The 146th Airlift Wing is a reserve component of the United States Air Forces Air Mobility Command (AMC).
The California Air National Guards 146th Airlift Wing has been part of Southern Californias aviation history since the mid-1920s. The wing traces its roots to the fledgling days of the 115th Observation Squadron, and the first military aviation unit of the California National Guards 40th Infantry (Sunburst) Division. The 115th Observation Squadron was founded in the summer of 1924 at Clover Field in Santa Monica, the site of todays Santa Monica Airport.
In January 1925, the unit moved its operations to Griffith Park Aviation Field near Glendale. Throughout the 1920s and into the 1930s, the 115th operated a variety of aircraft including the World War I-vintage Curtiss JN4D Jenny, Douglas 02H, Consolidated 0-17, and Douglas 0-38. In October 1938, the 115th began flying the North American 0-47A, the units first all metal monoplane.
During the year following the December 7, 1941 disaster at Pearl Harbor, the 115th was fragmented, sending most of its experienced pilots and other air and ground crew members to Army Air Corps units fighting in various theaters of combat around the world. Many of the 115ths World War II combatants distinguished themselves in battle in the Pacific, European, and China-Burma-India theaters.
On December 12, 1942, the first Air Defense Wing (later designated the 62nd Fighter Wing) was activated at Mitchell Field, New York. February, 1943, found the Wing at Casablanca, French Morocco, providing air defense for the area.
Outstanding units which served under the 62nd's command was the sharpshooting, all black 332nd Fighter Group, which included America's first black combat fighter squadron, the famous "Fighting 99th". Over Sicily, Captain Charles B. Hall of the 99th Fighter Squadron, became the first black pilot to shoot down an enemy airplane. Colonel Benjamin O. Davis Jr., was the commander of the 332nd Fighter Group, of which the 99th was a part. The "Fighting Red Tails" destroyed a total of 261 enemy aircraft while flying a total of 15,553 combat missions. His unit has the unique distinction of being the only Army Air Corps unit that never lost a bomber doing escort missions.
The 62nd Fighter Wing was deactivated when the war ended while stationed at Pomigliano Airdrome, Italy on September 12, 1945. In May of 1946, the unit was allocated to the California National Guard. It was extended Federal recognition at Van Nuys Air National Guard Base on September 14, 1946.
Following World War II, previously splintered Army National Guard and Army Guard Air Corps units were reformed and restructured under the newly created Department of Defense. On September 16, 1946, the 62nd Fighter Wing, 146th Fighter Group and 115th Bombardment Squadron (the former 115th Observation Squadron) were given Federal recognition, and flew their first missions out of Van Nuys Air National Guard Base, later to become Van Nuys Municpal Airport in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles. In 1948, several units of the new wing moved to Burbank Airport, only to return to Van Nuys a short time later, after too little ramp space at Burbank proved a hindrance to accomplishing the wings missions.
Aircraft flown by the wing since the late 1940s include the Lockheed F-80C Shooting Star, Douglas C-47 Skytrain, Douglas B-26 Invader, North American B-45A Tornado, North American AT-6 Texan, North American F/P-51 Mustang, Lockheed F-80C Shooting Star, North American F-86A Sabrejet, and the Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter.
The 146th distinguished itself during two other major armed conflicts following WW II, flying a variety of combat air support missions in the early 1950s in the Korean War, and again in the 1960s in the Southeast Asia conflict- later known as the Vietnam War.
1960 brought the wing a new mission, and a new mission aircraft. With air transportation recognized as a critical wartime need, the 146th was selected to receive the C-97 Stratofreighter and was redesignated the 146th Air Transportation Wing (Heavy). The next year the 146th was again honored when the Air Force Association awarded the wing the Earl T. Ricks Memorial Trophy, following a flight of 22,815 miles from Van Nuys to Japan and back to Philadelphia, beating the existing record by 623 miles.
In July of 1961, as tensions of the Cold War flared in Berlin, the 146th was activated once again and flew numerous missions during "Operation Stair Step".
The Sixties marked the beginning of other humanitarian missions with the wing's new airlift capabilities. In 1964, a devastating earthquake all but leveled Anchorage, Alaska; floods ravaged Arcata, CA; and in 1968, Hurricane "Camille," the second most disastrous hurricane in U.S. history hit the Gulf Coast with a fury. In each disaster, the 146th provided critical relief supplies and equipment. In the late 1960s, the unit returned to a wartime mission - Vietnam, once again providing critical airlift.
1970 brought a new name - the 146th Tactical Airlift Wing; a new command, Tactical Air Command; and a new aircraft - the Lockheed C-130 Hercules. Also in the early 1970s, USAFs "Total Force" policy brought the wing into full partnership with its Air Force counterparts by mandating co-operation and teamwork between Air Guard and active duty Air Force units in all phases of military airlift operations. As a result, in succeeding years the wings C-130s have traveled to all corners of the world, airlifting troops, passengers, and cargo during training missions, exercise deployments, and real-world military operations to support Federal and State military airlift requirements. The wing and its subordinate units participated in numerous Cold War military exercises such as Team Spirit, Volant Oak, Red Flag, and Reforger. Other Joint Chief of Staff exercises included "Ember Dawn IV" in Alaska and "Brave Shield" in Europe. In 1979, the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve assumed full responsibility for airlift operations in Panama, which recently moved to Puerto Rico, a commitment still fulfilled.
In mid-December 1989, and continuing for several weeks, wing aircraft, air crews, and support personnel on deployment for exercise Volant Oak at Howard AFB, Canal Zone, Panama, flew combat airlift missions for U. S. Southern Command during Operation "Just Cause" in Panama. More than 100 combat sorties were flown by 146th aircraft and crews, with no casualties or damage to aircraft.
In December 1988, after more than six decades of Air National Guard flying tradition in the San Fernando Valley, the 146th Airlift Wing began moving from Van Nuys to a brand new facility, built on Federal land leased to the State of California, adjacent to the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, an active duty Navy flying installation. Located in Ventura County near the cities of Oxnard and Port Hueneme, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station was constructed at a cost of more than $90 million dollars, and is widely recognized as one of the newest and best flying facilities in the Air National Guard. The buildings, hangars, flightline, and grounds feature state-of-the-art design and construction. The 146th operates from the military airfield at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, along with Navy and other Federal aviation activities.
By March 1990, all but a small remnant of wing personnel had transferred operations to Channel Islands ANG Station. Shortly thereafter, the old Van Nuys facility was closed and turned over to the City of Los Angeles. On April 30, 1990, the flag at Van Nuys ANG Base was lowered for the last time during a special ceremony. With all units now in place at Channel Islands ANGS, the 146th settled into a late spring and early summer of preparing for the official base dedication scheduled for early September 1990.
By the second week in August 1990, the world was moving swiftly toward armed confrontation in the Persian Gulf. By late January 1991, the 146th Airlift Wing had provided U. S. Central Command and U. S. Air Forces in Europe more than 650 personnel, voluntarily and involuntarily activated, who participated in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Three wing subordinate units were partially activated by presidential executive order, including the 146th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, 146th Aerial Port Squadron, and 146th Medical Squadron. Aeromedical evacuation and aerial port personnel served in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other Persian Gulf locations. Aircraft and air crews from the 115th Airlift Squadron flew two month-long tours of duty in Operation Volant Pine, a backfill of military airlifters to Europe by Air National Guard C-130s.
In 1997, the 146th Airlift Wing was once again awarded the General Carl Spaatz trophy - designating it as the Outstanding Air National Guard unit - the third time this honor has been bestowed upon the 146th, an achievement not duplicated by any other unit in the Air National Guard. In addition, the Air Force Association named the 146th as the Outstanding Unit in the Air National Guard; and the National Guard Bureau named the 146th as the "Outstanding Air Guard Unit" for 1997. It was a year of accomplishment and rich in recognition - one which so appropriately culminated with the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force commemorating a half a century of excellence.
In 1997, wing members deployed in excess of 10,000 days supporting State and Federal missions.
In January 1998, the 146th Airlift Wing received its fourth Air Force Outstanding Unit Award. The 146th was praised for extraordinary service to the nation, State, and local community during the period of January 1996 through June 1997. During the period the unit played critical roles in support of DoD missions deploying to Oman and Saudi Arabia in support of Southern Watch, and in peacetime humanitarian airlift and aerial fire fighting, among the many notable missions accomplished by the wing during the award period.
Personnel from the 146th Support Group deployed in 1999 to the Middle East in Support of Operations Northern and Southern Watch while members of the 146th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron supported operations in Bosnia and Southwest Asia. 1999 also saw the 146th AW join in efforts to extinguish wildfires raging near the Northern California community of Chico as well as deploy personnel and aircraft to Puerto Rico in support of Operation Coronet Oak. That year concluded with the 146th AW's participation in the Air Force's Aerospace Expeditionary Force for a two-months period to Europe.
The 146th Airlift Wing has taken part in missions in the skies over Europe during World War II, flying critical airlift missions around the Pacific theater during the Berlin Crisis, flying F-86 Sabrejets over the Yalu River in Korea, service in Vietnam, in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, in Panama during Operation Just Cause, in Bosnia during Provide Hope, in Bosnia for Operation Joint Endeavor/Joint Guard/Joint Forge, and in many humanitarian missions to include disaster relief following hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, as well as aerial firefighting.
The wing is staffed full time by a cadre of professional civil service and active duty military technicians and civilian employees. The wing's Lockheed C-130E Hercules aircraft are constantly engaged in military flying operations, performing Federal and State missions in locations throughout the United States and the world. The wings Federal taskings, performed under the aegis of USAF Air Mobility Command, help accomplish the total airlift requirements of the Department of Defense and the United States government. State missions are flown when so directed by California ANG Headquarters in Sacramento, or the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C.
The 146th AW's primary mission is to provide global military airlift capability to a full spectrum of state and federal agencies. Flying the Lockheed C-130E Hercules aircraft, the 146th has provided humanitarian relief in the aftermath of hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and other disasters, not only in California, but across the country and throughout the world.
It has provided military airlift to the Department of Defense in Somalia, Bosnia, throughout Europe, Central and South America, in peacetime and in time of war. The men and women of the 146th Airlift Wing have participated in numerous Air Force missions including Operation Just Cause in Panama, Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and Operation Joint Endeavor/Joint Guard in Bosnia.
The 146th is one of only four C-130 Air Guard and AF Reserve units whose contribution to the nations aerial fire fighting capability includes equipment and techniques for efficient, effective suppression of large wildland fires from the air. Since 1974, using the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) units supplied by the U.S. Forest Service and mounted in four C-130s, the wings aerial fire fighting crews have been credited with saving many lives and countless millions of dollars worth of structures, forests, and brush land in California, and many other States and countries as well, taking part in over 5,000 aerial firefighting missions in California and across the Western United States saving valuable property, natural resources, and lives.
During a particularly difficult fire season around the Mediterranean Sea, the Italian government requested and received MAFFS-equipped aircraft, crews, and support personnel from the 146th. For several weeks, 146th AW's aircraft and crews fought fires in Italy and Sardinia, while training local firefighters in MAFFS techniques, and earning the respect and admiration of many European aerial firefighters.
The fire seasons of 1993 and 1994 were the worst on record. The Malibu fires of 1993 literally burned to the edge of the 146th AW's base. But it was in 1994, with over 55,000 wildfires raging throughout the western States, that the 146th, along with three other MAFFS-equipped guard and reserve units flew nearly 2,000 missions, dropping fifty-one million pounds of fire retardant.
Members of the 146th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, along with other wing support personnel, have traveled throughout the Republic of Chile on annual missions demonstrating aeromedical equipment and techniques. This on-going mission has resulted in the formation of a fully trained and certified aeromedical squadron within Fuerza Aerea de Chile, the Chilean Air Force.
The Year of 1999 was an extraordinary one for the 146th Airlift Wing in terms of tempo, productivity, achievement, and milestones. In May, after two years of intense preparation and training, the Wing deployed to Savannah, Georgia for an Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI) that resulted in an overall rating of excellent. The 146th received the largest number of individual and team honors ever awarded by the Air Mobility Command Inspector General during an ORI.
The 146th Support Group excelled in support and service provided to the wing, the State of California, and the nation. Personnel from civil engineering, security forces, and communications deployed to the Middle East in support of Operations Northern and Southern Watch. The Mission Support Flight earned its second consecutive California National Guard Governor s Outstanding Unit Citation.
Members of the 146th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron (AES) performed over 7,200 workdays during deployments in 1999, mostly outside the continental United States, supporting operations in Bosnia and Southwest Asia. In August and November, Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron personnel, together with Brigadier General John Iffland, Commander of the 146th Airlift Wing, traveled to Chile as part of an international symposium and presidential initiative to strengthen ties between the United States and South America, and to help modernize Chile s aeromedical evacuation capability.
During the year, the 146th AES also received the two top national honors for medical operations: The Mars Trophy, which is presented annually to the outstanding Air National Guard medical unit, and the George E. Schaeffer Trophy that is presented to the top medical unit in the Reserve component.
In August and September, the wing joined in efforts to extinguish wildfires that had burned thousands of acres near the Northern California community of Chico. Also in September, the base held one of the largest celebrations in its history to commemorate its 75th anniversary.
During October and November, the 146th Airlift Wing deployed aircrews, support personnel, and C-130 aircraft to Puerto Rico in support of Operation Coronet Oak. Over 100 personnel and 4 aircraft accomplished two rotations to Puerto Rico ANG Base, providing the United States Southern Command with airlift and aeromedical evacuation capability for operations throughout the Caribbean, Central, and South America.
The year concluded with the 146th Airlift Wing's participation in the Air Force s Aerospace Expeditionary Force. This European deployment will eventually involve more than 200 personnel over a two-month period. The 146th finished the year with over 200 personnel performing duty for a 72-hour period in preparation for potential Y2K problems which, thankfully, did not occur.
On August 17, 2001 the Commander of the Joint Forces Command designated Brig. Gen. John Iffland, the Provisionary Commander of the Air Expeditionary Group (AEG) today placing him in charge of federalized Air National Guard C-130 aircraft supporting state and federal agencies battling wild fires in 10 western states. The AEG is a task force of Air National Guard units from the States of California and Wyoming.
As Commander, Iffland, who on a daily basis commands the California Air National Guards 146th Airlift Wing at Channel Islands Air national Guard base, Calif., will command and control all Air National Guard Modular Airborne Fighting Systems (MAFFS) C-130 aircraft. He draws his authority to command these assets through the Department of Defenses support to the Federal Response Plan and memorandums of understanding signed by states involved in the fires.
The Air Expeditionary Groups wild land fire doctrine was developed and adopted after the 2000 fire season when an unusually high number of Air Force personnel and equipment were activated for the wild fire season. Prior to the AEG concept, Air Guard, Air Force, and Air Reserve units had limited authority to integrate and prioritize military MAFFS operations since they supported various state and federal agencies in charge of portions of the firefighting efforts.
Under the AEG concept, MAFFS operations and agency communications are streamlined, military air assets are used more efficiently, and the safety risks to pilots, equipment and ground crews are greatly reduced. In the first two days of MAFFS support operations, the Air Expeditionary Squadrons four MAFFS C-130s dropped a total of 348 tons of fire retardant.