156th Airlift Wing

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156th Airlift Wing
C-130E 156th AW at Puerto Rico 2004.jpg
Lockheed C-130E-LM Hercules 64-0510 from the 198th Airlift Squadron, 156th Airlift Wing, Puerto Rico Air National Guard
Active 1958-Present
Country  United States
Branch US-AirNationalGuard-2007Emblem.svg  Air National Guard
Type Wing
Role Airlift
Part of Puerto Rico Air National Guard
Garrison/HQ Muñiz Air National Guard Base, Carolina, Puerto Rico
Nickname Bucaneros
Tail Code "PR"
Commanders
Current
commander
Colonel Gilberto Cuevas
Insignia
156th Airlift Wing emblem 156th Airlift Wing (USAF) patch.png

The 156th Airlift Wing (156 AW) is a unit of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard, stationed at Muñiz Air National Guard Base, in Carolina, Puerto Rico. If activated to federal service, the Wing is gained by the United States Air Force Air Mobility Command.

Units[edit]

The 156th Airlift Wing consists of the following major units:

  • 156th Operations Group
198th Airlift Squadron
  • 156th Maintenance Group
  • 156th Mission Support Group
  • 156th Medical Group

History[edit]

Tactical Fighter mission[edit]

F-104D Starfighter of the 198th Tactical Fighter Squadron.

On 15 October 1962, the Puerto Rico Air National Guard was expanded to a Group status, and the 156th Tactical Fighter Group was recognized and activated by the National Guard Bureau. The 156th was transferred to Tactical Air Command, with the 198th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron being reassigned from Air Defense Command, becoming at Tactical Fighter Squadron assigned to the 156th TFG. Other squadrons assigned into the group were the 156th Headquarters, 156th Material Squadron (Maintenance), 156th Combat Support Squadron, and the 156th USAF Dispensary. With the transfer to TAC, the 198th TFS received F-86H Sabre tactical fighters.

In 1967, F-104C Starfighers (and an F-104D two-seat trainer) were assigned to the 156th, upgrading the group to Mach-2 supersonic tactical fighter-bombers, replacing the elderly F-86H Sabre fighter-bombers. The F-104C was equipped to carry bombs or rocket pods on under-wing and fuselage points. The upward-firing Lockheed C-2 rocket-boosted ejector seat was standard. The internal 20-mm rotary cannon of the F-104A was retained, as well as the ability to carry an AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile on each wingtip to fill an air defense interceptor mission.

In 1975, the F-104s were retired, the 198th being the last USAF unit to fly the Starfighters. They were replaced by A-7D Corsair II ground support aircraft. Although designed primarily as a ground attack aircraft, it also had limited air-to-air combat capability.

A-7D Corsair II aircraft (s/n 70-0957, 74-1749) assigned to the 198th Tactical Fighter Squadron during exercise "Solid Shield 78" on 1 May 1978.

On 12 January 1981, the Popular Boricua Army, also known as the Macheteros, a group of home grown Puerto Rican terrorists advocating separation from the United States and establishment of Puerto Rico as an independent nation, infiltrated Muñiz Air National Guard Base. Armed with pipe bombs, they destroyed or damaged eleven PRANG aircraft: ten A-7D Corsiar IIs and a single F-104 Starfighter being retained for eventual static display as a memorial. The terrorist attack was the largest on any U.S. Air Force installation since the Vietnam War, although the on-going hostage situation in Iran at the time overshadowed this incident in the news media. The eleven Air National Guard jets at Muñiz Air National Guard Base were alleged by socialist organizations to be destined for use against popular insurgents in El Salvador.[1] These allegations were never proven and may have been self-serving propaganda.

At the time, the base had 25 pilots and 900 military personnel assigned, a combination of both part-time Traditional Guardsmen and full-time Air Reserve Technicians (ART) and Active Guard and Reserve (AGR). The material loss was calculated at $45 million in 1981 dollars.

As a result of the incident, security increased from 11 to 22 personnel with 100% federal funding. The active duty Air Force and the Air National Guard invested $5.5 million in Electronic Security Equipment (ESE), a Master Surveillance Control Facility (MSCF), and added fencing to secure the flight line and operations area. In addition, Muñiz Air National Guard Base was provided a security police manpower package of 18 AGR security police personnel and 46 civilian contract guards. In short, the installation's flight line and air base security was brought up to a standard comparable to active duty air force bases in the continental United States.

On 1 August 1987, the 156th Tactical Fighter Group reorganized into a Four-Deputy structure according to the new Air National Guard policy.

In 1992, the A-7Ds were retired and were replaced by Block 15 F-16A/B Fighting Falcons modified for the Continental Air Defense mission. The F-16ADF was a standard Block 15 model converted to air defense fighters for the Air National Guard and would take over the fighter interception mission, providing the primary defense of North America against bombers and cruise missiles.

198th Fighter Squadron Block 15 F-16A ADF Fighting Falcon 82-0995

The unit took part, from 24–28 June 1991, in Granada South exercise, Panama. From 11–18 August 1991, it deployed to Iquique, Chile for Condor II Exercise and then from 18–24 August 1991, to Asuncion with the Paraguayan Air Force for training. From 7–20 September 1991, it deployed to Fortunata II, Volk Field, Wisconsin and then again from 2–6 December 1991, to Granada South, Panama.

In March 1992, with the end of the Cold War, the 156th Tactical Fighter Group adopted the Air Force Objective Organization plan, and the unit was re-designated as the 156th Fighter Group. A few months later, on 1 June 1992, Tactical Air Command was inactivated as part of the Air Force reorganization after the end of the Cold War and was replaced by Air Combat Command (ACC), which became the 156th's new gaining command.

From 20 February to 6 March 1993, the unit took part in the "Caminos de Paz" exercise at Golfito, and then deployed from 12–21 August 1993, to Asunción, Paraguay, marking its First F-16 Deployment. From 5–13 November 1994, the unit took part in the Condor III Exercise held in Iquique, Chile.

In October 1995, in accordance with the Air Force "One Base - One Wing" policy, the status of the 157th was upgraded to a wing status and redesignated as the 156th Fighter Wing with the 198th Fighter Squadron being assigned to the newly-established 156th Operations Group.

Airlift Mission[edit]

Lockheed C-130E-LM Hercules 64-0515 from the 198th Airlift Squadron, 156th Airlift Wing, Puerto Rico Air National Guard

On 22 November 1997, unit received its first C-130s while celebrating its 50th federal recognition Anniversary. On 10 February 1998, the Air Force announced conversion of the 156th Fighter Wing from its F-16 fighter aircraft to C-130E Hercules Airlifters. On 3 March 1998 the last F-16 departed from the 156th Fighter Wing. On 11 September 1998 a ceremony was held to mark the arrival of the first C-130. On 1 October 1998, the Department of the Air Force issued the official order designating the 156th Fighter Wing as 156th Airlift Wing. The 156th was subsequently transferred to the Air Mobility Command (AMC), being re-designated as the 156th Airlift Wing (156 AW).[2]

Beginning in June 1999, the major mission for the Wing became support of Operation Coronet Oak, which was transferred from Howard AFB, Panama when the base was closed as part of the turnover of the Panama Canal. The main Coronet Oak mission is to deliver special forces to any location in theater as directed by Southern Command. Air Force Reserve Command and Air National Guard C-130 aircraft, aircrews and supporting personnel deploy from the United States to Muniz ANGB to provide theater airlift support for the U.S. Southern Command. One C-130 of the unit is on alert 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, in order to deliver special forces as required.

Coronet Oak shares the Muñiz flight line with the Puerto Rico Air National Guard, which also flies C-130s. That makes for a good partnership, when C-130s need repairs or spare parts. The mission also includes any other kind of contingency and logistics support. Aircrews provide theater mobility, embassy support and airdrops. They also fly people, food and mail.

Lineage[edit]

  • Established as 156th Tactical Fighter Group and allotted to Puerto Rico ANG in 1958
Received federal recognition and activated on 10 April 1958
Re-designated: 156th Fighter Group, 15 March 1992
Status changed from Group to Wing, 1 October 1995
Re-designated: 156th Fighter Wing, 1 October 1995
Re-designated: 156th Airlift Wing, 1 October 1998

Assignments[edit]

Gained by: Tactical Air Command
Gained by: Air Combat Command, 1 June 1992
Gained by: Air Mobility Command, 1 October 1998-Present

Components[edit]

  • 140th Air Defense Squadron (1976–1998)
  • 141st Air Ground Defense Squadron (1982–1998)

Stations[edit]

Designated: Muñiz Air National Guard Base, 23 November 1963-Present

Aircraft[edit]

Decorations[edit]

See also[edit]

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

References[edit]