|Country United States|
Branch Air National Guard
|Allegiance New York|
|Active 1943–1945; 1947-1952; 1952-present|
Role Combat Search and Rescue
The 106th Rescue Wing (106th RQW) is a unit of the New York Air National Guard, stationed at Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base, Westhampton Beach, New York. If activated to federal service, the Wing is gained by the United States Air Force Special Operations Command.
- World War II
- New York Air National Guard
- Korean War activation
- Cold War
- Rescue mission
The 102d Rescue Squadron, assigned to the 106th Operations Group (OG) of the 106th RQW, is a descendant organization of the World War I 102d Aero Squadron, established on 23 August 1917. It was reformed on 4 November 1922, as the 102d Observation Squadron, and is one of the 29 original National Guard Observation Squadrons of the United States Army National Guard formed before World War II. The squadron has a history going back to 30 April 1908, and is the oldest unit of the New York Air National Guard.
The 106th Rescue Wing deploys worldwide to provide combat search and rescue coverage for U.S. and allied forces. Combat search and rescue missions include flying low-level, preferably at night aided with night vision goggles, to an objective area where aerial refueling of a rescue helicopter is performed, or pararescue teams are deployed.
During peacetime, the unit also provides search and rescue services to the maritime community, supports the US Coast Guard in missions outside their capabilities as well as NASA.
The 106th Rescue Wing consists of the following major units
* Note: In 2004, Air Force Special Operations Command re-organized Air National Guard rescue wings, establishing separate squadrons for fixed-wing, helicopter and pararescue
World War II
Constituted as 394th Bombardment Group (Medium) on 15 February 1943. Activated on 5 March 1943. Trained with B-26's. Moved to RAF Boreham England, February–March 1944, and assigned to Ninth Air Force. Their group marking was a white diagonal band across the fin and rudder.
When the first Martin B-26 Marauders of the Group arrived some hardstands and buildings were still being built. Operations commenced only 12 days after the majority of the group arrived with the initial mission being flown on 23 March.
In the weeks that followed, the 394th was repeatedly sent to attack bridges in occupied France and the Low Countries, which led to its dubbing itself 'The Bridge Busters'. A total of 96 missions, on which 5,453 tons of bombs were dropped, were flown from Boreham before the 394th was moved on 24 July to RAF Holmsley South in the New Forest due to the urgent requirement of IX Bomber Command to extend the radius of action of part of its Martin B-26 Marauder force.
There was no break in operations at this critical period when the Saint-Lô offensive was underway. The 394th received a Distinguished Unit Citation for its work during the period 7–9 August, when it made a series of attacks against heavily-defended targets, destroying four rail bridges and devastating an ammunition dump.
It was during a bridge attack on 9 August that the Lead B-26. piloted by Captain Darrell Lindsey, was hit by flak and the right engine set alight. Although knowing that the fuel tanks were likely to catch fire and explode, Lindsey did not waver from leading the bomb run or order his crew to bail out until after bombs had been released. The bombardier offered to lower the nosewheel so that Lindsey might escape through the nose hatch but, knowing the likelihood of his losing control if this was done, Lindsey ordered the bombardier to jump. Lindsey did not escape before the aircraft crashed.
The award of a posthumous Medal of Honor was the only occasion that this highest US award for bravery went to a Ninth Air Force bomber crewman living in the ETO. All told, six 394th B-26s were lost in operations from Holmsley South. The group's aircraft began to move to the airfield at Tour-en-Bessin in France (A-13) on 21 August and the last personnel left Holmesley South on the 31st.
On the continent the group hit strong points at Brest and then began to operate against targets in Germany. Took part in the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944 – January 1945, by hitting communications to deprive the enemy of supplies and reinforcements. Bombed transportation, storage facilities, and other objectives until the war ended; also dropped propaganda leaflets.
By VE-Day, the 394th was based at Venlo (Y-55) in the southeastern Netherlands. The group remained in the theater to serve with United States Air Forces in Europe as part of the army of occupation at Kitzingen, Germany. It was transferred, without personnel and equipment, to the United States on 15 February 1946 and was inactivated on 31 March 1946.
New York Air National Guard
The wartime 394th Bombardment Group was re-designated as the 106th Bombardment Group (Light), and was allotted to the New York Air National Guard, on 24 May 1946. It was organized at Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, New York, and was extended federal recognition on 21 March 1947 and activated by the National Guard Bureau. The 106th Bombardment Group was bestowed the lineage, history, honors, and colors of the 394th Bombardment Group. It was assigned to the NY Air National Guard 52d Fighter Wing.
The Group was assigned the 106th and 114th Bombardment Squadrons, both equipped with B-26 Invader attack bombers. Its mission was to train in proficiency with the B-26 and obtain operational readiness with the weapons system. In the postwar era, the Air National Guard was like a flying club for the many World War II veterans that filled its ranks. Parts were no problem and many of the maintenance personnel were experienced from wartime duty so readiness was quite high and the planes were often much better maintained than their USAF counterparts. A pilot could often show up at the field, check out an aircraft and go flying. However, the unit also had regular military exercises that kept up proficiency and in gunnery and bombing contests they would often score at least as well or better than active-duty USAF units, given the fact that most ANG pilots were World War II combat veterans.
In October 1950, the Air National Guard converted to the wing-base (Hobson Plan) organization. As a result, the 52d Fighter Wing was withdrawn from the Air National Guard and inactivated on 31 October 1950. The 106th Bombardment Wing was activated as one of two new NY ANG Wings (the other being the 107th Fighter Wing at Niagara Falls Airport) which replaced it, both reporting directly to the New York National Guard Adjutant general in Albany.
Korean War activation
With the surprise invasion of South Korea on 25 June 1950, and the regular military's complete lack of readiness, most of the Air National Guard was federalized placed on active duty on 1 February 1951. The 102d and 114th's B-26 light attack bombers were sent to Fifth Air Force in Japan for use in the Korean War, and the 106th Bomb Group was federalized and assigned to Strategic Air Command. On 28 March 1951, the Wing was deployed less equipment to March Air Force Base, California. The 106th was re-equipped with Boeing B-29 Superfortresses and given the mission to train reservist crewmen to back-fill rotating B-29 combat crews serving in Korea. While the air guardsmen were undergoing training they were paid on the lesser reserve pay scale. The personnel and equipment at March were re-designated as the 320th Bombardment Wing in December 1952 and the 106th Bomb Wing was returned to New York state control.
With its return to New York state control in 1953, the 106th was again equipped with B-26 Invaders, the aircraft being returned from combat duty in Korea. The 102d trained in proficency with the attack bomber until the removal of the B-26 from bombing duties in 1956 as neared the end of their service lives.
The 106th was transferred from Tactical Air Command to Air Defense Command (ADC) and assumed an air defense mission over Long Island and New York City, entering the Jet Age with the limited all-weather F-94B Starfire interceptor. With the Starfire, the 102d began standing end of runway air defense alert, ready to launch interceptors if ADC Ground Intercept Radar picked up an unidentified target. The squadron stood air defense alert from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset every day, 365 days a year. In 1957, ADC upgraded the 102d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron to the all-weather F-86D Sabre Interceptor. With the receipt of the F-86D, the alert mission was extended to 24 hours a day/7 days a week/365 days a year.
In 1956, Lt. Col. Norma Parsons made military and National Guard history when she became the first woman member of the National Guard, the first woman member of the Air National Guard, and the first woman to be commissioned in the Air National Guard.
The State of New York was notified by HQ United States Air Force on 26 September 1957 that support for the 114th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron would be ended due to fiscal constraints. Despite protests from the Governor of New York State that this was in violation of the law with respect to State militia units, the Air Force eventually prevailed and the 114th FIS was inactivated on 30 September 1958.
As a result of an agreement between the New York Governor's office and the Air Force, under which the State accepted a new aeromedical transport assignment, thereby preserving the military-reserve careers of most of the 106th personnel and, at the same time, provided the State with a valuable airlift potential. The new 106th Aeromedical Transport Group was reassigned to Military Air Transport Service (MATS), The 106th worked closely with the 1st Aeromedical Transport Group at Kelly Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, a regular Air Force unit.
Initially equipped with specialized MC-119J Flying Boxcars configured for transport of wounded and injured, the 102d Aeromedical Transport Squadron airlifted critically injured and sick personnel until 1964. With air transportation recognized as a critical wartime need, the 102d was re-designated the 102d Air Transport Squadron (Heavy) in January 1964 and equipped with C-97 Stratofreighter heavy transports.. With the C-97s, the 102d augmented MATS airlift capability world-wide in support of the Air Force’s needs in Europe. It also flew scheduled MATS transport missions to Europe, Africa the Caribbean and South America.
With the acquisition of KC-97 Stratotankers from Strategic Air Command, the 104th was transferred back to Tactical Air Command in September 1969 and the 106th became an air refueling group. Its mission was to provide aireal refueling to tactical fighters. With the KC-97 being a variant of the C-97 Stratofreighter the conversion of the unit from transports to refueling aircraft was easily accomplished, the squadron receiving the KC-97Ls with addition of jet engine pods mounted to the outboard wings. It rotated personnel and aircraft to West Germany as part of Operation Creek Party, a continuous rotational mission flying from Rhein Main Air Base, West Germany, providing air refueling to United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) tactical aircraft. The success of this operation, which would continue until 1972, demonstrated the ability of the Air National Guard to perform significant day-to-day missions without being mobilized.
In 1969, the Air Force closed Suffolk County Air Force Base and the NYANG relocated there. The 102d Air Refueling Squadron returned to Air Defense Command in 1972 and again became an air defense unit. The 102d was re-equipped with the F-102A Delta Dagger, which was being replaced in the active duty interceptor force by the F-106. The Mach-2 "Deuce", still a very potent interceptor, served with the 106th FIG until June 1975, when Aerospace Defense Command was reducing the USAF interceptor force as the threat of Soviet Bombers attacking the United States was deemed remote.
The 102d converted to an Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron in 1975, flying Sikorsky HH-3E rescue helicopters and HC-130 Hercules tankers for in-flight refueling. The squadron’s base on Long Island enables it to act as the only Air Force rescue organization in the northeastern United States. It upgraded its inventory to provide a capability for long range over-water missions using the aerial refueling capabilities of the HC-130s and Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters.
After the midair explosion of the Space Shuttle "Challenger" in 1986, the 106th Rescue Wing was designated to provide support for every shuttle launch thereafter. In October 1991, an HH-60 and a tanker flew to an endangered sailboat about 250 miles south of its base. The Pave Hawk and HC-130 dropped survival gear to the vessel, which was riding out the storm, and began their return to base. Both aircraft encountered severe weather conditions and the helicopter was unable to take on fuel.
The HH-60 was forced to ditch in the Atlantic Ocean about 60 miles south of the base in what would later become known as "the Perfect Storm", and all but one member of the crew were saved by the crew of the United States Coast Guard cutter Tamaroa. TSGT Arden Smith, a pararescueman (PJ), lost his life fulfilling the squadron's motto That Others May Live. The mission was recounted in both a best selling book and major motion picture.
From 1991 to 2002, the 102d RS deployed personnel and aircraft to support Operation Northern Watch in Turkey and Operation Southern Watch in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. While supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, the squadron made its first two combat rescues on November 2, 2003 by using a hydraulic rescue tool to extricate two injured soldiers trapped in the burning wreckage of an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter shot down near Fallujah.
The 102d RS received international recognition when two aircrews and PJs of the squadron successfully completed the "longest over-water rescue with a helicopter in aviation history" in December 1994, a mission in which a pair of HH-60s flew to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and then 750 miles out over the Atlantic Ocean to search for survivors of the Ukrainian cargo ship Salvador Allende. A search of the area located the last survivor, and PJ TSGT James Dougherty jumped into the ocean to effect the rescue. During the 15-hour mission, the two helicopter crews were refueled in flight 10 times by HC-130s.
The 106th Rescue Wing has assisted the state in battling the 1995 "Sunrise Wildfires" in the Hamptons, they were first on the scene after the crash of TWA Flight 800, and the recovery of the wreckage from the plane flown by John F. Kennedy, Jr., which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 1999. The squadron located the transponder of the wreckage of the plane underwater.
In 1998, the wing carried out the longest over-water rescue mission in an HH-60, saved one soul, made famous by the book: Pararescue, The Untold Story of a rescue and the heroes that pulled it off, written by Michael Hirsh
On September 11, 2001, the first ANG personnel on scene at World Trade Center were those of the 106th Rescue Wing.
In 2004, Air Force Special Operations Command re-organized Air National Guard rescue wings, establishing separate squadrons for fixed-wing, helicopter and pararescue. The squadron transferred its HH-60P Pave Hawk helicopters to the 101st Rescue Squadron; its pararescue personnel to the 103d Rescue Squadron.