120th Fighter Squadron
|120th Fighter Squadron|
F-16C Fighting Falcon, 120th Fighter Squadron (FS), 140th Fighter Wing (FW), Colorado Air National Guard (COANG)
|Active||28 August 1917-Present|
|Branch||Air National Guard|
|Role||Air Defense/Tactical Fighter|
|Part of||Colorado Air National Guard|
|Garrison/HQ||Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora, Colorado|
Redeyes (call sign}
|Motto||"FIRST IN THE AIR GUARD"|
|Mascot||Colorado mountain lion
|Tail Code||Colorado Flag Tail Stripe; "CO"|
|Engagements||World War I
World War II
|120th Fighter Squadron emblem|
The 120th Fighter Squadron (120 FS) is a unit of the Colorado Air National Guard 140th Wing located at Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora, Colorado. The 120th is equipped with the F-16C/D Fighting Falcon.
The squadron is a descendant organization of the World War I 120th Aero Squadron, established on 28 August 1917. It was reformed on 27 June 1923, as the 120th Observation Squadron, and is one of the 29 original National Guard Observation Squadrons of the United States Army National Guard formed before World War II.
The 120th Fighter Squadron was the first federally-recognized Air National Guard unit, receiving this distinction on 30 June 1946.
The current mission of the 120th is to operate at the highest levels of military and domestic policy protecting the midwest America and Operation Enduring Freedom. Also the 120th Fighter squadron has deployed five times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, most recently to Joint Base Balad, Iraq in 2010. The 120th has also supported an Air Expeditionary Forces deployment in the Pacific region and multiple National Special Security Events, such as the Democratic National Convention in 2008, in Denver, Colorado.
The 120th Aero Squadron--American Expeditionary Force was formed on 6 August and organized on 28 August 1917 and trained. The squadron left Kelly Field (San Antonio, Texas) on 9 November 1917. Arrived Ellington Field the next day and continued training.
Left Ellington Field 31 January 1918. Arrived Liverpool, England, March 4th and went to Romney Ja county England. Left for New Romney March 9th-arrived same date. Arrived Winchester, England Sept. 2nd for Le Harve, France. Left Le Harve Sept. 4th for St. Maireil, France. Entered first battle the night of March 21st. Battle rages on for five nights and four days. Finally succeeding in driving the Germans back. Germans attacked Calais again on March 29th. July 26th battle at Amiens. Lost eleven Airstors and nine men. August 9th went to Lillie, France, on the border of Alsace-Lorraine. Crossed the border on August 16th from there to Belgium and from Belgium to Lichemburg. On Sept. 2nd. returned to Tours, France for recreation and rest. Left St. Maireil Sept. 16th. Arrived Tours (2nd A.E. F.) Sept. 18th. Left Tours for Bordeaux for debarkation. 1 May 1919 arrived U. S. May 6. Inactivated at San Antonio on 17 May 1919.
On 27 June 1923 the 120th Aero Observation Squadron, 45th Division, Aviation was mustered into service as part of the Colorado Army National Guard. Initially composed of eight officers and 50 enlisted members, the unit flew Curtis JN-4Es (better known as Jennies) - an aircraft which proved to be unsuitable for flying at Denver elevations. One year later, the 120th began flying out of Lowry Field. The brand new airfield was named in honor of 2nd Lt. Francis B. Lowry who was shot down and killed near Crepion, France in 1918 while on a photographic mission.
Nonetheless, the men of the 120th persevered flying the Jennies just before sunrise and after sunset, when the air was less turbulent. In later years, they would transition through a variety of more powerful observation aircraft such as the Douglas 0-2, Consolidated 0-17, and Douglas 0-38. The unit eventually started flying the 0-47 - a three-seat, all metal, single-engine aircraft - that took the unit into World War II.
Mobilization for World War II took place on January 6, 1941, 11 months prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The unit, then 19 officers and 116 enlisted members, moved to Biggs Field, Texas.
During World War II the squadron supported ground units in training by flying reconnaissance, artillery adjustment, fighter, and bomber missions, and in the process trained reconnaissance personnel who later served overseas. Patrolled the Mexican border from March–July 1942. Disbanded on 30 Nov 1943.
Colorado Air National Guard
The wartime 120th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron was reconstituted on 21 June 1945. It was then re-designated as the 120th Fighter Squadron, and was allotted to the Colorado Air National Guard, on 24 May 1946. It was organized at Buckley Field (A sub-base of Lowry AFB), Colorado and was extended federal recognition on 30 Jun 1946 by the National Guard Bureau. The 120th Fighter Squadron was bestowed the history, honors, and colors of the previous 120th TRS.
The 146th Fighter Squadron was the first Air National Guard unit to obtain federal recognition. It squadron was equipped with F-51D Mustangs and was allocated to the 140th Fighter Group, 86th Fighter Wing, Colorado Air National Guard. As part of the Continental Air Command Fourth Air Force, the unit trained for tactical fighter missions and air to air combat.
In 1947, shortly after World War II, the 120th TFS organized an aerial demonstration team called the "Minute Men." This team was federally recognized in 1956, making it the first and only Air National Guard precision aerial demonstration team. Headed by Col. Walt Williams, the team performed in more than 100 air shows for more than three million people in 47 states and five foreign countries before being disbanded in favor of a fledgling team of Air Force pilots, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.
Korean War activation
As a result of the Korean War, the 120th and its parent, the 140th Fighter Wing was federalized and brought to active duty on 1 April 1951. The unit was ordered to the new Clovis Air Force Base, New Mexico, which arrived in October 1951. The federalized 140th was a composite organization of activated Air National Guard units, composed of the 120th, the 187th Fighter Squadron (Wyoming ANG) and the 190th Fighter Squadron (Utah ANG). The 140th and its components were equipped with F-51D Mustangs, and were re-designated as Fighter-Bomber squadrons on 12 April 1951.
During their period of federal service, many pilots were sent to Japan and South Korea to reinforce active-duty units. At Clovis, elements of the 140th FBW took part in Operation Tumbler-Snapper - 1952, a nuclear bomb test in Nevada. On 15 November 1952, the elements of the 140th returned to Air National Guard control in their respective states.
Upon return to Colorado state control, the 120th was re-equipped by Tactical Air Command with F-80C Shooting Star jets. On 1 July 1955, the squadron was re-designated as the 120th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, with its parent 140th FIW being assigned to the 34th Air Division, Air Defense Command.
In 1958, the 140th FIW implemented the ADC Runway Alert Program, in which interceptors of the 120th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron were committed to a five-minute runway alert. In 1960 the F-86s were again replaced by the F-86L Sabre Interceptor, a day/night/all-weather aircraft designed to be integrated into the ADC SAGE interceptor direction and control system.
Tactical Air Command/Vietnam War
The 140th was transferred back to Tactical Air Command in January 1961, the squadron being re-designated as the 120th Tactical Fighter Squadron. In 1968, While flying the F-100C Super Sabre in Vietnam, the unit became the first guard unit activated and deployed for one year to southeast Asia. As part of the 35th Tactical Fighter Wing, Phan Rang AB, the squadron flew primarily ground support missions, and beat back many enemy attacks on American and South Vietnamese ground units. The 140th also performed interdiction, visual and armed reconnaissance, strike assessment photography, escort, close and direct air support, and rapid reaction alert.
The 120th earned the United States Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with the "V" device for valor during the conflict by flying over 6,000 combat missions. After returning from Vietnam, the Guard was upgraded with the D-model of the F-100 Super Sabre.
The A-7Ds were operated until March 1992 when the Wing converted to Block 30 F-16C/Ds Fighting Falcons, and the Corsairs were retired to Davis-Monthan AFB.
Today the 120th FS is a dual-purpose fighter squadron with pilots qualified to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions including Offensive Counter-Air (OCA), Defensive Counter-Air (DCA), OCA Interdiction, Close Air Support (CAS), and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) missions. With the addition of the LITENING II and SNIPER targeting pod and the latest software upgrades, the 120th pilots are able to employ precision guided GPS and Laser-guided weapons with deadly accuracy.
The 120th Fighter Squadron has participated in many exercises when not deployed to support real world contingency operations as part of the United States Air Force's Total Force. These exercises include joint multi-national training with the Royal Australian Air Force in Australia, TEAM SPIRIT in Korea, Tactical Fighter Weaponry in Denmark, Maple Flag in Canada, Cope Thunder in Alaska, Sentry Aloha in Hawaii, The Joint CRUZEX V Operation(Cruzeiro do sul - Southern Cross ) in Brazil in 2010, with the Brazilian Air Force, the Armée de l'Air (France Air force), and many others air forces from South America, and observers of some many other countries of the NATO (this is the most big aerial operation in the South America), and countless other exercises within the United States.
In February, 2003, the 120th FS mobilized and deployed to a still classified location in southwest Asia in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While deployed with sixteen aircraft and over 30 pilots, the 120th flew over 500 combat sorties, 2500 hours and dropped over 350 precision guided weapons while successfully preventing the launch of any Theatre Ballistic Missiles in their area of responsibility.
All personnel and jets returned safely during the summer, 2003. The unit has since redeployed to Iraq in the summer of 2004, as well as during the holidays in 2007-2008, and in the Summer of 2009 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In 2005, the 120th won back the "Spirit Trophy" in the Tiger Meet of the Americas Competition.
- Organized as 120th Aero Squadron on 28 August 1917
- Demobilized on 17 May 1919
- Reconstituted and consolidated (1936) with 120th Observation Squadron which, having been allotted to Colorado NG, was activated on 27 Jun 1923
- Ordered to active service on 6 Jan 1941
- Re-designated: 120th Observation Squadron (Medium) on 13 Jan 1942
- Re-designated: 120th Observation Squadron on 4 Jul 1942
- Re-designated: 120th Reconnaissance Squadron (Fighter) on 2 Apr 1943
- Re-designated: 120th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron on 11 Aug 1943
- Disbanded on 30 Nov 1943.
- Reconstituted on 21 Jun 1945
- Re-designated 120th Fighter Squadron, and allotted to Colorado ANG, on 24 May 1946
- Extended federal recognition on 30 Jun 1946
- Federalized and placed on active duty, 1 April 1951
- Re-designated: 120th Fighter-Bomber Squadron on 12 Apr 1951
- Released from active duty and returned to Colorado state control, 15 November 1952
- Re-designated: 120th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron on 1 Jul 1955
- Re-designated: 120th Tactical Fighter Squadron on 1 Jan 1961
- Federalized and placed on active duty, 26 January 1968
- Released from active duty and returned to Colorado state control, 30 April 1969
- Re-designated: 120th Fighter Squadron on 15 Mar 1992
- Designated: 332d Expeditionary Fighter Squadron* when deployed as part of Air and Space Expeditionary units.
*Note: The 332d Expeditionary Fighter Squadron is a "dummy" designation used to refer to Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command F-16 units deployed to Balad AB, Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-2011). While the 332d designation was widely used, it is not the proper designation of the units while deployed to Balad. The 332d designation was used since most Guard/Reserve units swapped out on a more frequent basis compared to their active duty counterparts.
- Post Headquarters, Kelly Field, 28 August-10 November 1917
- Post Headquarters, Ellington Field, 10 November 1917-3 February 1918
- Aviation Concentration Center, 3-16 February 1918
- Chief of Air Service, AEF, 9 March-16 September 1918
- Attached to: Royal Flying Corps for training
- Replacement Concentration Center, AEF, 6-17 September 1918
- Second Aviation Instruction Center, AEF, 17 September 1918-6 February 1919
- Post Headquarters, Mitchel Field, 7-17 May 1919
- Colorado NG (divisional aviation, 45th Division), 27 Jun 1923
- Third Army, 6 Jan 1941
- III Air Support Command, 1 Sep 1941
- 77th Observation (later Reconnaissance, Tactical Reconnaissance) Group, 12 Mar 1942-30 Nov 1943
- 140th Fighter Group, 1 Oct 1946
- 140th Fighter Wing, 1 Nov 1950
- 140th Fighter-Bomber Wing, 12 Apr 1951
- 140th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, 1 Jul 1955
- 140th Tactical Fighter Wing, 1 Jan 1961
- 35th Tactical Fighter Wing, 26 January 1968
- 140th Tactical Fighter Wing, 30 April 1969
- 140th Operations Group, 15 Mar 1992-Present
- Mauer, Mauer (1969), Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II, Air Force Historical Studies Office, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. ISBN 0-89201-097-5
- 140th Fighter Wing factsheet
- Rogers, B. (2006). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. ISBN 1-85780-197-0
- Cornett, Lloyd H. and Johnson, Mildred W., A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization 1946 - 1980, Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center, Peterson AFB, CO (1980).
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