143d Airlift Squadron Plaque
A carefully carved and hand painted plaque of the 143d Airlift Squadron.
14 inches in length.
The 143d Airlift Squadron (143d AS) is a unit of the Rhode Island Air National Guard 143d Airlift Wing located at Quonset Point Air National Guard Station, Rhode Island. The 143d is equipped with the C-130J Hercules.
The squadron is a descendant organization of the 152d Observation Squadron, established on 21 August 1939. It is one of the 29 original National Guard Observation Squadrons of the United States Army National Guard formed before World War II.
The origins of the 143d Airlift Squadron begin in 1915 when concerned Rhode Island residents banded together in the true spirit of the citizen-soldier to purchase two Curtis Model “F” Flying Boats, one of which was assigned to the Rhode Island National Guard. The border conflict in Mexico and America’s entry into the First World War prevented much use, and in 1919 the National Guard aircraft, now obsolete, was sold as surplus.
World War II
In 1939 President Roosevelt increased measures to prepare the Armed Forces for the inevitable American involvement in World War II. The State of Rhode Island was allocated one of only two new observation squadrons authorized by Congress that year. On 21 August 1939 the 152d Observation Squadron was organized. Less than one year later, on 25 November 1940 it was federalized for extended active duty. The training paid off. After American entry into World War II, the 152d Observation Squadron immediately took up its primary mission of anti-submarine patrols along the Northeastern shipping lanes. In September 1944 the unit, now designated the 37th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, transferred overseas. Assigned to the Fifteenth Air Force, squadron pilots flew Photo Reconnaissance missions in northern Italy, southern Germany and the Balkans until the end of the war in Europe in June 1945.
Rhode Island Air National Guard
The wartime 37th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron was reactivated and re-designated as the 152d Fighter Squadron, and was allotted to the Rhode Island Air National Guard, on 24 May 1946. It was organized at T. F. Green Municipal Airport, Warwick, Rhode Island and was extended federal recognition on 152d Fighter-Bomber Squadron as the 152d Fighter-Bomber Squadron by the National Guard Bureau. The 152d Fighter-Bomber Squadron was entitled to the history, honors, and colors of the 37th. The squadron was equipped with F-47 Thunderbolts and was assigned to the Continental Air Command First Air Force.
Air defenseIn 1952 the 152d was transferred to Air Defense Command, given a mission of air defense for Rhode Island, eastern Long Island and over the Atlantic approaches of New York City. In order to accomplish this, the unit was equipped with long-range F-51D Mustangs. In 1956 the United States Air Force, in an effort to upgrade to an all jet fighter force, required Air National Guard Aerospace Defense Command units to upgrade to jet-powered aircraft. The Rhode Island Airport Commission and National Guard authorities found themselves in a conflict over the use of T.F. Green Municipal Airport for tactical jet operations. Unable to resolve these differences the Air Force inactivated the squadron and the National Guard Bureau transferred the 152d Fighter Interceptor Squadron to the Arizona Air National Guard.
However, the National Guard Bureau’s desire to have an Air National Guard flying unit located in every state brought a new mission and the numeric designation to the Rhode Island Air National Guard, the 143d Air Resupply Squadron using propeller-driven aircraft. The 143d Air Resupply Squadron was bestowed the lineage and history of the inactivated Rhode Island ANG 152d Fighter Interceptor Squadron. The 152d FIS, now part of the Arizona Air National Guard was granted federal recognition as a new organization, with no history or lineage to the Rhode Island Air National Guard.
The 143d Air Resupply Squadron was assigned to the Military Air Transport Service. It was designated at the time as a “Psychological Warfare” unit which supported USAF unconventional warfare (guerrilla warfare), direct action (commando-type raids), strategic reconnaissance (intelligence gathering), and PSYWAR operations. The unit was assigned the Grumman SA-16A Albatross seaplane and for a short time retained the Douglas C-47 Skytrain. There were several minor mission designation changes, and the C-47 was eventually replaced by the Curtis C-46 Commando.
In 1963 the first major mission change for the 143d occurred. Situations around the world produced a need for specialized units which could insert a small group of trained combat troops on land or sea anywhere at a moments notice. The 143d was tasked as one of the representatives of the National Guard in the Air Force’s Air Commando Group structure. The C-46 was replaced with Helio U-10A and U-10D Couriers. During a three-year period starting in 1965, the U-10s belonging to the 143d and other Air National Guard units were transferred back to the Air Force for use in South Vietnam, during which the “Helio” was replaced by DeHavilland U-6 “Beavers”.
In 1968 the U-10s returned from their tour of duty in South Vietnam, and on 1 July, the Rhode Island Air National Guard 143d Special Operations Squadron was authorized to expand to a group level. The 143d Special Operations Group was established by the National Guard Bureau, with the 143d SOS becoming the group’s flying squadron. Other squadrons assigned into the group were the 143d Headquarters, 143d Material Squadron (Maintenance), 143d Combat Support Squadron, and the 143d USAF Dispensary.
The Grumman SA-16 “Albatross” flown by 143d pilots since 1955 was replaced in 1968 with an updated version of the “Albatross”, the HU-16. With twice the cargo capability and range, the HU-16 opened up new avenues of opportunity as was demonstrated in 1970. Flight and Ground crews of the 143d assisted scientists and engineers of the Naval Underwater Systems Center, conducting studies of undersea acoustics, at Lake Tanganyika in Africa during April and again in August at Hudson Bay, Canada.
The unit would work in the Special Operations field for seven more years, during which the HU-16 aircraft were eventually retired in 1972 and replaced with Fairchild C-119G/L “Flying Boxcars”.
In 1975 as part of a general program to upgrade Air National Guard units the 143d was redesignated as a Tactical Airlift Group and assigned Lockheed C-130A Hercules aircraft. In 1980 the 143d Tactical Airlift Group moved from T.F. Green airport to its new home at Quonset Air National Guard Base.
As global airlifters, Rhode Island “Herks” were found in all parts of the United States, Europe, Africa, South America and the Caribbean. The 143d played a vital role in deployments such as Volant Oak, Volant Pine, Red Flag, Dragon Hammer, Volant Rodeo competitions and humanitarian efforts such as “Operation Toy Lift” which provided toys to the children of Granada on 1986. In 1989, the 143d was selected for conversion to the C-130E Model.
In 1990 unit volunteers provided support during Operation Desert Shield. In September, unit members flew out of Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany to support operational missions from Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The second group of volunteers arrived at RAF Mildenhall, England in January 1991 and was in the theater of operations when Operation Desert Shield turned into Operation Desert Storm. With the defeat of the Iraqi forces and the end of the Gulf War, members returned home in June 1991 and were released from active duty.
As part of Air Mobility Command the unit continued to be called upon to support State, Federal, and UN activities throughout the world. Volunteers from the 143d participated in many United Nations relief missions; Somalia in 1992, Operation Provide Promise in 1993 flying daylight air-land missions into Sarajevo along with night airdrops over remote areas of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
On 1 October 1995 the group was elevated to Wing status. In 1998 the Air Force formed the Expeditionary Air Force (EAF); smaller sized war fighting “packages” able to rapidly respond to regional conflicts. The Wing has participated in five AEF cycles, supporting Operation Joint Forge in the Balkans, Operation Southern Watch in Southwest Asia and Coronet Oak in South America.
On 11 September 2001, the 143d responded to the call again, deploying unit members to Ground Zero, to US bases for homeland security and implemented 24-hour operations at Quonset. The 143d AW has supported the Global War on Terror by not only becoming a bridge to and from the theater but by also providing airlift in support of the war effort. The 143d AW provided the 1st ever C-130J Aircraft in a combat role by the U.S. Air Force in December 2004 and continued to support the war effort with both the C-130E and C-130J until retiring the C-130E in 2005. The 143d AW also provided and continues to provide the much needed troop support within Southwest Asia and many other areas of the world.
In December 2001, the 143d received its first C-130J-30. The Wing became the first in the Air Force to receive the “stretch” version of the “J” model. As the most modern tactical airlifter in the world, the C-130J-30 can carry more cargo or personnel farther, faster, and more economically than the C-130E proving its increased airlift capability. The fleet for the 143d was completed with the arrival of the eighth J-model at Quonset on 15 June 2007.
The location of Quonset being the eastern most C-130 base has provided the 143d AW with a unique opportunity to become a “bridge” between Europe and the Continental United States in support of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom.