The Air National Guard's premier F-15 Unit, the 159th Fighter Wing, nicknamed "The Bayou Militia," is a trained force of more than 1500 men and women has proudly served the United States in almost every conflict in America's history. The 159th Fighter Wing is an Air National Guard fighter unit located at NAS JRB New Orleans, Louisiana. The 159th Fighter Wing, along with its operational flying unit, the 122nd Fighter Squadron, is tasked with providing air superiority over Louisiana and the Gulf Coast while supporting USNORTHCOM and NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command).
The title "Coonass Militia" was changed to "Cajun Militia" in 1992 because of concerns about its "political incorrectness". In the late 1990s the Cajun Militia title was changed to the current "Bayou Militia."
The Louisiana Air Guard is unique compared to other reserve force components in that it is tasked with dual missions. The LA ANG's state and federal missions are to provide trained, well-equipped personnel who can augment the active forces during both national emergencies and/or war, and to provide assistance during national disasters and civil disturbances.
The LA ANG use Warning Area airspace over the Gulf of Mexico for most of their training. Supersonic flight, necessary for realistic training, is conducted away from the shoreline in a manner that does not disturb the public. Generally speaking, they have good airspace within which to train. Some forms of chaff, however, do interfere electronically with the Houston FAA ARTCC. However, the 159FW has a good working relationship with Houston ARTCC. A modification of Warning Area W-59 to a north/south orientation would impact the 159FW ability to train effectively and efficiently. Training would be hampered by long distances to and from the southern end of the Warning Area. Safety would be compromised since air/sea rescue could not respond in a timely manner at the greater distances.
159th Fighter Wing/Louisiana Air National Guard was awarded the coveted "Outstanding Air National Guard Unit" in 2003. This prestigious award is given annually to the Air National Guard unit which meets or exceeds the criteria from the National Guard Bureau. The 159th Fighter Wing has shown extreme professionalism and dedication to the mission of protecting the United States and its allies.
The 159th Fighter Wing consists of the following units:159th Operations Group
122d Fighter Squadron
159th Maintenance Group
159th Mission Support Group
159th Medical Group
214th Engineering & Installation Squadron
236th Combat Communications Squadron (GSU at Hammond LA)
259th Air Traffic Control Squadron (GSU at Alexandria LA)
122d Air Support Operations Squadron (GSU at Pineville LA)
In 1958, the Louisiana Air National Guard 122d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron was authorized to expand to a group level, and the 159th Fighter Interceptor Group was established by the National Guard Bureau on 1 April 1958. The 122d FIS becoming the group's flying squadron. Other support squadrons assigned into the group were the 159th Headquarters, 159th Material Squadron (Maintenance), 159th Combat Support Squadron, and the 159th USAF Dispensary. The 122d FIS was equipped with the F-86L Sabre Interceptor.
With the F-86L, the squadron stood a runway alert program on full 24-hour basis - with armed jet fighters ready to "scramble" at a moment's notice. This event brought the 159th into the daily combat operational program of the USAF, placing it on "the end of the runway" alongside regular USAF-Air Defense Fighter Squadrons.
In July 1960, the 159th converted to the F-102 Delta Daggers. In 1962, the 122d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron was assigned to the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center, Mississippi, for six weeks of intensive flying training. Involved were 150 officers and airmen, including support elements from the 159th Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 159th Material Squadron and 159th Air Base Squadron.
In December 1970 the 159th was transferred from Aerospace Defense Command to Tactical Air Command. ADC was phasing down its manned interceptor force as the chances of a Soviet Bomber attack on the United States seemed remote. The unit was re-designated the 159th Tactical Fighter Group, and the 122d Tactical Fighter Squadron was re-equipped with F-100D/F Super Sabres. In 1970, the F-100 was still considered a first-line aircraft, and most of the F-100s in the inventory were serving in South Vietnam flying combat missions. The Super Sabres received by the 122d came from the USAFE 20th Tactical Fighter Wing which was transitioning to the General Dynamics F-111F. With the conversion to the F-100s, the ADC 24-hour alert status ended and retraining in tactical fighter missions began.
The 159th flew the F-100s for almost a decade, retiring the aircraft beginning in April 1979 when the 122d began receiving F-4C Phantom II aircraft from active-duty units. In 1979 Aerospace Defense Command was inactivated, with Tactical Air Command taking over the Continental US Air Defense Mission. The 159th was assigned to Air Defense, Tactical Air Command (ADTAC), a named unit at the Numbered Air Force level under TAC. Under ADTAC, the 122d began to fly Air Defense missions again with the F-4C, although the squadron was dual-hatted and continued to fly Tactical Fighter training missions with the Phantom.
The Phantoms were ending their service life in the mid-1980s, and in 1986, the F-4Cs were replaced by F-15A/B Eagles. As the F-15s had no tactical bombing capability at the time, the 122d continued the Air Defense mission under TAC.
In March 1992 the 159th Tactical Fighter Group became the 159th Fighter Group when the unit adopted the USAF Objective Organization, and the 122d Fighter Squadron was assigned to the new 159th Operations Group. Later in June, Tactical Air Command stood down and was replaced by Air Combat Command (ADC). No change in mission was made and the 159th continued in the air defense role.
In the early 1990s, squadron aircraft and personnel were deployed to Aviano Air Base, Italy, flying combat missions over the former Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War as part of Operation Allied Force. On 11 October 1995, in accordance with the "one base-one wing" policy, the 159th Fighter Group was changed in status and was re-designated as the 159th Fighter Wing.
In mid-1996, the Air Force, in response to budget cuts, and changing world situations, began experimenting with Air Expeditionary organizations. The Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) concept was developed that would mix Active-Duty, Reserve and Air National Guard elements into a combined force. Instead of entire permanent units deploying as "Provisional" as in the 1991 Gulf War, Expeditionary units are composed of "aviation packages" from several wings, including active-duty Air Force, the Air Force Reserve Command and the Air National Guard, would be married together to carry out the assigned deployment rotation.
In the late 1990s, the 122d Expeditionary Fighter Squadron was activated on several occasions, sending packages of personnel and aircraft Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, to fly Combat Air Patrol missions over Iraq as part of Operation Northern Watch. Also the 122d EFS was activated with a deployment to Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, flying CAP missions over Southern Iraq as part of Operation Southern Watch. On 25 June 1999, members of the 159th Fighter Wing, New Orleans ANG, while on deployment to NAS Keflavik, Iceland, flying F-15A aircraft, intercepted two Russian TU-95 "Bear-H" aircraft.
In response to the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the 122d Fighter Squadron engaged in Combat Air Patrols over major United States Cities as part of Operation Noble Eagle (ONE). ONE patrols continued into 2002 before being scaled down.
In 2006, the F-15A models were retired and the 122d was upgraded to the more capable F-15C Eagle. As part of the Global War on Terrorism, the 122d EFS has been deployed to support Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF); Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan, Operation New Horizons in Central and South America and Operation New Dawn in Afghanistan.
The most recent deployment of the 122d Expeditionary Fighter Squadron was completed in October 2012 when the squadron deployed to at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, and as part of the 380th Expeditionary Operations Group, the 122d EFS flew missions in support of the Joint Air Defense of the Persian Gulf and Operation Enduring Freedom. The mission included providing air superiority in support of national military objectives and flying Fighter Integration Sorties with F-22 Raptors and F-15E Strike Eagles.
In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, the Department of Defense recommended to realign the 142d Fighter Wing (ANG) at Portland IAP AGS, Oregon, by distributing the wing's F-15 aircraft to the 159th Fighter Wing (ANG), New Orleans ARS, Louisiana (nine aircraft) and another installation. New Orleans had above average military value for reserve component bases, and realigning aircraft from Portland would create another optimum-sized fighter squadron at New Orleans. By relocating the geographically separated Air National Guard squadron onto New Orleans, the Air Force would best utilize available facilities on the installation while reducing the cost to the government to lease facilities in the community. However, the Pentagon's recommendation was rejected by the BRAC Commission and the 142d Fighter Wing ended up gaining three more aircraft in the process.Designated 159th Fighter Group (Air Defense), and allotted to Louisiana ANG, in 1958
Extended federal recognition on 1 March 1958
Re-designated: 159th Tactical Fighter Group
, 5 Dec 1970
Re-designated: 159th Fighter Group
, 15 Mar 1992
Status changed from Group to Wing, 11 October 1995
Re-designated: 159th Fighter Wing
, 11 October 1995
136th Air Defense Wing, 1 March 1958
Louisiana Air National Guard, 30 August 1961
Gained by: Montgomery Air Defense Sector, Air Defense Command
Gained by: 32d Air Division, Air Defense Command, 1 April 1966
Gained by: 32d Air Division, Aerospace Defense Command, 15 January 1968
Gained by: Tactical Air Command, 5 December 1970
Gained by: Air Combat Command, 1 June 1992
159th Operations Group, 15 March 1992 – Present
122d Fighter-Interceptor (late Tactical Fighter, Fighter) Squadron, 1 March 1958 – Present
NAS New Orleans (later NAS-JRB), Louisiana, 1 March 1958 – present
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award