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In 1939, with war raging on both the European and Asian continents, President Roosevelt increased measures to prepare the Armed Forces for inevitable American involvement.The State of Rhode Island was allocated one of only two new observation squadrons authorized by Congress that year. The 152nd Observation Squadron was organized and less than one year later federalized for extended active duty. The training paid off. After American entry into World War II, the 152nd 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 15th 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 of 1945.
In 1946 the unit was reassigned back to the State of Rhode Island and designated the 152nd Fighter Squadron, SE. In September 1948 the 152nd received Federal Recognition and was assigned to the Continental Air Command program which tasked Air National Guard units with the defense of United States airspace. Flying Republic P-47 "Thunderbolt" and later the North American P-51 "Mustang" the unit trained for this M-Day mission. The Air Force, in an effort to upgrade to an all jet fighter force, required Air National Guard ADC units to upgrade to jet powered aircraft, the F-84 "Thunderjet". This requirement ultimately proved to be the downfall of the 152nd. The Rhode Island Airport Commission and National Guard authorities found themselves in a conflict over the use of TF Green Municipal Airport in Warwick for tactical jet operations. Unable to resolve these differences the Air Force removed the jets from the state; however, quick negotiations and the National Guard Bureau's desire to have a flying unit located in every state brought a new mission and the numeric designation which is carried to this day, the 143d.
The 143rd Air Resupply Squadron received federal recognition in November of 1955. The National Guard flying program was once again alive and well in the State of Rhode Island. 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 143rd since the days of the fighters 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 143rd was tasked as one of the representatives of the National Guard in the Air Force's Air Commando Group structure. The C-46 "Commando" was replaced with Helio U-10A and U-10D Couriers. During a three-year period starting in 1965, the U-10s belonging to the 143rd and other Air National Guard units were transferred back to the Air Force for use in Vietnam, during which the "Helio" was replaced by DeHavilland U-6 "Beavers".
In 1968 the U-10s returned from their tour of duty in Vietnam, and at this time the unit was redesignated the 143rd Special Operations Group. The Grumman SA-16 "Albatross" flown by 143rd 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 143rd 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" an aircraft which the 143rd would fly for only three years. In 1975 as part of a general program to upgrade the countries Air National Guard units the 143rd was redesignated as a Tactical Airlift Group and assigned Lockheed C-130A "Hercules" aircraft.
Always pressed for room at TF Green Airport the "new" C-130s, twice the size of anything the unit had previously flown, created quite the concern for the 143rd TAG Commanders, Flight Crews and especially the Crew Chiefs and maintenance folks of the 143rd Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. Relief would arrive in 1977 when the United States Navy, who had ababandoned the facilities at the Quonset Naval Air Station, finally returned the land and facilities to the State. For the first time since 1915, when Guard pilots flew the Curtis Flying Boats from the old National Guard Training Camp at Quonset, the Rhode Island Air National Guard flying unit was to have a home to call its own, (coincidentally the site currently occupied by the 143rd Airlift Group is in approximately the same location as the facilities used in 1915). In 1980 after three years of negotiations and construction the 143rd TAG moved into its new home at Quonset Air National Guard Base. The new facilities provided the room desperately needed to grow and expand the C-130 program. Over the next seven years the men and women of the 143rd trained with the aging "A" model C-130s. Rhode Island "Herks" could be found in all parts of the United States, Europe, Africa, and especially Southe America and the Caribbean. The 143rd TAG has consistently participated in deployments such as: Volant Oak, Volant Pine, Red Flag, Dragon Hammer, Volant Rodeo competition and humanitarian efforts such as "Operation Toy Lift" which provided toys to the children of Granada after the US intervention there in 1986.
In 1989, after years of getting the job done with the C-130As, the 143rd TAG was finally selected for conversion to the C-130E model "Hercules". Hard work and determination during the conversion paid off in the summer of 1990 when volunteers answered the call to provide support during Operation Desert Shield. The 143rd TAG was among the first of the National Guard units ot provide Flight Crews and Maintenance personnel needed by the USAF when additional trained manpower was needed. The first volunteers, in September of 1990, flew out of Rhine Mein Air Base, Germany and provided backfill support for active duty personnel transferred into Turkey and Saudi Arabia in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The second group of volunteers departed in January of 1991 and were stationed at RAF Mildenhall in the United Kingdom. Again, flying backfill operation, this crew had the distinction of being in the "Theater of Operation" when Operation Desert Shield turned into Operation Desert Storm, the Gulf War. This second group of volunteers returned home in February after completing a one month rotation at Mildenhall ready to return to civilian life and jobs. However, about one week after their return these civilian soldiers were again asked to answer the call to duty, this time by the President of the United States. Not since World War II had members of the Rhode Island Air National Guard flying squadron been called to Federal Service. As in the Second World War the unit initially provided support in the United States doing the jobs vacated by active duty personnel transferred to the Gulf; but in April the unit finally got into the action again returning to RAF Mildenhall. 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.
In 1992 the unit was redsignated the 143rd Airlift Group in response to Air Force wide restructuring and assigned to Air Combat Command. The 143rd Airlift Group continues to support State, Federal and United Nations activities throughout the world. Volunteers from the 143rd have participated in may United Nations sponsored relief missions during the last three years; Somalia in 1992 and in late 1992 and much of 1993 "Operation Provide Promise" where Rhode Island Air Guardsmen and women flew daylight airland missions into Sarajevo Airport and night airdrops over remote areas of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The mission of the 143rd Airlift Wing's tactical airlift forces is to deliver passengers and cargo by airdrop extraction and airland in support of theater commands around the world.
In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD would realign Martin State Air Guard Station (AGS), MD. DoD recommended to distribute the eight C- 130J aircraft of the 175th Wing (ANG) to the 146th Airlift Wing (ANG), Channel Islands AGS, CA (four aircraft), and 143d Airlift Wing (ANG), Quonset State Airport AGS, RI (four aircraft). As a result of this recommendation, the 143th Airlift Wing would retire two C-130E aircraft. This recommendation would move C-130Js to Channel Islands AGS (96), and Quonset State (125), both of which ranked higher in military value and already operate the J-model C-130--avoiding conversion training costs.
In another recommendation, DoD recommended to realign Little Rock AFB by realigning one C-130J aircraft to the 143d Airlift Wing (ANG), Quonset State Airport AGS.
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