The Vermont Air National Guard, organized on July 1, 1946 as the fifth Air Guard unit to be formed, received federal recognition on August 14, 1946. The organizers of the 134th Fighter Squadron included Major General Murdock Campbell - the Adjutant General, Colonel Albert Cate - Air Advisor, and Lieutenant Colonel William M. Bowden - the first commander of the newly formed unit.
As their first assignment the 134th Fighter Squadron fell under the control of the 101st Fighter Group, 67th Fighter Wing in 1947. The 27 member charter group of World War II veterans met in the "little red brick school house" near the present General Aviation hangars on Airport Drive. The pilots did their flying in three T-6 trainers, a C-47,and an L-5. The mechanics did their repairs outside on the tarmac.
On July 21, 1947, Major Richard B. Spear assumed command of the 134th when COL Bowden returned to active duty. MAJ Spear completed 174 combat missions in Europe and crash-landed three times during World War II. The unit performed air defense as the primary mission and had a secondary mission of ground attack.
The 134th received P-47s in 1947 and numbered 150 officers and enlisted men. Members held their first summer field training at Camp Johnson in Colchester and flight training took place at the airport in South Burlington. Construction began on two Quonset-type hangars on the northeast corner of the field and contractors completed the work in 1948. The unit had an important secondary mission, that of air-sea rescue on Lake Champlain. A rescue team performed this contingency unit using a C-47 and a five-man life raft. They also kept the Air National Guard's 42 foot crash boat tied up at the Naval Reserve Center in downtown Burlington.
One of the proudest days for the VTANG occurred in January 1949 when all 24 mission aircraft joined other Air Force and Air National Guard units in a "fly-by" at the inauguration of President Harry S. Truman.
The Air National Guard reorganized in 1949 and the Vermont unit became part of the 101st Fighter Wing in Maine. The Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine units trained as the 101st Fighter Group at Dow Field in Bangor, Maine.
The 134th transitioned to the P-51 Mustang in July of 1950. By the end of the year, they had the only squadron in the country with its full quota of personnel.
The federal government called the unit to active duty on February 1, 1951. Upon activation, the squadron remained at Burlington and Fort Ethan Allen and became the support base with medics, motor pool, supply, and a mess hall. The unit became an integral part of the Eastern Air Defense structure.
Many members served in Korea as well as in other areas of the world as part of the United States Air Force during this period.
Pilots First Lieutenants Francis W. Escott and John Nolli, and Captain Bruce H. Cram served on-station in Korea. Combat action cost the life of 1LT Escott. During his 58th mission, the enemy shot down CPT Cram and the North Koreans took him prisoner. LTC Richard Spear took command of the unit when they returned to state control on 31 October 1952 after their release from active duty.
The year 1953 brought the first T-33 to the 134th, then operating out of the old airport administration building and the wooden hangar next to it. The new trainer marked the beginning of the conversion to the F-94 Starfire, an all-weather two seat fighter. A radar operator occupied the back seat of the Starfire, a new crew configuration for the Green Mountain Boys. The Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont Air Guard units began holding summer camp at Otis Air Force Base after they began flying F-94s.
LTC Spear became commander of the first Tactical Fighter Group headquarters established in Vermont during 1954 and Major Richard H. Mock became commander of the Fighter Squadron. MAJ Mock flew 58 combat missions and received credit for four official and two probable aerial victories in World War II. Enemy fire brought him down in March, 1944 while he flew over Hungary and he spent the last 14 months of the war as a prisoner war.
Officials dissolved the Tactical Group Headquarters in 1956 and transferred the personnel back to the 134th. Workers completed Hangar 890, Supply, and Motor Vehicles buildings on the southeast side of the field in April of that year. In July, the Fighter Interceptor Squadron, under the leadership of MAJ Mock, earned the Category "A" rating for combat readiness. Lieutenant Colonel Robert P. Goyette succeeded MAJ Mock as the squadron commander later in the year.
In 1958, the twin-engine F-89D Scorpion fighter replaced the aging F-94 Starfires. Two years later, F-89J's replaced the 'D' models. Design of the 'J' model enabled it to carry two Genie nuclear missiles under the wings to defend against enemy bomber attack. Another re-organization changed the 134th into the 158th Fighter Interceptor Group in mid 1960. The United States Air Defense Command became the parent command of the unit. LTC Robert P. Goyette assumed command of the group and Major Rolfe L. Chickering took command of the 134th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. The Air Guard now manned alert hangars 24 hours a day, a mission which had previously belonged to the active Air Force.
That year, summer field training took place at Otis Air Force Base, Cape Cod, Massachusetts from June 18th to July 2nd. When the unit returned to Burlington, the Maintenance and Operations Squadrons immediately moved into the facilities that had been vacated by the Air Force. The rest of the Group remained on the Williston Road side of the airfield. Military vehicle operators crossed the East end of the runway to transport personnel and materials after receiving clearance from the tower for each crossing.
First Lieutenant Bob Paradise, a radar observer, described the F-89 mission. "I remember that shortly after joining the unit in 1959, the US Air Force had daytime alert and the VTANG had nighttime duty. We would arrive at 4 p.m. for the 6:00 p.m. to midnight and the midnight to 6:00 a.m. shift. Generally, we would fly sorties during the first half of the shift, sleep for the last half, and then go to work or to college classes. Occasionally, alert exercises or "real world" alerts would keep the crews busy all night long. When that happened, those 8:00 a.m. classes and exams were pretty rough. There were only two real scrambles during my tenure in the alert barns. The first involved a B-52 that failed to notify appropriate authorities of a delay in its ETA at the Air Defense Identification Zone. In my haste to respond to this real alert and don my flight clothing, I broke my zipper with my foot. The second incident involved a B-47 with a malfunctioning transponder. In both cases we had to intercept, make visual identification, and confirm that they were friendly aircraft."
The Vermont Air National Guard received the Operational Readiness award in October 1962 for having the greatest degree of readiness of any F-89 unit in the country. Tragically, on 4 March 1965, just three months after his promotion to Colonel, Group Commander Robert P. Goyette and First Lieutenant Jeffrey B. Pollock died in an F-89 crash. Lieutenant Colonel John McHugo, a combat veteran of the Pacific Theater during World War II, succeeded COL Goyette as Group Commander. In mid August of 1965 the unit began transitioning into the single seat, single engine F-102 Delta Dagger.
Sadly, on 23 December 1965, the Vermont Air National Guard lost two more Airmen in a T-33 crash, Pilot Captain John A. Harrell, and Passenger Major John J. Ulrich. The fighter CPT Harrell and MAJ Ulrich were flying in was one of three T-33s attached to the 134th Fighter Interceptor Squadron during this time.
Major Denis E. Lambert became Group Commander in 1966 and Major William J. McGinley received command of the 134th Fighter Interceptor Squadron.
Brigadier General Richard B. Spear retired as Base Detachment Commander in June of 1967 after serving in that capacity for 20 years. LTC Richard H. Mock became the new Detachment Commander and Lieutenant Colonel Andrew M. Bostock received the appointment as Group Commander of the 158th.
MAJ McGinley became Group Commander in 1969. Also in 1969, workers finished the Operations complex next to Hangar 3, Base Supply moved into Hangar 1, and Motor Pool moved into Hangar 2. This completed the transfer of all ANG activities to the northeast side of the field.
In 1971 the 158th embarked on an intensive recruiting program that made Vermont one of the top units in the country for total strength. During this period the VTANG began to actively recruit women into all open career fields. Maryanne T. Lorenz became the first woman officer and SSgt Karen Wingard left active duty with the Air Force to become the first enlisted woman to join the Green Mountain Boy unit. She later became First Sergeant of the 158th Mission Support Squadron, received her commission, and finally an appointment as commander of that same squadron.
The Vermont Air National Guard Civil Engineering Flight helped build South Burlington's first neighborhood park during the 1972 Summer Camp.
The 134th Fighter Interceptor Squadron placed third in the William Tell Weapons Meet in October of 1972. Lieutenant Colonel John D. Leonard became Group Commander on September 8, 1972.
In early 1973 LTC Bostock, the Flying Safety Officer, logged the 25,000th accident-free hour. The period stretched from November 1967, the date of the last major aircraft accident. This represented the longest period of time for accident-free flying by any of the 22 Air Defense Command ANG units or 9 ADC active Air Force units flying fighter aircraft. LTC Bostock served as the Group Commander during 1968 and 1969.
Master Sergeant James Littlefield and Technical Sergeant Gerald Hatin became the full time recruiters for the Vermont Air Guard. Terry Jean Sears, the first non-prior service woman to join the unit, became one of their first enlistees.
The 158th Fighter Interceptor Group became the 158th Defense Systems Evaluation Group in June of 1974. The unit received twenty EB-57 Canberras. The two seat, two engine aircraft contained electronic counter-measures and chaff emitting equipment. Along with the new aircraft came a new mission.
The 158th acted as the "friendly enemy" to other forces to evaluate both air and ground radar systems. This mission took pilots, electronic warfare officers, and maintenance personnel all over the United States, Canada, and as far away as Iceland, Korea, and Japan. The unit provided direct operational training to Air Defense aircrews. They helped them to accomplish their mission even during times of severe system degradation as might be expected during an attack by enemy offensive aircraft. During this nearly seven-year mission the 158th won the Flying Safety Award, the Aerospace Defense Command "A" Award, and the Outstanding Unit Award.
Lieutenant Colonel Clyde Millington flew his 2,000th hour in the T-33 in May of 1977. He first flew the T-33 in 1954 during pilot training.
The 158th Civil Engineering Flight received the award for Outstanding Civil Engineering Flight from a field of 98 other CE flights for 1979.
The 158th began a transition to the F-4D Phantom in 1980, a powerful, two seat, two engine fighter. The Vermont Air National Guard left the Air Defense community to become part of the Tactical Air Command with a primary mission of ground attack and close air support.
In June of 1981 the Vermont Air National Guard celebrated its 35th anniversary with an air show that featured the final large formation flyby of the unit's EB-57s.
Beginning in 1982, weekend Unit Training Assemblies often included mobility training to ready the unit for training deployments and potential overseas deployment in case of an emergency. Sorties usually brought the aircraft to Fort Drum, New York to drop practice bombs and strafe ground targets.
The 158th Tactical Fighter Group deployed to Gulfport, Mississippi in January 1983 to prepare for the upcoming Operational Readiness Inspection. This marked the unit's first large-scale deployment in 23 years. The previous large deployment had been for summer camp at Otis AFB, Massachusetts in 1960.
Three F-4D's with six aircrew and nineteen support personnel placed fourth in the "Gunsmoke'83" competition for ANG F-4 teams in May.
More than 500 personnel, with their equipment, deployed to Gulfport in March, 1984 for the ORI. An ice storm in Vermont delayed the beginning of the inspection for two days. Despite the late start, the inspection ended with the unit setting a field record for the most F-4 sorties flown in one day...82, and all with no aborts!
On April 1st, 1986 the flight line of the Green Mountain Boys changed with the arrival of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the most modern and state-of-the-art fighter in the Air Force inventory. At the close of its fourth decade, the Vermont Air Guard found itself equipped with the best the Air Force had to offer.
1987 was a big year for changes and firsts. On February 24th, Lieutenant Colonel John D. Navin gained appointment as project officer to convert the unit into a 1st Air Force unit. This involved a change of mission. Air to ground support missions ended and air to air, the mission the VTANG had performed for most of its history, returned. Alert facilities had to be constructed during the first half of the year and the 134th Fighter Interceptor Squadron came up on alert on July 1st.
VTANG pilots realized the full meaning of the mission when, on October 20th, Captain Scott D. Baldwin and First Lieutenant Niall G. Campbell intercepted two Soviet TU-Bear "F" aircraft over the Atlantic Ocean.
On June 6th, Governor Madeline Kunin presented the Vermont National Guard Distinguished Service Medal with "V" device for valor to four members of the 158th Consolidated Maintenance Squadron. The governor honored Master Sergeant Jerome A. Perras, Technical Sergeant Dennis A. Godin, Technical Sergeant John M. Pochop, and Staff Sergeant Thom E. Lajeunesse for saving the lives of two college students in South Carolina while deployed there for annual training in December 1986.
The unit became the 158th Fighter Interceptor Group on April 1st, 1988 when it officially "stood up" the detachment at Bangor International Airport in Maine.
Lieutenant Colonel David L. Ladd assumed command of the 158th in a traditional change of command ceremony on February 5th, 1989. LTC Ladd took the reins from Colonel John D. Leonard who had been the Group and Air Commander for the previous 16 years.
On January 20th, 1990, the 158th Civil Engineering Squadron became the first Air Guard unit to provide humanitarian aid to the island of Jamaica, hard hit by hurricane Gilbert in 1988. The deployment team consisted of 56 members led by Major Eugene Sevi. They made repairs to four schools and delivered a pallet of donated school supplies.
Two F-16's intercepted two Soviet TU-95D Bear Bombers over the Atlantic Ocean on March 1st. This intercept brought the total of intercepted aircraft to 31 since the units change of mission in April 1988.
The 158th hosted Exercise Maple Leaf 90 from the 4th to the 6th of May. Six other Air Guard units and the CF-18 unit from Bagotville, Quebec participated.
Federal activation came for twelve members of the Fire Department for Operation Desert Storm on December 4, 1990. Their assignment took them to Plattsburgh Air Force Base, New York. On January 26, 1991 nine members of the Services Flight became mobilized to provide backfill for the 833rd Services Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. Thirteen members of the Security Police Flight received activation orders on the 7th of February to help maintain a heightened security at our home station. A request came in for explosive ordnance experts and two members of the CAM Squadron volunteered for active duty. The 158th Tactical Clinic had seventeen members activated on February 8th and sent to Plattsburgh AFB as well.
Major General Donald E. Edwards, Adjutant General of the State of Vermont presented the Outstanding Unit Award to the DET 1 stationed at Bangor ANG Base, Maine. The citation contained references to the unit's impressive record of flying hours (2040) and sorties (1368) achieved with just three aircraft and 17 personnel, all within a two year timeframe.
On June 1st 1992, at the deactivation of the USAF Tactical Air Command (TAC) and the creation of the USAF Air Combat Command (ACC,) the 158th became a subordinate unit of the ACC.
Colonel David Ladd turned the reins of command of the 158th Fighter Group over to Lieutenant Colonel John K. Scott on December 5th 1992. At the same time, Lieutenant Colonel John R. Strifert accepted command of the 134th Fighter Squadron.
The first part of 1993 focused on preparing the unit for an Operational Readiness Inspection scheduled for June. Ability to Survive and Operate exercises filled the drill weekends. Exercises included shelter stays and a variety of flying scenarios that tested employment and air sovereignty.
During the inspection, 247 members deployed to Alpena ANG Training base in Michigan as the forward base crew. The group included 23 pilots and 12 F-16A's. The results of the inspection proved very successful to everyone concerned.
After a successful pilot program in the summer of 1993, the VTANG opened a full-time STARBASE Youth Program site in 1994. Initiated at the Selfridge ANG in Michigan in 1989, the program served youth and educators with a 5-day (25-hour) curriculum. Classes provided exciting hands-on activities integrating science, math, technology and personal development skills such as goal setting, teamwork, and positive life choices. More than 5,000 students and 200 teachers from 140 different schools participated from around Vermont. Because the program became so popular with parents, educators and students, students filled classes to capacity and beyond each and every year. Only 25 DoD installations housed programs such as STARBASE Vermont all across the country.
The VTANG Men's Softball Team took second place in the nation during the championship games in Boise, Idaho. They placed third in 1991 and second in 1992 and would come in second again in 1994.
COL David Ladd gained the position of Assistant Adjutant General for Air and received the stars of a general officer on October 25th. He followed Brigadier General John D. Leonard.
The 158th Civil Engineering Squadron dedicated its new building on December 14th. Fifty-two members of the CE Squadron deployed to Panama on a humanitarian mission in January of 1994. They constructed a six-room masonry block school building and a single story wood frame building to be used as a hospice by the local hospital.
Second Lieutenant Michelle Rocco, a member of the active duty Air Force and the Vermont Air Guard's first female pilot arrived in January to fly the C-26 support aircraft. The 158th began converting to F-16C's in February. Vermont became the first unit to receive the 'C' model Falcons that featured more sophisticated radar and electronic components.
The VTANG Base Rifle Team won the Chief, National Guard Bureau, State Small Bore Rifle Competition and came in second in the National Competition.
TEAM VERMONT achieved perfection in the William Tell Lodeo meet in October, racking up the first perfect score in the 40 year history of the competition. The group also took first place in the Maintenance Team Competition. Overall TEAM VERMONT came in a very close third.
The Medical Squadron received recognition for their excellent service and overall professionalism following an evaluation in early 1995.
In March, Colonel John Scott relinquished command of the 158th Fighter Wing to Lieutenant Colonel Gregory A. Fick.
Maintenance personnel towed an F-16 down some major streets in South Burlington in the early hours of the morning on their way to set up a static display. The University Mall in South Burlington hosted the second Community Awareness/ Appreciation Day where guardsmen displayed the aircraft and many other facets of military life.
On March 1, 1997, the first female adjutant general in the 260-year history of the National Guard assumed command in Vermont. Governor Howard Dean of Vermont administered the oath of office to Lieutenant Colonel Martha T. Rainville at the Green Mountain Armory on Camp Johnson in Colchester. LTC Rainville succeeded Major General Donald Edwards who served the state as Adjutant General since March of 1981. Unlike any other state in the union, the head of the National Guard in Vermont holds an elected office. A joint session of the state's General Assembly holds the election every other year. Governor Dean immediately promoted LTC Rainville to the rank of Major General at the state level.
During July of 1997, the 158 Civil Engineering Squadron opened and maintained a command post to coordinate flood relief in the devastated town of Montgomery, Vermont. The Air Guardsmen served under the command of Colonel Alan Nye of the Vermont Army National Guard. The flood washed out all of the roads and bridges that led into the town and the joint Guard force restored highway access. Air guardsmen also sponsored a collection of food, water, and supplies for distribution through the churches in Montgomery.
The year 1997 also saw the wing involved in an Operational Readiness Inspection. The inspector general tested our many facets of military life in many areas of the United States. Some of the inspection took place right here on base while other members actually deployed via aircraft to another base. The Rapid Runway Repair team had its test over in New York state. The Vermont Air National Guard performed exceptionally well. When the inspectors added up the scores, they awarded the grade of OUTSTANDING to the unit. The unit had earned the highest score ever achieved by a First Air Force Unit for this type of inspection.
Many programs sponsored by the Air National Guard served the community around the state. The Starbase program introduced schools and their teachers to math and science and the world of rockets and aircraft. The 158 Civil Engineering Squadron, with support from members all across the Fighter Wing, hosted high school competitors under the VICA banner. VICA, or Vocational Industrial Clubs of America, held statewide competitions in areas as diverse as welding, manufacturing, cosmetology, and child care. Our recruiters judged competitions in leadership and public speaking. Guard members also involved themselves in Camp Mentor Wings, a week long event held at the base as part of Drug Demand Reduction.
A major event affected the lives of Vermonters and the Vermont Air National Guard in 1998. An immense ice storm hit Vermont in January. The extensive damage prompted the state to call up more than 500 guardsmen from both the Army and the Air Force. With support for the entire fighter wing, the 158 Civil Engineering unit deployed into Franklin County to assist in recovery efforts around the towns of South Hero, Grand Isle, and Isle La Motte. The primary mission involved opening the roads to emergency vehicles. Many trees and power lines blocked the roads and the rain continued to fall as recovery efforts began. CES personnel also installed, ran, and serviced electrical generators allowing for emergency shelters to operate. Guard involvement gradually dropped off but CES personnel remained on duty until power had been restored by the electrical utilities.
By mid 1998, the mission of the 158 Fighter Wing changed from an air-to-air combat unit to an air-to-ground mission. Vermonters began to train in Tucson, Arizona as the Air Force had no slots in their traditional schools. As a result of the transition, Detachment 1, then stationed at Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina, no longer existed. After 10 years and homes in Bangor, Maine and Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, the detachment received de-activation orders. Training to the air-to-ground mission continued to date.
In the fall of 2000, the Vermont Air National Guard deployed to Saudi Arabia as part of an Aerospace Expeditionary Force. With Vermont in the lead, guard units from New Jersey and Texas joined Vermont to form a rainbow of units to cover the 90 time period. Together the three units patrolled the skies in Southwest Asia as part of Operation Southern Watch. The Vermonters took the first 30 day period and split the time into two periods. Personnel rotated into the country in two shifts while some members remained in country the entire time to provide continuity throughout the period.
Another important deployment for the Civil Engineering Squadron took place in the spring of 2000. Members of CES traveled to the country of Macedonia to provide construction training to the Macedonian Army Engineers. Hands-on training came while doing humanitarian aid projects over a nine week period. Vermont and Macedonia had a relationship under the on-going Partnership for Peace program. Members of the Security Force Squadron, the Communications Flight, and the Services Flight rotated in and out of the camp to provide the necessary support services to keep the camp running safely and smoothly. The jobs included renovations to a clinic, the construction of a playground and the installation of a stormwater drainage system in the town of Krivolak.
Also part of the deployment lay in the town of Pepeliste where workers constructed a clinic addition and a new playground at the local school. Members of the United States Navy Seabees and the US Marine Corps Engineers did construction in Pepeliste while under the supervision of the Air National Guard project officer. Members of the Macedonian Army worked alongside of US personnel as equals and furnished their own engineer to act as co- project officer. As an additional project, volunteers from all the services worked on a new playground in the town of Negotino. Funding for the project came entirely from the private sector and CES personnel arranged and oversaw the bulk of the work and also installed the playground equipment with the assistance of the Marine Corps Reserves.
Lieutenant Colonel Scott Baldwin found himself faced with an in-flight emergency one evening while participating in night flying exercises. Rather than abandon the aircraft when the throttle assembly broke loose, LTC Baldwin remained with the aircraft until he could run it out of fuel. He dumped the external tanks into Lake Champlain when they ran dry and then coasted onto the airfield at Burlington completely unpowered. He landed in a shower of sparks from the dropped tail hook dragging on the runway but landed the aircraft safely and with minimal damage. He credited his training and the excellent support he received from the ground while he ran the fuel down. LTC Baldwin received the United States Air Force Air Medal, the Joe Bill Dryden Award from Lockheed-Martin, the "Aviators' Valor Award for the Year 2000 presented by the Aviators' Post 743 of the American Legion, and The Air Force Association presented LTC Baldwin with the prestigious Earl T. Ricks Award for outstanding airmanship for his performance during the incident.
For only the third time since the Civil War, all members of the Vermont Guard, both Army and Air, mustered together at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction, Vermont. The other musters occurred at the conclusion of the Civil War and then again in 1980 to commemorate the activation of the Vermont Guard for service in World War II. A photographer rode a construction "cherry picker" to sufficient height to get a group shot of the assembled units as they stood in front of family and friends. Governor Howard Dean, Senators Patrick Leahy and James Jeffords, Representative Bernard Sanders, Lieutenant General Russell Davis - Chief of the National Guard Bureau, and various other members of the Department of Defense attended the event. Senator Leahy arrived as a jumping member of the US Army Golden Knights parachute demonstration team. At the end of the muster, guardsmen and their families and guests remained at the Exposition grounds for a band concert, soldier's show, a Civil War encampment, fair food, and other displays and demonstrations.
In 2001, Technical Sergeant Terry Tracy became the fifth consecutive Crew Chief of the Year winner at the national level. He shared his year 2000 honor with previous winners Technical Sergeant Dale Walker-1999, Technical Sergeant Christopher Walker-1998, Technical Sergeant Alan Bouffard-1997, and Technical Sergeant James Sanford-1996. The award brought many trophies and plaques from the military and Lockheed-Martin, manufacturer of the F-16 Falcon.
Members of both the Army and Air National Guard hosted the 43rd World Military Ski Competitions also known as Conseil International du Sport Militaire or CISM. Some competitions took place at the Ethan Allen Firing Range and other events at the civilian ski resort in Stowe, Vermont. Guardsmen provided a wide range of services to the 400 athletes from various countries. The Army's Military Police and Air Force's Security Forces Squadron teamed up to provide security at the events. In addition to the athletes, 619 support personnel, 24 private sector sponsors, and upwards of 3000 spectators attended CISM.
Members of the 158 Fighter Wing received the Air Force Outstanding Unit award for the period 1 April 1999 through 30 March 2001. They received the award for the wing's work in the Southwest Asia flying program and AEF 9, humanitarian relief in Macedonia under Exercise Cornerstone 2000-3 and the Partnership for Peace Program, and the unrelenting dedication and proactive attitude of the Airman, Noncommissioned Officers, and Officers of the 158th Fighter Wing.
The Vermont Air National Guard drew a heavy tasking with the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. That very day, members of the 134th Fighter Interceptor Squadron returned from a training mission and received real world orders while weapons technicians loaded live ordnance on their aircraft. So began daily flights, Combat Air Patrols (CAPS) over New York City and other locations in the eastern US. Many Guardsmen came onto the base as volunteers and worked regardless of the fact they had not yet received official orders. The base became an armed camp and the Green Mountain Boys spun up under activation orders to defend our country. (At a later time, the 158th Fighter Wing learned it had won another Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for it's response to the September 11th attacks.)
During the following months, the pilots flew missions on each of 122 consecutive days before being allowed a break. The period included difficult winter weather that forced other units to cancel their missions while the Vermonters had the good fortune to still launch missions from our field. Approximately 500 members of the unit worked under activation orders in all areas of the base. Each squadron became very much an active duty unit. The 158th Services Squadron, for instance, served more than 64,000 meals during the activation period including a hot meal in the late afternoon of 11 September.
In mid - March of 2002, the unit dropped back from a "24/7" operation and took up a more traditional work week assignment. Members still had activation orders and the pilots still flew CAPS, but gradually those orders expired until the ops tempo reached the same levels as before the attacks of September 11th.
Squadrons and individual members from around the base began participating in other operations such as ENDURING FREEDOM and JOINT FORGE.
Fireman reported for duty in Afghanistan in March of 2002. Security Forces joined a rotation schedule that took 5 squads to various places in Europe and Southwest Asia. The squads traveled to Pakistan, Bosnia, Kuwait, Qatar, and Cyprus. Services set up and ran a flightline kitchen in Kuwait. The Civil Engineers sent personnel to Saudi Arabia. Others went as required to locations in Kyrgyzstan, Guantanamo Bay, Iraq, and wherever else the need arose. Their work took the unit through Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. Civil Engineering remained in Saudi Arabia during the operation and assisted in the closing of Prince Sultan Air Base after the war. Security Forces guarded a huge fuel depot at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus and others guarded the base in Kuwait. Services kept serving meals down on the flightline in Kuwait during the period of combat operations.
The year 2004 brought continued deployments into Southwest Asia. Firemen, engineers, fuel specialists, and other base personnel brought their skills and expertise to the front lines. They traveled in small groups until the summer months when a large contingent of pilots and aircraft headed for the desert.
Vermont's rotation into AEF 9 also brought 200 maintainers and other Operations personnel to the mix. Vermont flew many missions into Iraq in support of ground operations taking place. All the unit's training and practice came to bear on the insurgents within Iraq. Almost all returned safely to Vermont by early September, others remained behind to continue the mission.
The Vermont Air National Guard learned how supportive the local civilian employers could be during these times. Several employers donated goods and services to the base population during activation and Operation NOBLE EAGLE. Others went the extra mile to ensure their employees could fully participate in the defense of the nation. Many ceremonies took place to thank the employers and made sure they knew how valuable they had become to the Guard.
The Vermont Air National Guard kept up its position in international relations as well. The pilots and maintainers built a relationship with the Bulgarian Air Force. Educational and cultural exchanges took place between the countries as the Vermonters assisted the Bulgarians in upgrading their programs. The Partnership for Peace relationship continued with the Republic of Macedonia as well. Business and cultural exchange programs between countries took place to help the Macedonians with their economic development. Colonel Gregory A. Fick participated in a multi-national educational program for International and Security Affairs held at the Marshal Center in Garmisch, Germany.
Vermont opened and Information Operations school to assist other units in methods to protect our information while raising havoc with the information systems of the enemy. After personnel developed the curriculum, the school went nationwide.
The Vermont Air National Guard Fire Department received accreditation from the Commission on Fire Accreditation International. The prestigious award came to the unit after months of hard work and preparation. They became one of seven Department of Defense Fire Departments to gain such recognition. In addition, they became the first Guard fire department and one of only 89 departments worldwide to earn the honor.
The 158th Honor Guard's reputation has grown in the community and they began to do more than funeral details. They participated in many parades and provided color guards in schools and for events around the area. They honored members of the Space Shuttle Columbia and President Ronald Reagan. They also provided military honors to veterans of previous wars dating back to the Revolution.
In November of 2003, the Vermont Air National Guard began a new mission when it opened an Alert Detachment at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina. The unit branched out from its Burlington location with personnel and aircraft to provide extra security on the East Coast of the United States.
As the armed forces of the United States continued to evolve, members of the State Staff put forth a proposal to integrate an active duty unit into the 158th Fighter Wing. The relationship would match new Air Force personnel with the experienced Guardsmen for on - the - job style training. National military leaders latched on to the plan and development of the details continued.
The dust continues to settle from the unit's most recent mission to the desert. Vermont continues to provide personnel and support to the nation wherever needed. Since 11 September, the 158 Fighter Wing has been charged with defending our nation. As the men and women of the Vermont Air National Guard face the twenty-first century and we stop to look back over the past 58 years, we note little resemblance to the organization founded on July 12th, 1946. The facilities, the number of personnel, the cost of each aircraft, even the mission concept of today's 158th Fighter Wing, would stagger the imagination of the 134th Fighter Squadron back in '46. The unit is no longer dependent on second-hand, cast-off equipment or viewed by the active military and the public as a bunch of "weekend warriors." The Vermont Air Guard and other reserve components have become a vital part of the "Total Force" concept. We fly state-of-the-art aircraft, train to precision skill levels, and employ the latest equipment to meet and exceed our responsibilities.
Yet, despite the changes and milestones in technology reached over this half of a century, the one element that remains the same is the indomitable human spirit of the men of '46, and the men and women "Green Mountain Boys" of today. With that spirit and with the legacy left to us by the pioneers of the first 58 some years, we know that in 2046, as we celebrate our Centennial Anniversary, whatever the mission of the 158 FW might be, the Vermont Air National Guard has been, and will be, in good hands. All the guardsmen that have come before us would recognize those future guardsmen as the same excellent Vermont unit that has served our state throughout our history.