Lockheed C-130E-LM Hercules 64-0510 from the 198th Airlift Squadron, 156th Airlift Wing, Puerto Rico Air National Guard
|Active||1958 – present|
|Branch||Air National Guard|
|Role||"Contingency response and combat communications."|
|Part of||Puerto Rico Air National Guard|
|Garrison/HQ||Muñiz Air National Guard Base, Carolina, Puerto Rico|
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
|Colonel Pete M. Boone|
|156th Airlift Wing emblem|
The 156th Wing (156 W) is a unit of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard, stationed at Muñiz Air National Guard Base, in Carolina, Puerto Rico. If activated to federal service, the Wing is gained by the United States Air Force Air Mobility Command.
The 156th Airlift Wing consists of the following major units:
- 156th Operations Group
- 198th Airlift Squadron
- 156th Maintenance Group
- 156th Mission Support Group
- 156th Medical Group
Tactical Fighter mission
On 15 October 1962, the Puerto Rico Air National Guard was expanded to a Group status, and the 156th Tactical Fighter Group was recognized and activated by the National Guard Bureau. The 156th was transferred to Tactical Air Command, with the 198th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron being reassigned from Air Defense Command, becoming at Tactical Fighter Squadron assigned to the 156th TFG. Other squadrons assigned into the group were the 156th Headquarters, 156th Material Squadron (Maintenance), 156th Combat Support Squadron, and the 156th USAF Dispensary. With the transfer to TAC, the 198th TFS received F-86H Sabre tactical fighters.
In 1967, F-104C Starfighers (and an F-104D two-seat trainer) were assigned to the 156th, upgrading the group to Mach-2 supersonic tactical fighter-bombers, replacing the elderly F-86H Sabre fighter-bombers. The F-104C was equipped to carry bombs or rocket pods on under-wing and fuselage points. The upward-firing Lockheed C-2 rocket-boosted ejector seat was standard. The internal 20-mm rotary cannon of the F-104A was retained, as well as the ability to carry an AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile on each wingtip to fill an air defense interceptor mission.
In 1975, the F-104s were retired, the 198th being the last USAF unit to fly the Starfighters. They were replaced by A-7D Corsair II ground support aircraft. Although designed primarily as a ground attack aircraft, it also had limited air-to-air combat capability.
On 12 January 1981, the Boricua Popular Army, also known as the Macheteros, a group of home grown Puerto Rican terrorists advocating separation from the United States and establishment of Puerto Rico as an independent nation, infiltrated Muñiz Air National Guard Base. Armed with pipe bombs, they destroyed or damaged eleven PRANG aircraft: ten A-7D Corsair IIs and a single F-104 Starfighter being retained for eventual static display as a memorial. The terrorist attack was the largest on any U.S. Air Force installation since the Vietnam War, although the ongoing hostage situation in Iran at the time overshadowed this incident in the news media. The eleven Air National Guard jets at Muñiz Air National Guard Base were alleged by socialist organizations to be destined for use against popular insurgents in El Salvador. These allegations were never proven and may have been self-serving propaganda.
At the time, the base had 25 pilots and 900 military personnel assigned, a combination of both part-time Traditional Guardsmen and full-time Air Reserve Technicians (ART) and Active Guard and Reserve (AGR). The material loss was calculated at $45 million in 1981 dollars.
As a result of the incident, security increased from 11 to 22 personnel with 100% federal funding. The active duty Air Force and the Air National Guard invested $5.5 million in Electronic Security Equipment (ESE), a Master Surveillance Control Facility (MSCF), and added fencing to secure the flight line and operations area. In addition, Muñiz Air National Guard Base was provided a security police manpower package of 18 AGR security police personnel and 46 civilian contract guards. In short, the installation's flight line and air base security was brought up to a standard comparable to active duty air force bases in the continental United States.
On 1 August 1987, the 156th Tactical Fighter Group reorganized into a Four-Deputy structure according to the new Air National Guard policy.
In 1992, the A-7Ds were retired and were replaced by Block 15 F-16A/B Fighting Falcons modified for the Continental Air Defense mission. The F-16ADF was a standard Block 15 model converted to air defense fighters for the Air National Guard and would take over the fighter interception mission, providing the primary defense of North America against bombers and cruise missiles.
The unit took part, from 24–28 June 1991, in Granada South exercise, Panama. From 11–18 August 1991, it deployed to Iquique, Chile for Condor II Exercise and then from 18–24 August 1991, to Asuncion with the Paraguayan Air Force for training. From 7–20 September 1991, it deployed to Fortunata II, Volk Field, Wisconsin and then again from 2–6 December 1991, to Granada South, Panama.
In March 1992, with the end of the Cold War, the 156th Tactical Fighter Group adopted the Air Force Objective Organization plan, and the unit was re-designated as the 156th Fighter Group. A few months later, on 1 June 1992, Tactical Air Command was inactivated as part of the Air Force reorganization after the end of the Cold War and was replaced by Air Combat Command (ACC), which became the 156th's new gaining command.
From 20 February to 6 March 1993, the unit took part in the "Caminos de Paz" exercise at Golfito, and then deployed from 12–21 August 1993, to Asunción, Paraguay, marking its First F-16 Deployment. From 5–13 November 1994, the unit took part in the Condor III Exercise held in Iquique, Chile.
In October 1995, in accordance with the Air Force "One Base - One Wing" policy, the status of the 157th was upgraded to a wing status and redesignated as the 156th Fighter Wing with the 198th Fighter Squadron being assigned to the newly established 156th Operations Group.
On 22 November 1997, unit received its first C-130s while celebrating its 50th federal recognition Anniversary. On 10 February 1998, the Air Force announced conversion of the 156th Fighter Wing from its F-16 fighter aircraft to C-130E Hercules Airlifters. On 3 March 1998 the last F-16 departed from the 156th Fighter Wing. On 11 September 1998 a ceremony was held to mark the arrival of the first C-130. On 1 October 1998, the Department of the Air Force issued the official order designating the 156th Fighter Wing as 156th Airlift Wing. The 156th was subsequently transferred to the Air Mobility Command (AMC), being re-designated as the 156th Airlift Wing (156 AW).
Beginning in June 1999, the major mission for the Wing became support of Operation Coronet Oak, which was transferred from Howard AFB, Panama when the base was closed as part of the turnover of the Panama Canal. The main Coronet Oak mission is to deliver special forces to any location in theater as directed by Southern Command. Air Force Reserve Command and Air National Guard C-130 aircraft, aircrews and supporting personnel deploy from the United States to Muniz ANGB to provide theater airlift support for the U.S. Southern Command. One C-130 of the unit is on alert 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, in order to deliver special forces as required.
Coronet Oak shares the Muñiz flight line with the Puerto Rico Air National Guard.
The 156th retired the C-130Es in 2012, being one of the last units still operating the type. Six WC-130Hs were transferred to the unit from the Tennessee Air National Guard. The problem here was that these aircraft were configured primarily as Hurricane Hunters. They had not received upgrades added to regular C-130H airlifters, the WC-130Hs arrived stripped of their weather reconnaissance equipment and configured for the cargo carrying mission.
Loss of flying mission
On 10 April 2019, the wing was redesignated the 156th Wing to reflect its transition to a new mission, which will combine contingency response and combat communications. While the designation change was effective in April 2019, the unit's transition to the new mission is expected to take three years.
- Established as the 156th Fighter Group (Air Defense) and allotted to Puerto Rico Air National Guard in 1958
- Received federal recognition and activated on 10 April 1958
- Redesignated 156th Tactical Fighter Group c. 1 April 1964
- Redesignated 156th Fighter Group on 15 March 1992
- Redesignated: 156th Fighter Wing on 1 October 1995
- Redesignated: 156th Airlift Wing on 1 October 1998
- Redesignated 156th Wing on 10 April 2019
- Puerto Rico Air National Guard, 10 April 1958
- Gained by Air Defense Command, 10 April 1958
- Gained by Tactical Air Command, c. 1 April 1964
- Gained by Air Combat Command, 1 June 1992
- Gained by Air Mobility Command, 1 October 1998 – present
- 156th Medical Group (see 156th USAF Dispensary)
- 156th Logistics Group (later 156th Maintenance Group), 1 March 1994 – present
- 156th Operations Group, 1 March 1994 – present
- Operational squadrons
- 198th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (later 198th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 198th Fighter Squadron, 198th Airlift Squadron), 10 April 1958 – 1 March 1994
- 141st Tactical Control Squadron (later 141st Air Control Squadron), c. 1982 – 1 March 1994
- Support squadrons
- 156th Air Base Squadron (later 156th Combat Support Sq, 156th Mission Support Squadron), 10 April 1958 – 1 March 1994
- 156th Civil Engineering Squadron (see 156th Civil Engineering Flight)
- 156th Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (later 156th Maintenance Squadron), 1 January 1959 – 1 March 1994
- 156th Information Systems Squadron (see 156th Communications Flight)
- 156th Materiel Squadron, 10 April 1958 – c. 10 May 1964
- 156th Medical Squadron (see 156th USAF Dispensary)
- 156th Resource Management Squadron, 1 July 1979 – 1 March 1994
- 156th Security Police Squadron (see 156th Weapons System Security Flight)
- 156th Supply Squadron, 20 May 1964 – 31 May 1973
- 156th Civil Engineering Flight (later 156th Civil Engineering Squadron), 1 November 1969 – 1 March 1994
- 156th Communications Flight (later 156th Information Systems Squadron, 156th Communications Flight), 14 June 1966 – 1 March 1994
- 156th Mobility Support Flight, 31 May 1973 – 31 March 79
- 156th Weapons System Security Flight (later 156th Security Police Flight, 156th Security Police Squadron), 31 May 1973 – 1 March 1994
- 156th Services Flight, c. 1 March 1988 – 1 March 1994
- 198th Weather Flight, c. 29 August 61 – c. 25 October 65
- 8156th Student Flight, by 1988 – 1 March 1994
- 156th USAF Dispensary (later 156th Tactical Dispensary, 156th Tactical Clinic, 156th Medical Squadron, 156th Medical Group), 10 April 1958 – present
- Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (later Muñiz Air National Guard Base), Puerto Rico, 10 April 1958 – present
- "Freedom Road". Archived from the original on 21 September 2008. Retrieved 6 November 2009.
- "156th Airlift Wing [156th AW]". Global Security.org. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
- "Puerto Rico Air Guard's C-130 Airlifters And Flying Role Are Being Taken Away". Retrieved 11 June 2019.
- Lucht, Capt Matthew (11 April 2019). "Puerto Rico's 156th Airlift Wing transitions to new mission". National Guard Public Affairs. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
- Air Force Personnel Center Awards Search (Post-1991) Archived 24 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine
- Cornett, Lloyd H; Johnson, Mildred W (1980). A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization, 1946 - 1980 (PDF). Peterson AFB, CO: Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center. Retrieved 23 March 2012.
- Rogers, Brian. (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, UK: Midland Publications. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.
- Muniz AGB at Globalsecurity.org
- 156th Airlift Wing at Globalsecurity.org
- Trevithick, Joseph (12 April 2019). "Puerto Rico Air Guard's C-130 Airlifters And Flying Role Are Being Taken Away". The Drive. Retrieved 14 April 2019.