Since my former Air Guard base now has replaced its C-5 aircraft with 8 C-17s, some of you may want to see its history:
167th Airlift Wing [167th AW]
The 167th Airlift Wing initially constituted as the 369th Fighter Squadron on 20 December 1942 and formally activated on 15 January 1943 and assigned to the 359th Fighter Group from 15 January 1943 to 10 November 1945. Assignments included: Westover Field, Massachusetts on 15 January 1943, Grenier Field, New Hampshire on 6 April 1943, Republic Field, New York on 26 May 1943, Westover Field, MA on 24 August 1943 until 2 October 1943, East Wretham, England on 18 October 1943 until 4 November 1945 and Camp Kilmer, New Jersey on 9-10 November 1945. The aircraft flown during World War II was the P-47 Thunderbolt (1943-1944) and the P-51 Mustang (1944-1945). The 369th took part in the Air Offensive, Europe; Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland; Ardennes-Alsace; Central Europe Air Combat, EAME Theater. The squadron deactivated on 10 November 1945, was redesignated the 167th Fighter Squadron and allotted to the Air National Guard (ANG) on 24 May 1946.
The Air National Guard designated the State of West Virginia as the resident state for the fighter squadron. On 24 May 1946, Charleston’s Kanawha Airport became the home base for the renamed 167th Fighter Squadron. The unit reactivated on 5 January 1947 and federally recognized effective 7 March 1947. The assigned strength: 19 officers and 35 airmen. Within six months, the unit attained full manning strength. Early aircraft included the T-6 Trainer, the P-47 Thunderbolt and the P-51 Mustang. The name, mission, size and even the site changed over the next 40 years, but the numbers “167” have remained constant with the West Virginia Air National Guard.
On 10 October 1950, the unit and all personnel were sworn in for 21 months of active duty. Most personnel and all aircraft became part of the 123rd Fighter Bomber Wing, located at Godman AFB, Kentucky. Some members transferred to Manston Air Field near London, England, flying F-84 Thunderjet aircraft. Other seasoned (experienced) pilots transferred to Korea.
Released from active duty on 9 July 1952, the 167th Fighter Interceptor Squadron returned to Charleston, West Virginia and the P-51 Mustang aircraft. The unit name changed to the 167th Fighter Bomber Squadron on 1 December 1952.
Because of limitations at Kanawha Airport at that time, that could not accommodate jet aircraft, a search for a new home in West Virginia began. Two sites considered were Beckley and Martinsburg. The cost of improvements at Beckley came to $5,978,000 and for Martinsburg $3,093,000. Though Beckley campaigned hard, Martinsburg received approval as the new site on 21 September 1955. Martinsburg had to raise funds to purchase the 200 acres needed to expand the runway. Two hundred citizens signed notes, totaling over $160,000, to guarantee sufficient money for buying the land until a bond issue could be voted on by the citizens. The official move came on 3 December 1955, when the 167th deactivated at Charleston and reactivated on 4 December 1955 at Martinsburg. Shortly thereafter, equipment moved to the new site and active recruiting commenced to achieve full authorized personnel strength.
New construction and the increase of manpower continued in 1956. The aircraft assigned included the P-51 Mustang, T-6 Trainer, and a C-47 Skytrain. The immediate need became to recruit 70 airmen and 10 officers. By 1956, manning grew to a strength of 399 airmen and 44 officers. The 167th Fighter Interceptor Squadron dedicated its new facilities on 4 October 1958. On 10 November 1958, the unit became the 167th Tactical Fighter Squadron and a member of the Tactical Air Command.
In 1956 and 1957, the unit flew P-51 Mustangs and T-28’s. Following a two-year construction phase the unit received single engine jet fighter/interceptors, the F-86 Sabre Jet. The fuselage was thick and stubby with a lipped jet intake and a bubble-type canopy. The jets would stay until 31 March 1961.
In an announcement on 31 January 1961, the 167th learned it would gain change aircraft. On 1 April, the unit received C-119 Flying Boxcars, manufactured by Fairchild. A new mission and name change also took effect: The 167th Aeromedical Transport Squadron, Light. The mission became evacuation and care of the sick and wounded. The changes resulted in an increase of manpower and the addition of nurses to the unit. The authorized strength had grown to 572 total airmen and officers.
Aircraft changes in 1963 saw the arrival of the C-121 Super Constellation with its worldwide operating capability. Staffing increased to 604 enlisted and 107 officers. Overseas missions flown to Puerto Rico, the Azores, France, England, Germany, Spain and Bermuda were not uncommon. The unit began flying missions to the Pacific areas in 1965 and 1966. During 1966, the Super Constellations made 103 overseas flights, including 26 to Vietnam and 77 to other outpost such as Thailand, Australia, Japan and the Philippines, carrying 1198 tons of military cargo and 1390 passengers.
The unit anticipated that it would be deactivated 1 July 1967, since no projected program had been specified beyond that date. A new campaign began to find new aircraft, a new mission or to justify continuance of the old mission. Senator Robert C. Byrd became active in securing a new mission. An announcement in December stated that the unit would be assigned an aeromedical aircraft mission, thus keeping the unit alive.
Nurses became a particularly critical specialty during this period. New construction included an engine build-up shop, squadron operations building, maintenance dock, civil engineering and aerospace ground equipment buildings.
In 1970, during a water shortage emergency, the 167th transported over 2,000,000 gallons of water to Shepherdstown, WV. The 167th fire fighters were a major factor in fighting a gasoline fire in Pikeside, WV. In November 1985, during a time of high water and flood conditions, the 167th assisted by transporting personnel and supplies to the stricken communities.
In 1972, the unit began the transition into the Lockheed C-130(A) Hercules and, as a result, another new mission. In June of that year, the unit became the 167th Tactical Airlift Group and moved from the Military Airlift Command to the Tactical Airlift Command. Late in 1977, the unit received “B” model C-130s. The 1986, the number of aircraft assigned increased, and in 1989, the “B” model was replaced with the “E” model.
The unit has been active in numerous exercises such as Sentry Storm, Volant Oak, Rodeos, and various overseas deployments; for example, 1981, and again in 1988, all aircraft deployed to Europe a first for any unit.
On Sunday, 8 July 1984, the 167th Tactical Airlift Group reached 100,000 hours of safe flying, only the fifth Air Guard unit to achieve this goal.
In 1987, the unit received an Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI) from the Military Airlift Command. The unit received eight Outstanding, twelve Excellent and one Satisfactory rating among the various components of the unit.
Recent awards include the fourth Air Force Outstanding Unit Award received in 1988 and the Distinguished Unit Flying Award from the National Guard Association in 1989.
The conversion in July 1989 to the newer C-130E broadened the 167th’s capabilities with the ability to airdrop during adverse weather and transport an additional 20,000 pounds of cargo.
In 1990, the unit came to the aid of communities, pro-viding relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Hugo and the California earthquake. Supplies were also flown to Puerto Rico, which had been devastated by the hurricane.
Also in 1990, members of the Aeromedical Evacuation Flight, Mobile Aerial Port Squadron, Tactical Airlift Squadron and Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, along with support personnel from other areas were the first called to volunteer to take part in Operation Desert Shield.
The 167th continued to fly missions, supporting Desert Shield, during the remainder of 1990. The unit also flew members of the Army and Air National Guard home for Christmas prior to their deploying overseas. Construction completed in 1990 included a NDI Avionics/NDI facility on 29 August 1990, and the new main gate and guard house on 26 December 1990. Also in December, 12 fire fighters deployed to Hulbert Field in Florida to serve as backfill for Desert Shield.
January 1991 began with additional deployments of medical, maintenance and motor pool personnel in support of Desert Shield/Desert Storm. The Civil Engineers also deployed to Panama and Mobile Aerial Port to Italy during the year.
June 1, 1992, saw the unit’s name change again. This time, the 167th Tactical Airlift Group became the 167th Airlift Group. Reorganization placed the unit in the Air Mobility Command. Other activities involving the unit were hosting of the Apple Harvest Festival in October, a Volant Oak rotation in October and November and the involvement of aircraft and crews with Operation Provide Promise. Provide Promise support took place from July 1992 to January 1993.
In October, 1992 one of the unit’s C-130E Hercules aircraft crashed in nearby Morgan County, WV about two miles northeast of Berkely Springs. All six crewmembers were killed.
The unit continued to support Provide Promise from December 1993 to April 1994. The unit took part in the Bosnian relief effort as well. It was thought for a time in 1994 that the unit would be downsized; however, this did not occur. In October, the unit acquired an F-86 from Grissom AFB, Indiana. The aircraft was restored and is on display at the main gate of the base. The unit flew the F-86 from 1958 to 1961. Reorganization and realignment put the 167th in the Air Combat Command during this time frame. Another first for the 167th was the receipt of a new C-130H-3 on 21 December 1994. Previous conversions had been to newer models, but not just off the assembly line.
In 1995, the unit began conversion training for the C-130H-3 in the first quarter and transferred most of the “E” models to Peoria, Illinois. The Civil Engineers deployed to Panama and the Medical Squadron deployed to Honduras. Most of the sections took part in a deployment to Alpena, Michigan in September where chemical exercises and other special training took place.
The 167th Airlift Group was redesignated the 167th Airlift Wing on 1 October 1995.
The unit flew the C-130H-3 aircraft from 1996-2006.
The 167th Airlift Wing operated a fleet of 11 C-5A aircraft for about nine years with the first one arriving in late 2006. Two other Air National Guard wings operated C-5 Galaxies, the 164th Airlift Wing in Memphis, Tenn., and the 105th Airlift Wing, Stewart Air National Guard Base, N.Y. Both of those wings have converted to C-17’s.
Approximately $280,000,000 was utilized in the C-5 facility conversion program. Construction projects began in 2003. These projects included site prep, an air control tower, a flight simulator facility, ramp and hydrant upgrades, a corrosion control hangar, a fuel cell hangar, runway upgrades and extensions, a fire station, a supply warehouse, apron and jet fuel storage, taxiway upgrades, and a new squadron operations facility.
On December 4, 2006 the first C-5 aircraft assigned to the unit landed at Shepherd Field. The wing operated and maintained a fleet of 11 C-5’s through September 2014.
On March 28, 2007 the unit launched its first C-5 mission from Shepherd Air Field. After a brief stop at Dover Air Force Base, the aircraft continued on to Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, Africa, delivering two CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters (used for humanitarian assistance, personnel and equipment movement, and noncombatant casualty evacuations) and more than 60 marines supporting Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa.
n 2009 the 167th Airlift Wing was tasked to provide transportation for NASA’s Ares I-X Crew Module, Launch Abort System Simulator, and related equipment. On January 27, 2009 the unit launched a C-5 aircraft to the Shuttle Landing Facility located at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. The crew loaded a 70 foot trailer carrying the Launch Abort System and a 50 foot trailer carrying the Crew Module. The cargo was delivered to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida the following day.
In February 2012, the Air Force Structure Overview released by the Secretary of the Air Force outlined numerous aircraft changes planned for the Active, Guard and Reserve components to include the retirement of the 167th Airlift Wing’s C-5A’s. All eleven C-5 aircraft that were assigned to the 167th Airlift Wing were retired to AMARG.
The last C-5A Galaxy aircraft assigned to the 167th Airlift Wing and the Air National Guard launched from the airfield here Wednesday, May 22, 2015 into its retirement at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, otherwise known as the boneyard.
Piloted by a crew from the 337th Airlift Squadron, Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass., the C-5’s departure, marked the end of an era for the West Virginia Air National Guard unit.
In a small ceremony the day before, the Wing acknowledged the end of a 52 year partnership with Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of all aircraft the unit has flown since 1962 including C-121 Super Constellations, C-130 Hercules A, B, E and H models and finally the C-5 Galaxy.
On Sept. 25, 2014 the 167th Airlift Wing flew it’s final C-5 mission, a local training sortie. That same day the wing received it’s first C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, a Boeing aircraft. The unit was reassigned with eight of these C-17 aircraft.
On December 18, 2014 the 167th Airlift Wing launched it’s first C-17 sortie and within the next six months the unit flew missions into Lithuania, Columbia, Puerto Rico, England and Afghanistan.
The final C-17 Globemaster III aircraft to be assigned to the 167th Airlift Wing was towed into the corrosion control hangar just after arriving at the Martinsburg, W.Va. air base, July 17, 2015. The aircraft was previously flown by airlift wings assigned to Charleston Air Force Base. To finalize the transfer of the aircraft to the 167th Airlift Wing, the C-17 underwent numerous inspections, paperwork updates and the tail flash and unit marking were repainted.
The 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, W.Va. is flying and supporting missions around the globe during its conversion to the C-17 Globemaster III. The 167th has participated in exercises with the North Carolina Army National Guard into the country of Moldova, the Pennsylvania Army National Guard to Lithuania, and the New Jersey Army National Guard to Bulgaria.
As of August , 2015, the 167th AW has executed 900 flight hours, 281 mission and training sorties, hauling 1020 tons of cargo and 1633 passengers in support of AMC (Air Mobility Command) and NGB (National Guard Bureau) taskings.