130th Airlift Wing celebrates 70th Anniversary

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  • By 130th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
  • 130th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Following the end of World War II, the movement of the 167th Fighter Interceptor Wing to Shepherd Field, Martinsburg, West Virginia, created an opportunity for the West Virginia Air National Guard to form a new squadron at Kanawha Airport, Charleston.

On Nov. 3, 1947, the WVANG was founded at Kanawha Airport. Until the spring of 1948, the unit flew a myriad of aircraft. At that time, the unit was assigned the P-51 Mustang, which served as the primary aircraft until 1955.  During this time period, in 1950, the WVANG was activated for the Korean conflict, where it flew more than 1,000 combat missions over the Korean peninsula. For their actions in combat, the Wing was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation and WVANG members were awarded 2 Silver Stars, 55 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 42 Bronze Stars and 326 Air Medals.

Originally designated as Troop Carrier squadron in 1955, the Wing was assigned a new mission in 1963: to provide air support for “special forces” behind enemy lines. The dramatic change in missions required pilots to master the difficult task of landing the SA-16 on the open sea and, harder still, making such a landing at night.  However, pilots of the 130th Air Commando Group were the first of all ANG units operating the SA-16 to master these tough landings.

In 1968, the 130th Air Commando Group was re-designated as the Special Operations Group, which revised the unit’s mission to include a variety of clandestine operations. During this time period, on four separate occasions, the 130th was awarded the Spatz Trophy, which is the highest award available to the Air Guard units, as the best operational flying unit in the ANG. This is no small feat due to the fact that there were 91 other units in contention for this distinction.

In October of 1975, the unit was once again re-designated as the 130th Tactical Airlift Group. The 130th continued to set the standard for all other Air National Guard units during this era.  In 1981, the 130th was the first ANG unit to participate in Operation BRIGHT STAR, a multi-national war-fighting exercise, near Cairo, Egypt. That same year, it achieved another milestone by being the first ANG unit to participate in Red Flag exercises at Nellis AFB, Nevada.  It was seen as a major accomplishment, at the time, for an ANG unit to participate in Red Flag. 

Subsequent integration with the active duty Air Force continued in 1987 as the 130th Tactical Airlift Group became the first ANG unit to undergo an Operational Readiness Inspection in concert with an active duty unit, in which it earned an “Excellent” rating. In 1992, the unit was redesignated the 130th Airlift Group and in 1996 it was redesignated as the 130th Airlift Wing, which it remains today.

From 1990 on, the active duty component of the Air Force has relied more and more on the ANG for support.  Instead of being solely a reserve force, the ANG has transformed to an equal partner with the active duty in meeting worldwide contingency missions. Over recent years, the 130th AW has played a pivotal role in supporting efforts for Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, the Global War on Terrorism, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. In addition, the Wing has deployed in support of USAF missions to Afghanistan, Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Puerto Rico, Guantanamo Bay, Haiti, Wake Island, Antarctica, Kyrgyzstan and multiple other locations around the world.

In recent years, the WVANG has also provided support and assistance in domestic deployments, including Hurricane Katrina.  The WVANG has responded in the wake of disasters in local communities, which include the devastating storm in 2012, Superstorm Sandy, and Operation Summer Rain in 2016, where flash flooding left at least 25 people dead and devastated communities throughout West Virginia.

In 2014, the base was designated as McLaughlin Air National Guard Base, named in honor of its founder and first commander, Brig. Gen. James Kemp McLaughlin. Today, the 130th AW continues to fly airlift, airdrop and air evacuation missions, at both home station and in deployed environments, with eight C-130 H3 aircraft.

Nov. 3, 1947 marks the 70th anniversary of the West Virginia Air National Guard.  On this special occasion, we pause to thank the men and women who have served in the 130th Airlift Wing and transformed it into the prestigious unit that it is today.  There is no doubt that the men and women of the 130th Airlift Wing will continue its proud heritage and legacy of valor, while striving to uphold the Air Force’s Core Values of “Integrity First, Service before self and Excellence in all we do.” 

In honor of this momentous occasion, the 130th AW will be celebrating its 70 year heritage in conjunction with Yeager Airport. On Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, the two entities will host 70th Anniversary airshow on the grounds of Yeager Airport. The celebration will include static displays of aircraft as well as aircraft demonstrations throughout the weekend.