128th Air Refueling Wing [128th ARW]
The Wisconsin Air National Guard was established in 1947. The first units were the 128 Fighter Group; 126 Utility Flight, Weather Station; 128 Aircraft Control & Warning Squadron; and Detachment A, 228 Service Group, all located at Mitchell Field, Milwaukee.
In September of 1949 the unit received the F-80 jet fighter aircraft. In November of 1950 the 128th Fighter Interceptor Wing was formed, replacing the 126th Fighter Squadron. In January 1951 the 128th was activated and called to active duty for 21 months to serve in the Korean War. During the 1950's the unit continued to receive updated and more modern jet aircraft including the F-86 and F-89 jet fighters.
In August 1961 the 128th Fighter Wing was redesignated to a Refueling Group, and in March 1962 the unit received the Refueling Tanker aircraft, the KC-97. The 128th was the first Air National Guard tanker unit to become fully operational. This occurred in December 1963 when combat ready status was achieved.
The 128th Air Refueling Group participated in a historic operation in a foreign land for a sustained period of time without a call up. The 128th, along with four other Air National Guard refueling units, stationed a contingent of its KC-97's at Rheinmain Air Force Base, West Germany. It was designated Operation "Creek Party" and was destined to last for 10 years. This operation began on 2 June 1967, when 24 Wisconsin Air Guardmembers departed for Germany.
On 1 July 1976, the 128th Air Refueling Group was assigned to the Strategic Air Command. Along with this came plans to receive the KC-135S; a newer and faster jet tanker. On 4 October 1976, the 128th completed its first mission under the Strategic Air Command. After a year and a half of preparation, the conversion to KC-135S had begun. The first functional KC-135 arrived at Mitchell Field on 2 December 1977.
In January 1979 the unit began the 24 hour per day Strategic Air Command (SAC) alert commitment. This commitment would be maintained for the next 12 years until President George Bush ended the SAC Alert Force in 1991.
The decade of the 80's found the 128th involved in many training exercises as well as "real World" flying missions. In 1982 the unit converted to a newer version model aircraft -- the KC135E. In April 1983 the 128th was involved in the first Pacific Tanker Task Force, with flights to Guam, Korea and Australia.
Spring of 1984 brought a very large "first" for the 128th. The unit participated in Coronet Giant, an exercise which entailed a direct flight from the United States to West Germany by 12, A-10 Thunderbolt II attack fighters, refueled along the way by three KC-135's from the 128th. The route spanned 3600 miles, and was the largest mission of this type ever undertaken by a guard force.
A deployment to Wake Island was accomplished between 25 March and 3 April 1986 by aircraft and 130 personnel. A total of eight air refueling sorties were flown from Wake Island, with 458,000 pounds of fuel being off-loaded.
Early Spring of 1987 saw another significant accomplishment by the 128th. On 21 March one of our unit aircraft departed Fargo, North Dakota, with 40 civilian VIP's on board. The destination: Templehof Airport, West Berlin, Germany. This was the first ever sanctioned Air National Guard civilian flight outside the Continental United States, and was also the first KC-135 authorized into West Berlin.
A chain of events which had a spectacular effect upon the day-to-day operations of the 128th began in August 1990. On 2 August 1990 Saddam Hussein's Iraq invaded and occupied tiny, oil-rich Kuwait. On 7 August unit aircraft and volunteer personnel deployed to a forward operating base in support of Desert Shield; the defense of Saudi Arabia. As time passed the crisis went unresolved and in fact became more acute: Desert Storm. On 20 December 1990 the 128th received orders for a partial activation. All aircraft, aircrews and a number of support personnel were dispatched to the newest forward operating base at Cairo, Egypt on 27-29 December 1990. They became the basis for the 1706th Air Refueling Wing (Provisional). Other unit personnel were mobilized for use as stateside "backfill" (replacing troops sent forward) or sent to overseas destinations.
Conversion from KC-135E to KC-135R model aircraft began on 3 July 1991 when the 128th transferred aircraft to the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. The first permanently assigned KC-135R, arrived on 7 August 1991. The "E" model era came to an end on 9 February 1992. Three aircraft and 47 volunteer guardmembers departed for Spain on 28 December 1992, in support of Operation Restore Hope. Our tankers became part of the Moron Tanker Task Force, based out of Moron Air Base, Spain. Over 16 million pounds of fuel were unloaded during the mission. The purpose of this humanitarian mission was to restore order and provide food and medical supplies needed to stop suffering in Somalia.
On 5 November 1993, four KC-135R's, along with 172 guardmembers deployed to Yokota Air Base, Japan. The deployment was designed to train American and Japanese Air Self Defense Forces for the defense of the Northern Japanese Islands, in the event of an attack by another country.
During a 24 February 1994 trip to the Azores the unit completed its very first "roller mission." The steel rollers are placed on the floor of the aircraft making it very easy to load and unload cargo. This gave the aircraft a dual mission; refueling and cargo transport. This was a flight of firsts, not only did the 128th have its very first roller mission, but our aircraft refueled a B-2 Stealth Bomber and a C-17, the newest Air Force Cargo hauler.
On 16 October 1995 the 128th Air Refueling Group was redesignated as a Wing due to the Air National Guard Realignment Programming Plan. The gaining command of the 128th Air Refueling Wing was Air Mobility Command.
The 128th joined an elite group of Air National Guard units in April 1996, when the KC-135 simulator became operational. The simulator allows the 128th flight crews to be trained more safely and at a lower cost than the KC-135 aircraft. During the month of July 1996 over 400 members of the 128th deployed to Pisa Air Base, Italy for Operation Decisive Endeavor. Over 5500 personnel from 13 NATO countries joined the 128th as part of IFOR (Implementation Force) air component. Unit members had the opportunity to perform their job during deployment rotations from 1 July - 3 August 1996. This deployment gave the 128th the opportunity to work with other tankers units from Mississippi and Nebraska, along with the Italian Air Force.
Soon after the summer flooding of 1997, portions of Southeastern Wisconsin were declared a federal disaster area by President Clinton. This opened the door for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to step in. Five unit members volunteered for the state activation in order to help process claims and checks to people whose lives were upended following the disastrous flash floods in the Milwaukee area.
In January 1998, the 128th was awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the period 15 April 1995 through 14 April 1997. This was the fifth time the unit has won this prestigious award. The previous awards were 5 June 1967 through 10 May 1968; 11 May 1968 through 31 December 1976; 1 July 1988 through 31 June 1990 and 1 September 1992 through 31 August 1994.
In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to realign Key Field Air Guard Station, MS. It would distribute the 186th Air Refueling Wing's KC-135R aircraft to the 128th Air Refueling Wing (ANG), General Mitchell Air Guard Station, WI (three aircraft). DoD claimed that it made the recommendation because General Mitchell (86) ranked higher in military value rating for the tanker mission than Key Field (92). The remainder of Key Field's realigned aircraft would help to increase the squadron size at General Mitchell and maintain critical backup aircraft inventory levels. General Mitchell would gain additional KC-135 aircraft to its maximum available capacity, increasing both effectiveness and unit capability.
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