into the future to ensure the nation is able to modernize and meet the demands of today and tomorrow.

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