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186th Airlift Squadron

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

186th Airlift Squadron
Country United States
Allegiance Montana
BranchUS-AirNationalGuard-2007Emblem.svg   Air National Guard
RoleAir Defense
Part ofMontana Air National Guard
Garrison/HQGreat Falls Air National Guard Base, Great Falls, Montana
Nickname(s)Charlies Chickens
Tail CodeWhite tail stripe "Montana"; Steer/mountain skyline

The 186th Airlift Squadron (186 AS) is a unit of the Montana Air National Guard 120th Airlift Wing located at Great Falls Air National Guard Base, Montana. The 186th is equipped with the C-130H Hercules.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ United States Air Force (USAF) Combat Photography: Southeast Asia


In the beginning was the word- [grunt] -the spoken word which sometimes provoked combat. [Music] Then came the picture- a combat picture- as man sought to record for his fellow man the nature of his experiences and the lessons he learned. From the picture came written words at first a kind of artists shorthand the first crude attempts to create pictures with words but the picture is made with words were often obscure. They couldn't tell the whole story and much of their impact was lost in the translation. For centuries then man has relied on the universal language of pictures to document his armed conflicts. As the technology of war progressed, so did the techniques and the tools of the artist. The greatest single improvement occurred in the 1860s, during the Civil War, when a revolutionary new device for recording historic events was introduced [shutter clicks]. The camera. There was no nonsense, no romantic inaccuracy ,about the camera. It captured exactly what it saw with sometimes appalling reality. And as the equipment and the techniques improved, photography became an increasingly vital source of historic reference military strategy and public information.The invention of motion pictures added a new dimension. 1914- on the Western Front. [Sound of gunfire and airplane motors] The combat cameraman established himself as an indispensable member of the military team. World War II was documented by 50 million feet of incomparable combat footage. [Sound of gunfire and airplane engines and explosions] The end of World War 2 marked the beginning of a new assault in the vanguard of the burgeoning jet age, sleek new aircraft were already smashing through the sound barrier. New speeds and performance levels required more sophisticated weapons, radio and radar systems- and once again as in the past the advances in the technology of war required corresponding advances in the tools and techniques of war's documentation. This is the story of how a serious technological gap was closed in Southeast Asia when US Air Force combat photography took up the challenge and gave a new look to the age-old language of pictures and in color. [Music] In the mid-60s, the United States became an active participant in South Vietnam's struggle for freedom. [Sounds of gunfire] Air Force fighter bombers went into action only to learn the Air Force photo capability then in the field was too small- a stepped-up demand for films too great-combat camera development had dropped too far behind supersonic fighter aircraft technology and ordnance delivery techniques. In 1965 recognizing the need for remedial action the US Air Force chief of staff directed that an entirely new operation plan be formulated .The planning task was assigned to aerospace audiovisual service- AAVS- through its parent organization the Military Airlift Command- MAC. The MAC and AAVS planning staffs followed through. The requested plan was submitted in record time and approval was received in December of that year. Two months later the 600th Photo Squadron, a single manager combat photo capability, including all photo except reconnaissance, began to take shape at Tan Son Nhut Air Base near Saigon. (Sounds of aircraft taking off] The combat photo function was beginning to align itself with all other Air Force operations in the theater. Headquartered in Vietnam the squadron established detachments throughout Southeast Asia. One primary mission is combat documentation called "Com Doc." It produces historical documentation footage on the ground, in the air, on every phase of the Vietnam conflict. you see Air Force "Com Doc" photographers jump into battle [Music] The "Com Doc" cameraman document anything and everything of significance. [Music and sound effects] The wounded soldier leaves the battlefield within minutes. Max Medical air evacuation back home in less than 24 hours. [Music and sound effects] Puff, the Magic Dragon-18 thousand rounds a minute. Com Doc footage finds an immediate use and fills an imperative need. It provides a film link between the air staff planner in the Pentagon and the combat operation in Southeast Asia.It also serves to keep the American public informed on the latest progress of their fighting forces. Equally important it finds a lasting use as visual history caught and recorded at the moment on the spot . [Sound effects] The highest priority in the photo squadron's mission is armament reporting photography. This is over the target combat documentation filmed for the most part by cameras installed in the strike aircraft. [Sound of bombs exploding] Air strikes are filmed in direct contact with the enemy, under hostile fire, as evidenced by these tracers. It is combat photography in its purest form. [Sound effects of aircraft and tracers firing] The footage supplies vital operational information and answers merchant questions. Was the target hit? [Sounds of bombs exploding] Which weapon work best against it? [Sounds of bombs exploding and aircraft flying] What improvements in delivery techniques and weaponry are needed? Watch this MIG try to evade our missile. [Music, aircraft sounds and explosion] Good strike footage is operationally priceless. Adequate airstrike coverage calls for cameras filming forward and aft, at various speeds and settings, depending on the type of ordnance carried. Some of the sophisticated fighters arriving in Vietnam had no provisions for air strike photography. Others had outdated gun cameras. AAVS personnel tackled the gun camera problems head-on. Today, the gun cameras installed by AAVS in Southeast Asia exceed 95% effectiveness. This aiming device or kipper appears on most gun camera footage. [Sounds of aircraft] A pod installation fitted to external pylons and mounted on the aircraft at an ordnance station houses two high-speed cameras- one looking forward- the other looking aft. The pod can be used for tail chase, and for recording weapon deliveries of its own aircraft. Pod cameras are only an interim measure. The pod development program was tackled with two goals in mind. First, how to best photograph weapon deliveries, and second, how to install the cameras in the aircraft. This latter problem was solved by devising a blister camera installation. Briefly, a blister is a protrusion on the aircraft. This approximated the ideal of mounting the camera array inside the aircraft. Like the pods, they house cameras aimed forward and aft, and are automatically activated when the pilot fires his guns or drops his ordnance. Motion picture cameramen and still photographers of the 600th also ride into combat with the jets. [Sound of jet taking off]. Attacking heavily defended targets in North and South Vietnam. With the forward air controllers in their low-flying aircraft. From their vantage point, the combat cameraman records air strikes against the enemy below him. With hundreds of combat sorties flown each day, the 600th photo teams must load, download, service,maintain, and repair the airstrike cameras. They work fast to unload the exposed film, and get it into the lab for immediate processing. The photo squadrons five labs are equipped for 16 millimeter color motion picture processing. Housed in air transportable trailers, air-conditioned and fully equipped, these labs are the nerve centers of the whole airstrike combat documentary mission. Within hours after touchdown, the labs process and deliver to the fighter unit commanders, intelligence officers, and pilots, color films of the day's combat missions, for rapid post strike analysis. This footage documents several strafing runs at an enemy petroleum depot. Here- there's no need for a return mission. The airstrike footage is culled by the film editors at each motion picture lab. The most significant footage is used nightly to brief the commander of the Seventh Air Force in Southeast Asia, rushed to the commander of the Pacific Air Forces- to Washington for viewing by the Air Staff- and ultimately- for public release. Strike footage is also carefully screened by the intelligence fraternity at all levels of command. South Vietnam facts in spotter aircraft seek out the enemy mark the location with smoke, then call in the fighters to destroy North Vietnamese and Viet Cong targets such as base camps, roads and truck parks, food and munitions storage areas, supply routes, underground bunkers, trenches,foxholes, and fortifications. [Sounds of gunfire and bombs exploding] These mini guns fire 6,000 rounds per minute. Until March 31st 1968, Air Force fighters and fighter bombers flew daily missions against North Vietnam major communist military targets, north of the 20th parallel.Near Hanoi and Haiphong, pilots struck communist airfields, power plants, iron and steel complexes, and army barracks. They encountered heavy savage conventional and surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft fir, as well as enemy MIGs. [Sounds of aircraft and bombs exploding] A selected original is forwarded to the Air Force archives to be cataloged and stored permanently, as a historical record. Another type of airstrike photography is filmed by specially designed cameras focused on the combat aircraft radar scopes. Immediately after downloading, the exposed black and white film goes into an automatic processor and comes out within minutes, ready for immediate evaluation by the Tactical Fighter Unit. A panoramic strike camera also provides a rapid look at combat results. This camera records an image that extends from horizon to horizon, fore and aft, along the aircraft flight path by means of a rotating prism. A portable processing unit, designed for 70 millimeter film, provides short processing time, ease of operation, and quality reproduction.The transfer film is pre-imbibed with a developer and a fixer. As the transfer film contacts the exposed film, processing takes place producing both a negative and a positive transparency. Within an hour after landing, prints made from the positive transparencies are ready for viewing by Tactical Fighter Units.They provide excellent operational information for the combat pilots and for intelligence personnel. The most significant negatives are turned over to intelligence for further in-depth study. The 600th maintains a fully equipped still photo laboratory at each of its 17 theater locations for reproducing black-and-white and color photography. The major portion of the still mission is to produce black-and-white still photographs for release through information channels in Southeast Asia as well as bass still lab requirements. Additional black-and-white and color still photographs are forwarded to Washington for release by Air Force Information. The original negatives and color transparencies are forwarded to the Air Force Still Depository for future use and historical preservation. These pictures represent one day's output of quality photography. Still photo coverage includes civic action, newsworthy events,operational combat activity, and the vital airstrike combat mission. All Air Force combat photography from Southeast Asia eventually finds a use. You see it everywhere-in every form of visual media from newspapers and magazines to motion pictures and television. The Air Force was given the job of defending South Vietnam with its massive airpower, and F-105 has just scored another MIG kill. The pilot said I fired a burst from my 20 millimeter cannon and the MIG blew up only 15 or 20 feet in front of me. The following excerpts from Air Force motion picture productions best demonstrate further use of Air Force combat photography received from Southeast Asia. Bien Hoa, in Vietnam.A monthly news review distributed internally throughout the entire Air Force, to provide its members with a broad view of significant and interesting events. General William Westmoreland, Commander,Military Assistance Command,Vietnam, in a message to the 7th Air Force, headquartered at Tan Son Nhut, wrote, "The performance of the 7th Air Force, in meeting airlift requirements in Vietnam over the past year, has been outstanding..." " and supplies are unloaded near the village of Tuy Hoa..." "...for the start of construction of a new airbase some 75 miles north of Cam Ranh Bay." " All construction is under the engineering supervision of the Air Force Civil Engineers, 45 days ahead of schedule, Tuy Hoa Air Base began initial operations." "Mayday Mayday Mayday." This is Red Rooster Lee [unintelligible} that's been shot down." Sound clips for the Air Force Command Post and the American public. A pilot is saved by helicopter. A rescue by the Jolly Green Giant. A dramatic factual short clip. They report for the Air Staff and the American public. "Although every air rescue is different, what you have seen is happens all the time in this war out here. And that means hundreds of our best men saved." On the ground and in the air, the United States Air Force Combat Photo mission in Southeast Asia is served around the clock from 16 units and its operating squadron headquarters at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon. The Vietnam detachments all operating mainly out of trailers and bands are located throughout South Vietnam. Cam Ranh Bay, Phan Rang, Bien Hoa Da Nang, Tua Hoy, Nha Trang, Pleiku, Binh Thuy, and Phu Cat. The Thai detachments housed in specially designed air conditioned buildings, report to squadron headquarters through the six all first photo flight located at Korat. The detachments in Thailand, reporting to the Photo Flight, are Takhli, Ubon, Udorn, U-Tapao, Don Muang, and Nakhon Phanom. This is how the Air Force combat photo mission in Southeast Asia is being accomplished today. An impossible task for the Air Force, and AAVS, had it not been for the valuable contributions and material assistance afforded by various Air Staff agencies and major commands. We've shown how the Air Force is closing a technological gap bringing combat aircraft and combat camera together again as a highly skilled working team. Looking back to the start, it seems we've come a long way in a rather short while. Looking ahead to the future, our goal is to keep pace with technology and satisfy the needs of the Air Force. You may rest assured that when your Air Force has done its job in Southeast Asia, the final photographic record will be complete. [Music]



World War II

see 371st Fighter Group for full World War II history

The 404th Fighter Squadron was activated at Richmond Army Air Base, Virginia in the summer of 1943[1] as one of the three original squadrons of the 371st Fighter Group. The squadron trained in the northeastern United States with Republic P-47 Thunderbolts under First Air Force before moving overseas in the spring of 1944.[2]

Upon arriving in England, the squadron became an element of Ninth Air Force at Bisterne Close, England. The squadron's first combat operation was a fighter sweep over Occupied France. Prior to Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy, the 404th flew fighter sweeps, dive bombing and escort missions.[2]

On D-Day the 404th patrolled the beachhead. attacking railroads, trains, vehicles. gun emplacements and other targets. Soon after the invasion, the squadron moved to France and participated in the air interdiction that preceded the Allied breakout at St Lo in late July and supported the following drive across northern France. It continued to operate in northeastern France and southwestern Germany through the winter of 1945, attacking storage dumps, marshalling yard, factories, bridges, roads, and vehicles. In December 1944 it provided close air support for ground forces engaged in the Battle of the Bulge.[2]

The squadron was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for its attacks between 15 March and 21 March 1945 that contributed to the defeat of Axis forces in southern Germany. It continued combat operations until the Surrender of Germany in May.[2] The squadron remained with the occupation forces in Germany and Austria until October 1945 when it returned to the United States and was inactivated.[1]

Montana Air National Guard

Northrop F-98C Scorpion 51-5775, about 1957
Northrop F-98C Scorpion 51-5775, about 1957

The wartime 404th Fighter Squadron was redesignated as the 186th Fighter Squadron, and was allotted to the Montana National Guard, on 24 May 1946. It was organized at Gore Field, Great Falls, Montana and was extended federal recognition on 27 June 1947. The squadron was equipped with F-51D Mustangs and was allotted to the Fourth Air Force, Continental Air Command by the National Guard Bureau.

Within two weeks of its activation six F-51Ds arrived. As part of the Continental Air Command Fourth Air Force, the unit trained for tactical bombing missions and air-to-air combat. Eighty-nine days after activation, tragedy struck the fledgling unit. En route to pick up the adjutant general in Helena, the A-26 Invader Lt. Col. Sperry was flying went down in a heavy snowstorm. The wreckage could not be found until the following summer. Aboard also was Sgt. Charles Glover, for whom the street along the east side of building 64 is named.

186th FIS TF-102A 56-2353, about 1970
186th FIS TF-102A 56-2353, about 1970

On 1 April 1951, the unit was activated for duty in South Korea. Personnel were sent to Moody AFB, Ga., and ten F-51s were shipped to Korea. The squadron became a F-51D Fighter-Bomber training unit. The 186th was returned to Montana State control in November 1952 and on 1 January 1953, the squadron was reformed at Gore Field.

After the Korean War, the squadron was equipped with the long-range F-51H Mustang and became a part of Air Defense Command. The unit received its first jet aircraft in December 1952, a T-33 Shooting Star. In early 1953 it was equipped with F-86A Sabre jet interceptors. The squadron was redesignated the 186th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron on 1 November 1953 and adopted the "Charlie Chicken" patch. By July 1955 the transition from the F-51H Mustang to the F-86A Sabre was complete.

On 1 July 1955, the 186th was authorized to expand to a group level, and the 120th Fighter Group (Air Defense) was established by the National Guard Bureau. The 186th FIS becoming the group's flying squadron. Other squadrons assigned into the group were the 120th Headquarters, 120th Material Squadron (Maintenance), 120th Combat Support Squadron, and the 120th USAF Dispensary. Also in 1955, the F-86A day interceptors were replaced by the F-94A Starfire all-weather interceptor.

Convair F-106A-90-CO Delta Dart 57-2487. Retired to AMARC on 4 May 1987. Converted to QF-106 target drone (AD188). Shot down with AIM-7M 1 March 1992
Convair F-106A-90-CO Delta Dart 57-2487. Retired to AMARC on 4 May 1987. Converted to QF-106 target drone (AD188). Shot down with AIM-7M 1 March 1992

In 1958, the 120th implemented the ADC Runway Alert Program, in which interceptors of the 186th FIS were committed to a five-minute runway alert, a task that would last for 38 years. The arrival of the F-102 Delta Dagger in 1966 ushered in the supersonic age. In 1968 Air Defense Command was re-designated as Aerospace Defense Command (ADCOM). In 1972, the unit was redesignated the 120th Fighter-Interceptor Group and assigned the F-106 Delta Dart, the first Air National Guard unit to receive this aircraft. With the F-106, the squadron competed in and won its first William Tell, a live-fire missile competition held at Tyndall AFB, Florida. Performed air defense duties along the northern tier of the United States until 1978 when ADCOM was merged into Tactical Air Command. Continued air defense mission for ADTAC component of TAC with the F-106s, transferring to First Air Force when ADTAC was replaced in 1985.

The 186th FS converted from the F-106A to the F-16A/B Fighting Falcon in mid-1987. The conversion happened earlier than was scheduled and the 186th FIS was to be the last squadron to lose its F-106s. The first aircraft were older block 5 and 10 models with some block 15 airframes also being delivered to the squadron. Main task for the unit was air defense, as with many ANG units who were equipped with the F-16. In 1991 the F-16s were brought up to the Air Defense Fighter (ADF) variant.

Two U.S. Air Force General Dynamics F-16C Block 30D Fighting Falcon aircraft from the 186th Fighter Squadron Vigilantes, 120th Fighter Wing, Montana Air National Guard, in flight near Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada (USA), on 7 December 2001.
Two U.S. Air Force General Dynamics F-16C Block 30D Fighting Falcon aircraft from the 186th Fighter Squadron Vigilantes, 120th Fighter Wing, Montana Air National Guard, in flight near Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada (USA), on 7 December 2001.

This meant a serious leap in performance and capability of this squadron in their defensive role. This situation was maintained up until 2001 when the squadron started receiving more modern F-16C block 30 aircraft with a large intake. This conversion replaced the air defense mission with one of general purpose/air-to-ground as part of the Expeditionary Aerospace Force.

With the conversion, unit members felt it was time to consider a change in the aircraft tail markings. The most notable change included the 186th Fighter Squadron's nickname of "Vigilantes". The nickname by the pilots of the 186th is intended to honor the first men in the Montana Territory who organized for the safety and welfare of the people.

The squadron once again found itself on alert status after the terrorism attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. Base personnel implemented the necessary procedures to establish a secure environment while maintaining a 24-hour alert status for aircraft. Throughout 2002, hundreds of unit personnel were activated and deployed to multiple locations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and the world.

As a result of the 2005 BRAC decisions the unit converted to the F-15C/D during 2008 and revert to an all-air defense unit. In early December 2007 the first F-16 left Great Falls being transferred to the 158th Fighter Wing, Vermont ANG. By the summer of 2008, eighteen F-15C Eagles had been transferred from the 131st Fighter Wing at St. Louis due to its conversion to the 131st Bomb Wing, flying the B-2 stealth bomber.

As a result of the 2010 Total Force Structure Change, the F-15s of the 120th Fighter Wing were transferred to the 144th Fighter Wing of the California Air National Guard and C-130s of the 19th Airlift Wing from Little Rock AFB, Arkansas were transferred to Great Falls. As a result, the 186th Fighter Squadron was rechristened as the 186th Airlift Squadron.[3]


File:186th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron Emblem, about 1955
File:186th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron Emblem, about 1955
  • Constituted 404th Fighter Squadron 25 May 1943
Activated on 15 July 1943
Inactivated on 10 November 1945.
  • Re-designated: 186th Fighter Squadron, and allotted to Montana ANG on 24 May 1946
Extended federal recognition on 27 June 1947
Federalized and placed on active duty, 1 April 1951
Re-designated: 186th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, on 1 Nov 1951
Released from active duty and returned to Montana state control, 15 November 1952
Re-designated: 186th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, on 1 Nov 1953
Re-designated: 186th Fighter Squadron, on 15 Mar 1992
Re-designated: 186th Airlift Squadron, on 1 Mar 2014





 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

  1. ^ a b Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1982) [1969]. Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II (PDF) (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. pp. 497–498. ISBN 0-405-12194-6. LCCN 70605402. OCLC 72556.
  2. ^ a b c d Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1983) [1961]. Air Force Combat Units of World War II (PDF) (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. pp. 257–258. ISBN 0-912799-02-1. LCCN 61060979.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 May 2014. Retrieved 5 May 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)

External links

This page was last edited on 14 February 2019, at 16:00
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