158th Fighter Wing [158th FW]
The Vermont Air National Guard, organized on July 1, 1946, was the fifth Air Guard unit to be formed, and was federally recognized on August 14, 1946.
One of the proudest days for the VTANG occurred in January 1949, when all 24 mission aircraft joined other Air Force and Air National Guard units in a "fly-by" at the inauguration of President Harry S. Truman. The Air National Guard reorganized in 1949 and the Vermont unit became part of the 101st Fighter Wing in Maine. The Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine units trained as the 101st Fighter Group at Dow Field in Bangor, Maine.
In 1953, the 134th, which was operating out of the old airport administration building and the wooden hangar next to it, received its first T-33. This was the beginning of the conversion to the F-94Starfire, an all-weather two seat fighter. The back seat was occupied by a radar observer, a new dimension for the Green Mountain Boys. The Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont Air Guard units began holding summer camp at Otis Air Force Base after they began flying F-94s.
The 134th was reorganized as the 158th Fighter Interceptor Group in mid 1960 and was placed under the United States Air Defense Command. The Air Guard now manned alert hangars 24 hours a day, a mission which had previously belonged to the active Air Force. Summer field training was conducted at Otis Air Force Base, Cape Cod, MA, from June 18th to July 2nd. When the unit returned to Burlington, the Maintenance and Operations Squadrons immediately moved into the facilities that had been vacated by the Air Force. The rest of the Group remained on the Williston Road side of the airfield. Military vehicles were allowed to cross the East end of the runway to transport personnel and materials after receiving clearance from the tower. The Vermont Air National Guard received the Operational Readiness award in October 1962, for having the greatest degree of readiness of any F-89 unit in the country.
In 1971 the 158th embarked on an intensive recruiting program that made Vermont one of the top units in the country in total strength. During this period the VT ANG began to actively recruit women into all open career fields.
The 158th Fighter Interceptor Group became the 158th Defense Systems Evaluation Group in June of 1974. The unit received 20 EB-57 Canberras. These two seat, two engine aircraft were equipped with electronic counter-measures and chaff emitting equipment. The new mission was to act as the "friendly enemy" to evaluate both air and ground radar systems. This mission took pilots, electronic warfare officers, and maintenance personnel all over the United States, Canada, and as far as Iceland, Korea, and Japan. The unit provided direct operational training of Air Defense aircrews in the accomplishment of their mission when their systems were severely degraded as might be expected during an attack by enemy offensive aircraft. During this nearly seven-year mission the 158th won the Flying Safety Award, the Aerospace Defense Command "A" Award, and the Outstanding Unit Award.
The 158th began a transition to the F-4D Phantom in 1980, a powerful, two seat, two engine fighter. The Vermont Air National Guard left the Air Defense community to become part of the Tactical Air Command with a primary mission of ground attack and close air support.
In June of 1981 the Vermont Air National Guard celebrated its 35th anniversary with an air show that was capped by the final large formation flyby of EB-57s. Beginning in 1982, weekend Unit Training Assemblies often included mobility training to ready the unit for training deployments and potential overseas deployment in case of an emergency. Sorties were usually to Fort Drum, New York to drop practice bombs and strafe ground targets.
The 158th Tactical Fighter Group deployed to Gulfport, MS, in January, 1983 to prepare for the upcoming Operational Readiness Inspection. This was the unit's first large-scale deployment in 23 years. The last deployment had been for summer camp at Otis AFB, MA, in 1960.
On April 1st, 1986 the flight line of the Green Mountain Boys changed with the arrival of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. This was the most modern state-of-the-art fighter in the Air Force inventory. The unit became the 158th Fighter Interceptor Group on April 1st, 1988 when it officially "stood up" the detachment at Bangor International Airport in Maine. Two F-16s intercepted two Soviet TU-95D Bear Bombers over the Atlantic Ocean on March 1st. This intercept brought the total of intercepted aircraft to 31 since the unit's change of mission in April 1988. The 158th hosted Exercise Maple Leaf 90 from the 4th to the 6th of May 1990. Six other Air Guard units and the CF-18 unit from Bagotville, Quebec participated.
On June 1st 1992 the USAF Tactical Air Command (TAC) was deactivated and the USAF Air Combat Command (ACC) became the parent command for the 158th.
The 158th began converting to F-16Cs in February 1994. Vermont was the first unit to receive the C models which feature more sophisticated radar and electronic components.
From 1989-1997, the Vermont Air National Guard was an Air Defense Unit, having aircraft on 5-minute alert, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Locations of these alert aircraft included Burlington, Maine, Virginia and South Carolina. Many times Vermont F-16's were called upon to fly to a point just short of Iceland and escort Soviet bombers as they flew off the coastline of the United States. The 158th FW has also assisted with aircraft experiencing in-flight malfunctions and hijackings.
Along with the Air Defense mission, the men and women of "The Green Mountain Boys" have also been tasked seven times to deploy to different locations in Central America to help patrol the skies and intercept aircraft suspected of illegally smuggling drugs. These missions were usually flown far offshore in the middle of the night and required a high degree of proficiency. Along the way, the unit received the newer block 25 version of the F-16, and later still the advanced model of the Pratt & Whitney 220E engine and the newest in missile technology, the AIM-120 AMRAAM (advanced medium range air-to-air missile).
In the fall of 1997, the 158th Fighter Wing was evaluated by the Air Combat Command and was tasked to fight a simulated war from 2 locations, a very challenging undertaking. The 158th Wing deployed 225 personnel and 10 F-16s to Canada while the rest of the Wing remained in Burlington for the comprehensive 5-day evaluation. The men and women of "The Green Mountain Boys" received the first rating of "Outstanding" (the highest possible score) ever earned by an Air Defense Unit.
FY99 saw the unit convert from a 15 aircraft F-16C/D air defense fighter unit to a 15 aircraft general purpose F-16C/D unit. It also saw the unit terminate its detachment at Charleston AFB, SC (though evidence suggests it might still be active).
2000 saw the 158th deploy in support of Operation Southern Watch as part of Air Expeditionary Force 9.
In keeping with a changing world, the 158th Fighter Wing was tasked to convert to a General Purpose mission, which included the requirement to employ not only missiles but also to drop bombs. This conversion, required to be completed locally because of a severe shortage of available Air Force training slots, is almost complete.
In early June 2004, 50 soldiers from the 158th Fighter Wing deployed overseas for periods ranging from 15 days to four months to provide 'close air support" of U.S. troops in Iraq, but with most troops based outside of Iraq.
The federal mission of the 158th Fighter Wing is to provide the United States Air Force with combat ready personnel and equipment for utilization during times of war or national emergency. Its state mission is to provide assistance to the State of Vermont for use during local and statewide disasters or emergencies, to protect life, property, and preserve peace, and public safety.
In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to realign Atlantic City International Airport AGS, NJ. The 177th Fighter Wing's F-16s would be distributed to the 158th Fighter Wing, Burlington International Airport AGS, VT (three aircraft), and retire (12 aircraft).
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