124th Wing [124th WG]
The federal mission of the 124th Wing is to properly equip and train personnel in a high state of readiness for immediate tasking as levied by higher headquarters. Its state mission is to, at the call of the Governor, provide personnel and equipment to assist civil authorities prior to, during and after emergencies or disasters; to protect life, property, preserve peace, order and public safety.
The 124th Wing was formed from the 405th Fighter Bomber Squadron that saw much action in Europe in WWII. It was given the Presidential Unit Citation in 1945 and later deactivated. In 1946 the 405th was activated and redesignated the 190th Fighter Squadron, Single Engine, Idaho Air National Guard. Colonel Tom Lanphier, credited with the shooting down of Admiral Yamamoto's plane in the South Pacific, was one of the founding members.
The unit was assigned to the Continental Air Command (ConAC) with the mission of air defense of the United States. Originally consisting of three units, there was the primary unit, the 190th, and the 190th Utility Flight that operated and maintained the support aircraft. Detachment C, 242nd Air Service Group served as base support. The unit was assigned to Gowen Field, a deactivated bomber training base in WWII. In November 1946, the first prop-driven P-51 Mustangs arrived in Boise. The Mustang was one of the world's fastest prop-driven aircraft, and a veteran of many WWII missions. It carried six .50-caliber machine-guns and was capable of carrying several bombs.
There were a small number of full-time mechanics and support personnel, but many of the members were traditional Guardsmen that attended a weekly two-hour evening drill and the annual training summer camp for two weeks. There were many deployments and exercises, from California to Washington state. The unit hosted the 1953 Air National Guard Worldwide Gunnery Meet here. Support aircraft were later added to the inventory- T-6 trainers, B-26 bombers, an L-5 and four L-16 light liaison aircraft. Recruiting was handled by taking the aircraft to other airports in the valley and performing airshows to gain strength through enlistment's. Several emergency missions were flown as well for the citizens of Idaho, including the delivery of iron lungs and patients to hospitals.
The unit changed in a few administrative aspects, but life at Gowen Field was pretty much the same. Protocol was different in case of war, and commanders came and went, but things were about to change. In April 1951, the 190th was called to active duty during the Korean War, rotating to Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. Those that stayed behind were also activated, retaining the C-47 transport aircraft. In November of that year, the Mustangs transferred to George Air Force Base, California to support the mission there and the regular Air Force pilots went to Korea.
On December 31, 1952, the unit was deactivated from Federal control. After its return, the unit was changed to the 190th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. The close proximity to the Saylor Creek Training Range put Idaho in charge of the Air National Guard Gunnery Exercise. Teams from all over the US came and competed, as the Idaho Air Guard hosted the event for another three years.
In 1953, the sound of props was overshadowed by the unit entering the Jet Age. F-86A Sabres were assigned to the unit. These veterans of the Korean War had proven themselves as an effective day fighter. It carried six .50-caliber machine guns in the nose. Powered by a gas turbine engine, this swept wing fighter could reach speeds of over six hundred miles per hour. The 190th was then assigned to the Air Defense Command (ADC) to fulfill the mission of protecting the Pacific Northwest. The unit also received its first T-33 jet trainers.
As the Cold War was beginning, the Air Force saw the need to have an interceptor force that would protect the United States in the event of an aerial attack from the Soviet Union. Aircraft of that era were limited in range and weapons they could utilize, so they depended on Air Guard units to protect the west coast. Idaho was no exception, and the Sabres were on 14 hour daylight alert as their defense of the Pacific Northwest. Recruiting used a bus to enlist and conduct physicals for the enrollment of new members in the Guard. Also, a defunct F-86 with shortened wings and bright paint was used for display. It would be towed around to the various locations following the bus and in parades. This enhanced the image of the Idaho Air National Guard.
The F-94B Starfire was a two-seat, twin-engine jet interceptor that spent less than a year with the Idaho Air Guard. This airframe left a significant mark on the unit, being the first to require a radar operator. The armament consisted of four .50-caliber machine guns mounted in the nose. This all-weather fighter was present during a surprise test of the Air Defense Command's national alerting system. New recruiting requirements for radar observers were helped along with the unit's support and a B-25 medium bomber that the unit received to aid in the training of the observers.
It was during the mid 1950s that the Air Force began to take Air Guardsmen into their training programs for Basic Training and Technical School, whereas before the new enlistees were trained at their home stations. Where the quality needed to be standardized, it was taken over by the active-duty portion of the Air Force. This led to a higher standard of training for both the new recruits, but the Air National Guard.
The 190th Fighter Interceptor Squadron became the 124th Fighter Interceptor Group in 1956. The F-89 Scorpion was the next in the series of interceptors that was assigned to Gowen Field. It was an all-weather dual-engine interceptor armed with four 20mm cannons in the nose. It also employed a crew of two, and had a larger fuel capacity and greater operating range. Further changes followed as the unit became the 124th Fighter Interceptor Group. Three new squadrons were subsequently added, the 124th Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (CAMS), the 124th Air Base Squadron, and the 124th USAF Dispensary. At this, the unit was a self-supporting organization capable of deploying to any base for operation. Skills for the successful execution of the unit's mission were even more demanding, and the drills went from two-hour evening periods to the current system of one weekend per month.
The next in the lineup of aircraft were the F-89B Scorpions. Introduced to the unit in 1956, these brightly-colored jets were a familiar sight to the residents of Boise. It had an extensive range due to an increased fuel capacity. Its mission was also one of alert as it ran the 14-hour runway alerts as well. It was an aircraft much more sophisticated, and thus required more modern maintenance facilities. A new hangar was built on the flight line that contained both offices and shops for maintenance.
One of the most interesting deployments the units' members have been involved in was "Operation Plumbbob". It was an atmospheric nuclear test series conducted in 1957 conducted in Nevada. A T-33 would fly close to the particle clouds after the tests and collect samples, later it would fly to Indian Springs AFB and be decontaminated and have the samples removed.
The F-86 returned to the Idaho Air Guard in the "L" model. It was equipped with a sophisticated radar and electronic fire control system. With this development, it eliminated the need for a radar operator. It was armed with twenty-four 2.75 rockets in a package under the fuselage. Like the last version of the Sabre, it was a single-seater.
As part of the alert duties of the unit, the 124th now stood on 24-hour status for the Air Defense System. Here, pilots and mechanics were prepared to launch and recover interceptors going after intruders. It was under these conditions that the unit got the first ANG Missile Safety Award, and in later years two more would follow.
1961 brought about another change in the Guard as a new way of handling Annual Training came to be. Instead of the usual "Summer Camp" that the unit would attend together, they followed the "Texas Plan". This allowed the officers and airmen to fulfill their 15 days of Annual Training one day at a time more at their convenience. This plan still stands today. It fulfilled the needs of both the unit and the individual, and provided flexibility.
The aging F-86 Sabres were replaced with the supersonic F-102A Delta Daggars in 1964. The "Deuce" was an advanced aircraft with an extended ceiling and sophisticated missiles. It also carried twelve of the 2.75 inch rockets. The F-102 stayed on with the 24-hour alert commitment until 1975.
Gowen Field grew in 1965 as buildings were added for avionics and ground support equipment maintenance. The last of the original support aircraft, the C-47 left in 1966 replaced by a C-54. In 1972, the C-54 was transferred to the Iranian Air Force and a C-131 came into operation until it was traded for the C-26 in 1993.
As part of the annual training and operation of the F-102, the unit went to Tyndall AFB in Florida to practice shooting missiles. A competition known as 'Top Gun' was won by the unit when then-Major Ralph D. Townsend scored a direct hit on the drone in 1974. The unit wasn't activated for Vietnam, though one of the members of the Idaho Air Guard was.
In 1968 the 124th was chosen to pioneer the use of closed-circuit television for training, briefing aircrews, and expediting maintenance operations. It was the beginning of the modern teleconferencing and video briefing used today. It was a test that ended successfully, and the cameras were later utilized by base security for surveillance.
In 1975, the armaments came off and the entire mission changed to photo reconnaissance. With the doublesonic RF-4C Phantom II. Many of the missions of this era were accomplished without any armaments whatsoever. The 1976 Teton Flood in Eastern Idaho was covered by this unit. Phantoms strapped on HARM missiles and the mission went from recon to the Wild Weasel mission. The 'first in, last out' radar-suppression flying took the 124th to support the US Air Force in its enforcement of the No-Fly Zone in the Middle East. In 1996, a chapter of history closed for the Phantom, assigned to the 124th for 21 years, with the retirement of the aircraft.
The high-performance roar of the J79 engines have been replaced by the quiet and smooth turbofans on the A-10 Warthog. The tank-smashing airframe boasts a 30mm cannon and carries much in the way of ordinance. Small wonder it was called in the Gulf War, "Silent Death". Also in support of the 124th Wing are the medium transports, the C-130 Hercules. These useful airframes have been used in support of the unit's many state missions, including flood, snow, and other kinds of relief and supply.
In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to deactivate the 111th Fighter Wing (Air National Guard) and relocate some of its assigned A-10 aircraft to the 124th Wing (ANG), Boise Air Terminal Air Guard Station, Boise, ID (three primary aircraft). This recommendation was part of a larger recommendation that would close NAS JRB Willow Grove, PA. DoD claimed that this recommendation would enable Air Force Future Total Force transformation by consolidating the A-10 fleet at installations of higher military value.
DoD also recommended to realign Boise Air Terminal Air Guard Station (AGS) by distributing the four C-130H aircraft of the 124th Wing (ANG) to the 153rd Airlift Wing (ANG), Cheyenne, WY. The new, larger unit at Cheyenne would create an active duty/ ANG association. Boise (66-SOF/CSAR, 66-airlift) operated a mix of C-130 and A-10 aircraft. These aircraft had very different missions. This recommendation would realign Boise to operate only A-10s and distributes its C-130 aircraft to Cheyenne (118-airlift). Boise was a valuable A-10 base because of its proximity to air-to-ground ranges with scoreable strafing and bombing, threat emitters, and integrated air combat training. In turn, Cheyenne would be robusted to a larger, more effective C-130 squadron size. Additionally, Cheyenne's proximity to an active duty Air Force installation (F.E. Warren Air Force Base) would allow it to host an active/ANG associate unit.
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