109th Airlift Wing

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109th Airlift Wing
139th Airlift Squadron - Lockheed LC-130H Hercules 93-3300.jpg
139th Airlift Squadron - Lockheed LC-130H Hercules 93-3300 takes off from Ice Station Ruby, Greenland; the 109th Airlift Wing training facility at the former DYE-2 DEW site.
Active 1 May 1956-Present
Country  United States
Allegiance  New York
Branch US-AirNationalGuard-2007Emblem.svg  Air National Guard
Type Wing
Role Airlift
Part of New York Air National Guard
Garrison/HQ Stratton Air National Guard Base, Schenectady, New York
Insignia
109th Airlift Wing emblem 109th Airlift Wing.png

The 109th Airlift Wing (109 AW) is a unit of the New York Air National Guard, stationed at Stratton Air National Guard Base, Schenectady, New York. If activated to federal service, the Wing is gained by the United States Air Force Air Mobility Command.

Overview[edit]

The 109th Airlift Wing's mission is to provide airlift support to the National Science Foundation's South Pole research program by flying LC-130H Hercules airlifters, modified with wheel-ski gear, in support of Arctic and Antarctic operations. The 109th Airlift Wing is the only unit in the world to fly these aircraft.

Along with the NSF mission, the 109th Airlift Wing also supports Operation Enduring Freedom. In addition to its combat airlift mission, particularly when placed in a Federalized status, the wing also provides domestic-related functions commonly associated with Air National Guard units, such as disaster or hurricane relief.

Units[edit]

The 109th Airlift Wing consists of the following major units

  • 109th Operations Group
139th Airlift Squadron
  • 109th Maintenance Group
  • 109th Mission Support Group
  • 109th Medical Group

History[edit]

Established by the USAF and allotted to New York ANG in 1956. Received federal recognition by the National Guard Bureau and activated on 1 May 1956 as the 109th Fighter Group (Air Defense). The group was assigned to the NY ANG 107th Air Defense Wing and stationed at Schenectady County Airport, Schenectady, New York.

Cold War[edit]

139th Tactical Fighter Squadron F-86H Sabre, 1958

The primary mission was the air defense of eastern and northern New York. It was assigned the 139th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron as operational unit, equipped with F-94B Starfires.

A major change to the 107th Air Defense Wing in 1958 was the transition from an Air Defense Command (ADC) mission to Tactical Air Command (TAC) and a tactical fighter mission, the 109th being re-designated as a Tactical Fighter Group and the 139th also being re-designated. The new assignment involved a change in the group's training mission to include high-altitude interception, air-to-ground rocketry, ground strafing and tactical bombing. The 139th TFS retained their F-86H Sabres.

Airlift mission[edit]

With air transportation recognized as a critical need, the 109th was re-designated the 109th Air Transport Group (Heavy) on 2 January 1960 and was transferred from TAC to the Military Air Transport Service (MATS). The 139th Air Transport Squadron was equipped with C-97 Stratofreighter intercontinental transports, with an Aeromedical Flight as a secondary mission. With the C-97s, the 109d augmented MATS airlift capability world-wide in support of the Air Force’s needs in Europe.

139th MAS C-97 at snowy Schenectady in the 1960s.

During the 1961 Berlin Crisis, the 139th ATS was federalized on 1 October 1961. From Schenectady, the 139th ATS augmented MATS airlift capability world-wide in support of the Air Force’s needs. It returned again to New York state control on 31 August 1962.

During the 1960s, the Group flew scheduled MATS transport missions to Europe, Africa the Caribbean and South America. On 8 January 1966, Military Air Transport Service became Military Airlift Command (MAC) and the units were re-designated as the 109th Military Airlift Group and 139th was re-designated as the 137th Military Airlift Squadron.

With the retirement of the C-97 in 1971, the 109th became a Tactical Airlift Group and the 139th Tactical Airlift Squadron received eight C-130A Hercules transports and was transferred from MAC to Tactical Air Command.

The first major mission of the C-130s was in June 1972 when the squadron provided relief assistance to storm victims of Tropical Storm Agnes. 109th crews gave around-the-clock support to relief efforts. Operating mainly from the Broome County Airport at Binghamton, 109th crews provided the lion's share of airlift into stricken areas, particularly Elmira, where surface transportation was cut off. On 1 December 1974, the unit was transferred back to Military Airlift Command when MAC took over the tactical airlift mission from TAC, USAFE and PACAF air force wide.

DEW Line/Antarctic Research Mission Support[edit]

In 1975 the 109th was given a new mission for resupply of the Greenland Icecap's radar stations. The 109th was re-equipped with 5 C-130D Hercules, assuming responsibility for the Volant DEW Line resupply mission to the DYE-1, 2, 3 and DYE-4 stations. The 109th assumed the mission from the Air Force's Alaskan Air Command receiving their eleven C-130s, five of which were ski-equipped for landings on packed snow runways. In October 1984, the C-130D aircraft were replaced by eight new C-130H models, of which four were LC-130's (ski equipped).

In 1988 the 109th had been notified that, almost overnight, one of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line radar sites that it supported in Greenland was going to be shut down. The other sites would soon follow and the 109th would be largely out of business because it main mission had ended. The last flight to radar site DYE-3 in December 1989 marked the end of the DEW Line mission. The 107th assumed jurisdiction of the landing strip at the DYE-2 station for pilot training for practicing Antarctic takeoffs & landings (called Ice Station Ruby); a.k.a. the Raven Ski-way Training Facility.

After the closure of the Greenland stations, the experienced gained by the unit was transferred to its new mission; the airlift support to National Science Foundation's South Pole research program and the U.S. Navy's Antarctic Development Squadron Six (VXE-6). The 109th continued to augment the Navy's Antarctic flying operations for the next eight years.

109th AW LC-130H landing at McMurdo Station, Antarctica

The 109th was not mobilized during the 1990 Gulf Crisis, however 109 AW members were called to duty in support of Operation Desert Shield/Operation Desert Storm. In March 1992, with the end of the Cold War, the 109th adopted the Air Force Objective Organization plan, and the unit was re-designated as the 109th Airlift Group. On 1 October 1995, in accordance with the Air Force "One Base - One Wing" policy, the 109th Airlift Wing was established and the 139th Airlift Squadron was assigned to the new 109th Operations Group. In September 1994, 139th Aeromeds deployed to Rwanda in support of Operation Support Hope.

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, 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 and the Air National Guard, would be married together to carry out the assigned deployment rotation.

Early in 1996, it was announced that the 109th Airlift Wing was slated to assume that entire Antarctic mission from the U.S. Navy in 1999 as a result of post-Cold War Navy downsizing that would eliminate Antarctic Development Squadron Six (VXE-6), along with their Navy LC-130 Hercules and UH-1 Huey aircraft. The Antarctic operation would then be fully funded by the National Science Foundation. On February 20, 1998, responsibility for airlift support to the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) was passed over to the 109 AW from VXE-6 during a ceremony at Christchurch International Airport, Christchurch, New Zealand.

With the assumption of the support mission from the Navy, the 109th established an operating location at Christchurch and a forward location at Williams Field, on the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica. Williams Field consists of two hard-packed snow runways located on approximately 8 meters (25 ft) of compacted snow, lying on top of 80 meters (262 ft) of ice, floating over 550 meters (1,800 ft) of water. Williams provides support to the United States McMurdo Station and New Zealand’s Scott Base.

139th Airlift Squadron - Lockheed LC-130H Hercules in Antarctica.

During October 1999 the 109th AW aided in the rescue of Dr. Jerri Nielsen, a doctor with breast cancer symptoms and based at isolated Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica.

Modern era[edit]

The 109th Wing's high operational tempo increased dramatically with the surprise attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The 109th provided immediate support deploying 49 Civil Engineers, Services and Public Affairs personnel to Ground Zero within the first 24 hours. Since that time, the men and women of the 109th AW have continued to voluntarily deploy in support of military operations in Southwest Asia and around the world.

In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to realign the 109th Airlift Wing by transferring four C-130H aircraft to the 189th Airlift Wing, Little Rock AFB, Arkansas. The LC-130 aircraft (ski-equipped) would remain at Schenectady. This decision was not enacted. An effective lobby against the move was carried out by the Schenectady Military Affairs Council.

The 139th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron deployed to Afghanistan in June 2007, marking the first time since Vietnam that aircraft from the unit flew their own aircraft in a combat theater of operations.

During the 2011-2012 season, crews flying six LC-130H Ski-Herk transports carried out 359 missions between McMurdo Station, Antarctica, and eighteen inland Antarctic destinations, transporting more than seven million pounds of cargo and fuel and more than 1,600 passengers. The LC-130H crews were also called on to provide aerial reconnaissance and communication links to a disabled Russian vessel, allowing for a Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 crew to later airdrop three parcels on an ice floe next to the ailing ship

Currently, Aircrews and maintainers from the 109th Airlift Wing took off on 18 October 2013 to begin the unit’s annual support of the National Science Foundation in the Antarctic. Seven LC-130s are on the ice since October through February 2014. The wing has deployed 479 Air National Guardsmen to Antarctica since the season began in October, with an average of 150 on duty at any one time. The Airmen deploy for 30–60 days each, working two 12-hour shifts six days each week, running supplies and people to field camps across the continent and the South Pole station.

This year, the wing has already completed 38 more missions than the 181 which the Airmen had planned to execute. In addition to the routine support the 109th AW gives each year, this season the 109th AW will also support U.S. Antarctic research efforts by flying 1,100 researchers and support staff, and 43 tons of cargo, from McMurdo Station, Antarctica, to New Zealand.

Lineage[edit]

Unit Antarctica patch
  • Established as 109th Fighter Group (Air Defense) and allotted to New York ANG in 1956
Received federal recognition and activated on 1 May 1956
Re-designated: 109th Tactical Fighter Group, 10 November 1957
Re-designated: 109th Air Transport Group, 2 January 1960
Re-designated: 109th Military Airlift Group, 8 January 1966
Re-designated: 109th Tactical Airlift Group, 16 March 1971
Re-designated: 109th Airlift Group, 15 March 1992
Status changed from Group to Wing, 1 October 1995
Re-designated: 109th Airlift Wing, 1 October 1995-Present

Assignments[edit]

Gained by: Eastern Transport Air Force, Military Air Transport Service
Gained by: Twenty-First Air Force, Military Airlift Command, 8 January 1966
Gained by: Tactical Air Command, 16 March 1971
Gained by: Twenty-First Air Force, Military Airlift Command, 1 December 1974
Gained by: Air Mobility Command 1 June 1992-Present

Components[edit]

  • 109th Operations Group, 1 October 1995 – Present

Stations[edit]

Designated: Stratton Air National Guard Base, 4 March 1989-Present
Operates from: Christchurch International Airport, Christchurch, New Zealand, 20 February 1998-Present
Operates from: Williams Field, Antarctica, 1998-Present

Aircraft[edit]

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

External links[edit]