180th Airlift Squadron History

180th Airlift Squadron History
By Col (Ret) Vernon W. James

The 180th Airlift Squadron is located at Rosecrans Air National Guard Base, Saint Joseph, Missouri. It is part of the 139th Airlift Wing, Missouri Air National Guard, and operationally flies the Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft. It was among the first Air National Guard units that received federal recognition.


The 180th Bombardment Squadron (Light) flying the B-26B/C Invader received federal recognition on 22 August 1946 from an inspection team from 2nd Air Force making it among the first federally recognized Air National Guard units in the nation. At the time the 180th BS (L) was formed, there was also a Utility Flight of the 180th and Detachment D of the 226th Air Service Group also set up at Rosecrans.

Lt Col John B. Logan, a World War II pilot, along with local civic leaders Henry Bradley and William Barrow, are credited with getting approval from the National Guard Bureau to form the unit. Lt Col Logan was named as the first Squadron Commander of the 180th by Special Orders Number 36 on 24 July 1946. He had accumulated more than 250 combat hours in 22 combat missions as a B-17 pilot and had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with Four Oak Leaf Clusters and campaign ribbons representing the Northern France, Central Europe and Normandy theaters of operation.

The 180th has served the nation during times of peace, crisis and war including being activated in 1951 during the Korean War flying the B-26B/C, flying airlift mission to Viet Nam during the 1960s utilizing the C-97 Stratofreighter and supporting the United States Air Force Europe flying aerial refueling missions in the KC-97 during the 1960s and 1970's supporting Operation Creek Party.

From the 1970s through the 1990s, the 180th supported Operation Volant Oak and Operation Coronet Oak at Howard Air Force Base, Panama. During a 180th deployment to Howard AFB in November, 1978, they were caught up in a "real world" situation when the world began to learn of the events unfolding in Jonestown, Guyana. The 180th, flying the C-130, was the first US military aircraft landing at Timehri International Airport, Guyana with US embassy officials that they had picked up in Venezuela as well as food and supplies meant for the survivors the Americans hoped to take out of Guyana. That, of course, was before it became apparent that most of the more than 900 Peoples Temple members were lying dead in Jonestown. In December, 1989, the 180th was once again deployed at Howard AFB when Operation Just Cause began. The 180th flew combat mission in support of the Operation.

In late 1980 and through 1983, members of the 180th embarked on a special project to enhance survivability of C-130 aircrews while flying in a hostile environment. The need for this type of training became apparent after C-130 units from the Military Airlift Command (MAC) began to participate in Red Flag at Nellis AFB. It was obvious that the C-130's were not doing well against the ground and air threats posed in the Red Flag exercise. After approval from the National Guard Bureau and tacitly from Military Airlift Command (MAC), they began service test to validate the training program. After more than three service test, the program proved it worth and the Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Center was approved and instituted on 4 February 1984.

In March 1987, the 180th began to receive brand new C-130H2 aircraft replacing the C-130A model aircraft they had flown for the past ten years. In October 1987, the 180th deployed two C-130H2 aircraft supporting a United States Army Special Forces (SF) and the Royal Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) in a joint personnel airdrop exercise called Badge Anvil 1987 at RAAF Learmonth, Australia. The exercise provided high altitude low opening and high altitude high opening parachute training. Since all of the airdrops occurred above 10,000 feet and as high as 24,500 feet, the 15th Physiological Training Flight, USAF, also supported the exercise and provided supplemental oxygen equipment, training and support for the training missions. Each flight was like going to the altitude chamber.

In 1989, the 180th with four C-130H2 aircraft deployed to Kimhae International Airport, Republic of Korea in support of Operation Team Spirit 1989. During the exercise, the 180th flew challenging missions including tactical resupply, fuel bladder missions, assault landings on short runways including landing on highway landing strips, numerous airdrop missions including both visual, high altitude and radar drop scenarios.

On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. As part of the United States military response, Air Force, Army, Marine and Naval forces were deployed to the Persian Gulf. A call was sent out from the National Guard Bureau to Tactical Airlift units for "volunteers" to deploy to the Persian Gulf. Members of the 180th volunteered for duty as did other members from the 139th Tactical Airlift Group. On 17 August 1990, more than 100 personnel and two C-130's were activated and placed on alert for deployment to the Persian Gulf. After delays due to foreign basing rights, the aircraft departed Rosecrans Air National Guard Base on 4 September 1990 and remained in theater until 8 October 1990 when the 180th departed for home. The time at home would be short lived as the unit was activated under a Presidential Selective Reserve Call-up (PSRC) effective 28 December 1990 and deployed from Rosecrans on 2 January 1991 this time with all eight C-130's, aircrews, operations support and maintenance personnel.

During the 1990s, the 180th provided airlift support to the United States Air Forces Europe during the airlift operations into Bosnia and Herzegovina. These operations were named Operation Provide Promise, Operation Joint Endeavor, Operation Joint Guard and Operation Joint Forge. Members of the 180th along with operations support and maintenance personnel would deploy to Rhein-Main Air Base and, after it closed, to Ramstein Air Base and assigned to "Delta Squadron". The Air National Guard would generally be responsible for a 90 or 120 day period and guard members would typically volunteer for duty for a minimum of a two to three week period although some would volunteer for longer periods.

Following the attacks on September 11, 2001, the 180th served in a support role flying missions transporting personnel and equipment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The 180th was partially activated in March 2003 prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom and first deployed to a classified location supporting the invasion of Iraq. The unit was transferred to several other bases in the Iraq theater and was later reassigned in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in the Afghanistan theater. The 180th remained in a state of partial activation for three years until it was released from mobilization in March 2006 and reverted back to state control.

The 180th is now participating in the Air and Space Expeditionary Force (AEF) schedule supporting the USAF.

Lineage: (from official United State Air Force record)

Lineage: Constituted as the 438th Bombardment Squadron (Medium) on 19 Jun 1942. Activated on 26 Jun 1942. Redesignated 438th Bombardment Squadron (Light) on 3 Feb 1945. Inactivated on 13 Dec 1945. Redesignated 180th Bombardment Squadron (Light), and allocated to ANG, on 24 May 1946.

Assignment: 319th Bombardment Group, 26 Jun 1942 - 13 Dec 1945.

Stations: Barksdale Field, La, 26 Jun 1942; Harding Field, La, 8-27 Aug 1942; Shipdham, England, 12 Sep 1942; Horsham St. Faith, England, 5-21 Oct 1942; St-Leu , Algeria, c. 10 Nov 1942, Tafaraoui, Algeria, 17 Nov 1942; Maison Blanche, Algeria, c. 26 Nov 1942; Telergma, Algeria, c. 13 Dec 1942; Oujda, French Morocco, 3 Mar 1943; Rabat/ Sale, French Morocco, 25 Apr 1943; Sedrata, Algeria, 1 Jun 1943; Djedeida, Algeria, 26 Jun 1943; Decimomannu, Sardinia, 1 Nov 1943; Serragia, Corsica, 22 Sep 1944 c. 9 Jan 1945; Bradley Field, Conn, 25 Jan 1945; Columbia AAB, SC, c. 28 Feb-28 Apr 1945; Kadena, Okinawa, c. 3 Jul 1945; Machinato, Okinawa, 21 Jul-23 Nov 1945; Vancouver Barracks, Wash, c. 11-13 Dec 1945.

Aircraft: B-26, 1942-1944; B-25, 1944-1945; A-26, 1945.

Operations: Ground echelon in assault landing at Arzeu, Algeria, 8 Nov 1942. Combat in MTO, 28 Nov 1942-13 Feb 1943; withdrawn for reorganization and re-equipment, 27 Feb-31 May 1943; combat in MTO, 6 Jun 1943-30 Dec 1944; returned to the United States for reorganization and re-equipment, 25 Jan-28 Apr 1945; combat in Western Pacific, 16 Jul-12 Aug 1945.

Service Streamers. None.

Campaigns: Algeria-French Morocco, with Arrowhead; Tunisia; Sicily; Naples-Foggia; Anzio; Rome-Arno; Southern France; North Apennines; Air Combat, EAME Theater; Air Offensive, Japan; Ryukyus; China Offensive.

Decorations: Distinguished Unit Citations: Rome, Italy, 3 Mar 1944; Florence, Italy, 11 Mar 1944. French Croix de Guerre with Palm: Apr, May, and Jun 1944.

Emblem: On a disk, divided by a center line into semi circles, each containing 180 degrees, or and gules, piped azure, a mule courant proper (brown, with nose, mane and hoofs shades of light tan) wearing goggles and earphones (shades of tan with blue glasses and trimmings), and belted on his back all within a saddle bag proper (light tan) two bombs proper (steel blue).

Reference: Combat Squadrons Of The Air Force - World War II; Mauer, Mauer; page 542-543)

Aircraft conversions

· 1946, B-26B/C as the 180th Bombardment Squadron (Light).
· 1957, F-84 Thunderjet and became the 180th Fighter Interceptor Squadron.
· 1958, RF-84 Thunderflash and became the 180th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron.
· 1961, C-97 Stratofreighter and became the 180th Air Transport Squadron. The squadron was renamed the 180th Military Airlift Squadron in 1966 when the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) was replaced by the Military Airlift Command (MAC).
· 1968, KC-97 Stratotanker and became the 180th Air Refueling Squadron.
· 1976, C-130A and became the 180th Tactical Airlift Squadron.
· 1987, C-130H2 and remained the 180th Tactical Airlift Squadron. The C-130H2 aircraft were brand new aircraft direct from the Lockheed plant. The first aircraft named the "Spirit of St. Joseph" arrived at Rosecrans ANGB on 6 March 1987.

Federal mobilizations:

Korean War

· The 180th Bombardment Squadron (Light) was alerted on January 18, 1951 that it would be mobilized as a result of the Korean War. The 180th BS (L) was ordered to active service on 1 April 1951 and reported to Langley Air Force Base in July 1951 for training. On 13 October 1951, the 180th received orders directing the unit and its 12 B-26 aircraft to Bordeaux-Merignac Air Base, Bordeaux, France to replace NATO units which had been transferred to Korea. It became part of the 126th Bombardment Wing which was also an Air National Guard unit that was mobilized from Chicago, IL. The 180th relocated to Laon-Couvron Air Base Laon, France in the late spring of 1952. The 180th BS (L) was relieved from active duty reverted back to state control on 1 January 1953.

Gulf War, Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm

· The 180th Tactical Airlift Squadron was ordered to the active service on 28 December 1990 as a result of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait to support Operation Desert Shield/ Desert Storm. For some unit members, this would be a return to the Persian Gulf as they had volunteered and deployed with 2 C-130H aircraft, aircrews, maintenance and support personnel, to form the first Air National Guard provisional airlift squadron in September 1990. On January 2, 1991, the 180th TAS and its 8 C-130H aircraft and personnel departed Rosecrans Air National Guard Base for Al Ain Air Base, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and were redesignated as the 1632nd Tactical Airlift Squadron (Provisional) as part of the 1630th Tactical Airlift Wing (Provisional) which was under the 1610th Airlift Division (Provisional). The unit remained at Al Ain Air Base through the air war and the ground war flying combat and combat support missions in support of the allied operations. Beginning on 22 March 1991, the 180th TAS redeployed to Al Kharj Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The 180th TAS departed Al Kharj Air Base on 28 May 1991 and returned to Rosecrans Air National Guard Base on 30 May 1991. When the aircraft arrived home, they had "nose art" on each courtesy of the crew chiefs. The nose art was 391 "Connie Kay", 392 "Desert Possum", 393 "Spirit of St. Joe", 394 "The Hog", 395 "Chief", 396 "Buzzard", 397 "Riders on the Storm" and 398 "Fike's Filly". The 180th TAS was relieved from active duty and released back to state control on 24 June 1991.

Iraq War, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom

· The 180th Airlift Squadron was notified in February 2003 that it would be partially mobilized as a result of the impending conflict in Iraq which would later be known as Operation Iraqi Freedom. The unit deployed in March 2003 to the Iraqi theater and later supported Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and was release from active duty in March 2006 and reverted back to state control. This was a historic partial mobilization that lasted three years.