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Smoky Hill Air National Guard (ANG) Range

Ten miles of Salina Kansas, in the rolling grasslands of the Smoky Hills, personnel of the Kansas Air National Guard's 184th Bomb Group operate the 34,000 acre Smoky Hill Air National Guard (ANG) Range. The unit's mission is to maintain the peace by providing the best air tactics training environment possible. To carry out this mission, the guard employs 24 full time Active Guard Reserve personnel and two civil service employees. This full time contingent is supported by Air Guardsmen on weekends. In addition to meeting its military mission, the 184th carefully manages the natural and cultural resources of the Range, protecting the environment and providing recreational opportunities, as well as generating revenues from agricultural leases.

Smoky Hill range is the range most commonly used by the 138FW for their air-to-ground training requirements and it also has the advantage of Bison MOA adjacent to the range.

In light of recent military technological applications, ANG F-16s are being modified to deliver precision guided munitions providing pinpoint accuracy to destroy enemy targets. This munition provides the pilot with the greatest degree of survivability. To successfully deliver this weapon, pilots must practice deliveries on a recurring basis to obtain the highest degree of combat proficiency. There are only three ANG air-to-ground ranges in the United States where pilots can practice these deliveries. The closest one to Midwest ANG units is at Smoky Hill, Kansas, near Salina. However, it is cost prohibitive for units to deploy to Smoky Hill to attain and maintain currency in precision guided munition weapons delivery tactics. The Midwest units need a range that is close to their home bases on which to practice these deliveries. The Hardwood Range expansion is needed to fill training in this new technology.

From Tuesday, Nov. 6, to Saturday, Nov. 10, 2001 a C-130 aircraft flew over Smoky Hill Air National Guard Range, near Salina, Kan., spraying the range to control musk thistle. This was a joint operation between the Kansas Air National Guard, the Air Force Reserve, Saline and McPherson County Weed Directors and the Kansas Department of Agriculture. It was an effort to ensure that Smoky Hill Air National Guard Range does not spread musk thistle to the neighboring private lands, to assist leaseholders in their weed control responsibilities and to be good stewards of the land.

The Air Force Reserve Research Entomologist in cooperation with the Saline and McPherson County Weed Departments and the State Noxious Weed Director are overseeing this aerial spraying operation. A total of 4,600 acres was targeted for treatment. Application was only be on federal property. Only a portion of the 34,000 acres of the Smoky Hill range needed to be sprayed.

Flying at 100 feet over the range while applying the herbicide, the Air Force Reserve's C-130 aircraft made its turns outside of the range installation boundary but did not be releasing any herbicides while turning. The aircraft utilized the digital global positioning satellite (GPS) system to apply the herbicide. This system had been used for the last five years and has been extremely accurate.

The musk thistle has been declared a noxious weed by the state of Kansas. This thistle is capable of producing up to 15,000 seeds per plant with approximately 50 percent of those being viable. It is thought that the seeds can remain viable for up to seven years. To control the musk thistle, the C-130 applied 10 ounces of Tordon 22K per acre, which is the rate recommended by the Saline and McPherson County Weed Directors. The herbicide is mixed with water for the application.

The Air Force Reserve unit doing the aerial spraying did so as part of their training, which meant there is no cost to the Kansas Air National Guard for the flight. Another mission of this unit includes mosquito control operations after floods and hurricanes or during disease outbreaks.

The earliest known European explorer to visit the Saline River country was the Frenchman Etienne Veniard de Bourgmont who crossed through present day Saline County, Kansas, in 1724. His mission was to establish a fort on the Missouri River and negotiate a peace treaty between France and the Plains Comanche, Kansa and other Indian tribes. Accompanying Bourgmont were 19 Frenchmen and over 1,000 Kansa and Missouri Indian people along with Plains Comanche slaves he hoped to return to their tribes. Over 300 dogs pulled their belongings.

Although Bourgmont turned back due to fever, members of his expedition reached the Grand Village of the Plains Comanche just a month later. Two months later, in October, Bourgmont set out once again for the Grand Village which was settled along the banks of the Saline River. 500 lodges housed 800 warriors, 1,500 women and over 2,000 children. A peace treaty was signed and Bourgmont returned triumphant to France, accompanied by a number of Indian people. After being presented at court to the King of France and his family, the Indian people eventually returned home.

French fur traders and trappers bartered with Indian tribes in Saline County for the next 75 years, and it was not until 1806 when the location was once again crossed by an exploratory expedition. This time it was an American one.

Captain Zebulon Pike was to meet with the chiefs of the Kansa and Osage tribes to arrange a peace treaty, as well as to establish friendly relations with the Comanche. He was also on the lookout for information on the natural environment, streams, mineral resources and the people of the southern portion of the Louisiana Purchase. On the way to a large Pawnee village on the Republican River in Nebraska, Pike's expedition passed only a few miles to the east of the Smoky Hill ANG Range. Later, when his expedition headed west, Pike and men were captured and imprisoned by the Spanish in Santa Fe, eventually being released in l807.

Native American tribes that formerly occupied the vicinity of the Range included the Kansa, Pawnee, Wichita and Cheyenne. In the early part of the 19th century, the territory was utilized by the Kansa as hunting and trapping grounds, a territory often disputed by their northern neighbors, the Pawnee.

As eastern tribes were pushed westward ahead of advancing white civilization, reservations were established in Kansas for the indigenous tribes and the newly arrived immigrant tribes. With the opening of the Kansas Territory in 1854, the Kansa reservation near Council Grove was overrun by squatters, land jobbers and other settlers. By 1873, the Kansa were forced out of their old homelands and removed to Oklahoma.

Actual settlers began to arrive in the Saline River country in the late 1850s. The number of settlers was very low, partly due to fear of the various Indian tribes that roamed freely through the region.

In 1854, passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act by the United States Congress spurred interest in the settlement of Kansas. The Act created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska out of the old Indian Territory. It also repealed the Missouri Compromise which had prohibited slavery north of 36 30'. Popular sovereignty was to determine whether Kansas was to be a slave or free state. People on both sides of the issue flocked to Kansas from the eastern United States, each hoping to win the state for their respective side.

The arrival of the railroad dramatically stimulated the development of Saline County. The population swelled to over 2,000 in a matter of months. Emigrants from the eastern United States as well as northern and eastern Europe arrived throughout the late 1860s and early 1870s. Between 1885 and 1890, three railroads were built through the County. By 1918, Salina had become a major railroad junction with the Union-Pacific, Missouri-Pacific and Salina Northern rail lines all passing through the town.

Large numbers of Swedish settlers from their homeland and Swedish communities in Illinois began arriving in Saline County in 1868. A group of Swedish settlers in Chicago organized themselves into the First Swedish Agricultural Company for the purpose of purchasing a tract of railroad land that measured nine miles north-south and six miles east-west in southern Saline County and northern McPherson County. A second group of Swedish settlers from Galesburg, Illinois, purchased 22 sections of Kansas Pacific railroad land located northwest, west and southwest of the Chicago colony. These two colonies served as the nucleus for later Swedish settlement in the region. Within a few years of their founding, all land within the Smoky Hill valley had been purchased. Two small towns located right next to the Smoky Hill Range, Smolan and Falun, were founded by members of the Galesburg colony.

Other immigrants to Saline County during the 1860s and 1870s included African American families who settled west of Falun. The graves of several members of the families are still contained within the Smoky Hill Range, including that of Henry Green. Green was born a slave in Kentucky in 1833 and served in Company A of the 13th Cavalry Horse Artillery of the Union Army during the Civil War. After that Green moved to Saline County where he homesteaded 180 acres with his brother.

Other African American families gradually settled around the Greens, forming a small enclave in what is now the southeastern corner of the Smoky Hill Range. Descendants of these families remained in the area for over 60 years until the establishment of Camp Phillips in the early l940s.

The lives of the families changed dramatically in 1942 with the announcement that the government needed their farms for the construction of Camp Phillips, one of a number of 35,000 man training camps established around the country following the start of the Second World War. Over 42,000 acres or 72 square miles were taken for the base.

Construction on the base started in May, 1942. By the time it was completed in December of the same year, almost 2,500 structures including barracks, warehouses, offices, churches, theaters, and other buildings were constructed at the base. Among these was a separate internment camp at which Italian and German prisoners of war were housed.

Camp Phillips was activated in September, 1942. Four infantry divisions, the 44th, 79th, 80th and 94th, were stationed and trained at the Camp over the next two years. All of the divisions saw action in Europe following the completion of their training. As part of General Patton's Third Army, the 94th Division fought its way across France and into Germany.

Camp Phillips was deactivated in October, 1944, when it was clear that the end of the war was in sight. The base was dismantled and the land either leased or sold back to the original owners by 1946. Following the dismantling, the western part of the camp was used briefly as a gunnery range by Army Air Corps pilots stationed at the Smoky Hill Air Field. This air field, later renamed Schilling Army Air Field, was closed in 1946.

After the deactivation of Schilling, operation of the Range was transferred to various commands of the United States Air Force. In 1973, the Kansas Air National Guard assumed all operating and maintenance authority. Today the Range is maintained and operated by personnel of the 184th Bomb Group, Kansas Air National Guard. These highly trained professionals provide the air tactics training environment for numerous Air Force and Air National Guard units throughout the region.



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