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116th Air Refueling Squadron [116th ARS]

The 116th Observation Squadron, 41st Division Air Services received federal recognition on August 6,1924 at Felts Field in the Spokane Valley.

The 116th was a reorganization of the Army's 116th Aero Squadron that served in France in 1917-18 during World War I and is one of the oldest National Guard flying units in the United States.

The 116th received its first airplanes, three Curtis JN-6-A2 "Jenny" aircraft in March 1925. On August 8, 1926, the unit was redesignated as the 116th Observation Squadron, 41st Division Aviation, and was expanded to include a photo section, medical detachment and transportation section. The 116th was the first National Guard unit to achieve full flight qualifications for every officer in the unit.

The squadron insignia, the Ace of Spades with a dagger driven through the center of the card scripted "Caveat hostis," Latin for "Let the enemy beware," was approved by the Pentagon and is still used today by the 116th.

In the late 1930's the unit was tasked by the federal government to do an aerial survey of the Columbia River. These photos provided invaluable information to geologists and engineers for the site selection and construction of the Grand Coulee Dam.

With the advent of World War II, the 116th was activated in 1940 for what turned out to be a period of five years. At first the unit was assigned to Gray Field at Fort Lewis, Washington, where the unit flew anti-submarine patrols along the Pacific Coast with 047-A observation planes. During the next few years the unit transferred to Corvallis, Oregon, where they also flew P-39's and then to Will Rogers Field, Oklahoma, where the unit was deactivated. All 123 members of the unit were reassigned to photo reconnaissance units or to various tactical air corps units. Many of the members died during World War II and some were prisoners of war.

After the war ended in 1946 the unit was reactivated back at Felts Field where the 116th began flying AT-6C's. Soon P-51's, C-47's, B-26's and one L-5 were added to the unit inventory.

The 142nd Air Defense Wing was created in the late 1940's. The 116th came under the 141st Air Defense Group with the headquarters in Spokane. The need for more space and longer runways prompted a move from Felts Field to Geiger Field at the Spokane Airport.

In 1950 the squadron received five F-84 "Thunderjets" becoming the first Guard unit west of the Mississippi River to be equipped with the jets. On February 1, 1951, as a result of the Korean Conflict, the 116th Fighter Squadron was called to active duty and received new F-86 Sabre jets. After four months of training, the unit was ordered to Sheppards Grove, England, to bolster NATO forces in Europe. The move was the first time in aviation history that a full tactical fighter squadron had crossed an ocean. The unit was released from active duty November 1952, but the aircraft remained in England.

When the unit returned to Geiger Field they received their own aircraft once again, this time they had 20 F-86's and two T-33's to fill their inventory. In 1955 they also received their first Lockheed F-94B Starfire all-weather interceptor. With this new aircraft the mission of the 116th Fighter Interceptor Squadron was changed from day interceptor to day and night all-weather interceptor. By 1957 the F-94's were replaced by 25 F-89D Scorpion all-weather interceptors.

In 1960 the 116th Fighter Interceptor Squadron was reorganized with the creation of the 141st Fighter Group.

The 116th Fighter Interceptor Squadron received it's first F-101B Voodoo aircraft in 1969. The unit accumulated an outstanding record, 37,900 accident-free flying hours, receiving the 25th Air Division Flying Safety Award five years in a row.

The 116th, as part of the 141st ARW, became assigned to Strategic Air Command and converted to the KC-135 Stratotankers, necessitating the move to Fairchild Air Force Base.

The unit's fleet of KC-135's began to be fitted with JT3D engines in 1984 at Boeing Aircraft in Wichita, Kansas. The new aircraft series was designated the KC-135E. This conversion to the KC-135 marked the 39th different type of aircraft flown by the unit since it's inception in 1924.

The first major deployment of six aircraft and 276 personnel took place in 1987 to Moron, Spain. This deployment provided an excellent training opportunity for all aspects of planning and managing an overseas wing deployment that proved valuable for years to come.

Aircrew, maintenance and support personnel responded to the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq on August 2, 1990, by rotating crews every two weeks to Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. Upon federal activation in December 1990, 307 members of the 141st and all eight KC-135's belonging to the unit deployed to the Persian Gulf. In support of Desert Storm, five aircraft were sent to Cairo, Egypt, and three aircraft were sent to Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. Members of the clinic deployed to various locations in the continental United States. Thirteen members of the Security Police Flight deployed to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Most of the unit members returned home by March and April 1991 and by June 1991 all were back home.

In September of 1992, the 141st was called to perform a variety of missions in support of relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Iniki, the worst hurricane to hit the Hawaiian Islands this century. In December the unit responded with aircrew and support personnel for "Operation Restore Hope," a United Nations relief mission to aid hunger victims in Somalia. Members deployed to Moron Air Base, Spain, to support the refueling air bridge to Somalia.

The largest 141st ARW deployment ever was conducted by sending 450 personnel and six aircraft to Volk Field Air National Guard training base in Wisconsin during April 1993. The realistic training encompassed the protection of all base-level resources and enabled personnel to survive and operate in a simulated chemical environment.

In June 1995 the first of several rotations of aircraft and personnel from the 116th deployed to Pisa, Italy, for Operation Deny Flight, NATO mission enforcing the no-fly zone over Bosnia-Herzegovina.

On January 13, 1999, one of the unit's KC-135E's crashed at Geilenkirchen Air Base, Germany, killing all four crew members. This was the first time the unit lost an aircraft or lives since beginning the aerial refueling mission in 1976.

In May 1999, the 141st ARW activated 140 members and six aircraft to Budapest, Hungary, in support of Operation Allied Force deterring ethnic aggressions in Yugoslavia. The 141st ARW became part of the 171st Expeditionary Operations Group that flew 411 sorties and refueled 2,157 receivers. All members returned home by the end of June 1999.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:08:54 ZULU