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115th Airlift Squadron
115th Observation Squadron Douglas O-38 1933.jpg
115th Observation Squadron Douglas O-38 Preparing for a target towing mission at Camp Merriam, now Camp San Luis Obispo, in 1933
Active 1917 – present
Country  United States
Allegiance  California
Branch US-AirNationalGuard-2007Emblem.svg  Air National Guard
Type Squadron
Role Airlift
Part of California Air National Guard
Garrison/HQ Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Oxnard, California
Tail Code Channel Islands
Engagements World War II
World War I
115th Airlift Squadron emblem 115th Airlift Squadron emblem.jpg

The 115th Airlift Squadron (115 AS) is a unit of the California Air National Guard 146th Airlift Wing located at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Oxnard, California. The 115th is equipped with the C-130J Hercules.

The 115 AS is the oldest unit in the California Air National Guard, having almost 90 years of service to the state and nation. It is a descendant organization of the World War I 115th Aero Squadron, established on 28 August 1917. It was reformed on 16 June 1924, as the 115th 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.

History[edit | edit source]

World War I[edit | edit source]

115th Aero Squadron, 2d Air Instructional Center Tours Aerodrome, France, November 1918.

The 115th Airlift Squadron traces its origins to the 115th Aero Squadron, organized at Kelly Field, Texas on 28 August 1917. It was formed from three groups of recruits, one from Fort McDowell, Santa Rosa, California, made up of men from the Pacific Coast States. The second group came from Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas, made up of men from Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. The third, and largest group reported from Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, Missouri, and with it came recruits from the Mississippi Valley. At Kelly Field, the recruits were indoctrinated into the ways and means of the Army. Orders for the unit to serve overseas were received on 14 October, and with five other squadrons, the 115th departed on 31 October for the Aviation Concentration Center, Garden City, Long Island, arriving on 31 October. It was there that final arrangements were made for the trip overseas, complete equipment was drawn and a final few transfers were made. On 3 December, orders were issued for the 115th to move to the Port of Embarkation, Hoboken, New Jersey, where the men boarded the SS Huron, an impressed German ship that was used as a troop transport. After an uneventful cross-Atlantic voyage, the squadron arrived at St. Nazarire, France, on 20 December. The squadron was moved to a troop train and headed immediately for Tours Aerodrome, in central France.[1]

At Tours, the 115th was assigned to the 2d Air Instructional Center as a Supply Squadron. The men were assigned to warehouse duties, storing new equipment and all manner of supplies that arrived at the Center, and issuing and delivering the necessities of operating the Center to the various units and divisions of the station. The squadron was tasked in maintaining accurate inventory records and advising the Commander of shortages and ordering additional or new equipment from Depots in France. The 115th was also responsible for the operation of the various mess halls, with squadron members acting as cooks, bakers and performing dish washing duties.[1]

After the signing of the Armistice with Germany on 11 November, some men of the squadron were assigned to transportation and convoy duty, driving trucks performing collection of equipment from front-line units and also moving personnel back from the lines. The 636th Aero Squadron (renamed 1 February 1918) returned to the United States in late March 1919. It arrived at Mitchel Field, New York, where the squadron members were demobilized and returned to civilian life.[1]

California National Guard[edit | edit source]

Established by the Militia Bureau on 5 April 1924, which authorized the immediate organization of the 115th Observation Squadron, 40th Division of Aviation, California National Guard. Initially the Unit held its meetings at Clover Field, Santa Monica, using Reserve Equipment planes for flying. Later on, the Squadron met at the National Guard Armory and also at the University of Southern California. In 1925, several months after its organization, the Squadron moved to permanent quarters at Griffith Park, Los Angeles.

On 3 June 1931, the 115th Squadron participated in the National Air Corps maneuvers. Each airplane of the 115th Squadron that participated in the maneuvers had flown approximately one hundred hours including time from Griffith Park, Los Angeles, to Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, and return. Chief of Staff of the United States Army, General Douglas MacArthur, commended the officers of the Aviation unit of the California National Guard, for the efficient manner in which they performed the work that was assigned to them during the National Air exercises at Dayton. The unit demonstrated a high degree of training and morale which placed them on an equal footing with the National Air Corps.

World War II[edit | edit source]

In 1941, the 115th was mobilized into the Army Air Corps, assigned to Fourth Air Force. Was sent to Sherwood Field, Paso Robles in northern San Luis Obispo County. The field was named for Captain George Sherwood, the first commander of the 115th Observation Squadron of the California National Guard. Sherwood was killed in 1935 while flying civilian mail near Burbank, ironically crash-landing in a cemetery. The squadron was the first military group to occupy Sherwood Field. The 115th included many photographers from southern California, some associated with the movie industry in civilian life. Sometimes Hollywood starlets would be brought to Paso Robles to entertain the troops. After the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor, the 115th flew antisubmarine patrol missions along the California coastline from several airfields in Southern California.

Moved to Laurel Army Airfield, Mississippi in November 1942 and began training for combat reconnaissance duties, later becoming an Operational Training Unit (OTU). Deployed to the China-Burma-India Theater (CBI), becoming part of Tenth Air Force in India during November 1944. Performed liaison and light reconnaissance flights over eastern India and Burma for American and British ground forces, then being reassigned to Fourteenth Air Force in China during July 1945. Continued flights over western China until the Japanese surrender in August, remained in China until October when the squadron returned to India and was demobilized.

California Air National Guard[edit | edit source]

115th Bombardment Squadron – Douglas B-26 Invaders, 1947

The wartime 115th Liaison Squadron was re-activated and re-designated as the 115th Bombardment Squadron (Light). It was allotted to the California Air National Guard, on 24 May 1946. It was organized at Van Nuys Airport, California on 16 September 1946. The 115th Bombardment Squadron was entitled to the history, honors, and colors of the 115th Liaison Squadron. The squadron was equipped with A-26 Invaders and was assigned to the 146th Fighter Group, also at Van Nuys Airport by the National Guard Bureau.

As part of the Continental Air Command Fourth Air Force, the squadron trained for tactical bombing missions and air to air combat. The unit was called to active federal service on 1 March 1951 for duty in the Korean War. It was sent to Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, and became a Tactical Air Command training squadron for pilots flying the B-45A Tornado jet bomber. It was released from active duty and returned to California state control on 11 December 1952.

Air Defense[edit | edit source]

115th FIS North American F-86A Sabre 48–260, 1955

After the Korean War, the squadron was equipped with the long-range F-51H Mustang and became a part of Air Defense Command. In February 1954, it was equipped with F-86A Sabre jet interceptors. By July 1955 the transition from the F-51H Mustang to the F-86A Sabre was complete. The squadron was re-designated a Fighter Interceptor unit with an air defense mission for the Los Angeles area. During the 1950s, the squadron received newer F-86F Sabres in 1957 and later F-86H Sabre day interceptors in 1959.

Strategic Airlift[edit | edit source]

In 1960, the 146th FIW was reassigned to Military Air Transport Service, trading in its Sabre interceptors for 4-engines C-97 Stratofreighter transports. With air transportation recognized as a critical wartime need, the unit was re-designated the 146th Air Transport Wing (Heavy). During the Berlin Crisis of 1961, both the Wing and squadron were federalized on 1 October 1961. From Van Nuys, the 115th augmented MATS airlift capability world-wide in support of the Air Force's needs. It returned again to California state control on 31 August 1962. Throughout the 1960s, the unit flew long-distance transport missions in support of Air Force requirements, frequently sending aircraft to Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, and during the Vietnam War, to both South Vietnam, Okinawa and Thailand.

Tactical Airlift[edit | edit source]

File:115th Air Transport Squadron C-97G 53-0356.jpg

C-97G 53-0356 of the 115th Air Transport Squadron, California Air National Guard as used in the television program Mission Impossible 1967 Episode entitled "The Diamond"

The C-97s were retired in 1970 and the unit was transferred to Tactical Air Command. It transitioned to the C-130A Hercules theater transport, flying missions in support of TAC throughout the United States and Alaska. In 1973 the C-130A models were transferred to the South Vietnamese Air Force and they were replaced by the C-130B. During this period, both the 115th and its sister squadron, the 195th Tactical Airlift Squadron shared the same pool of aircraft.

With the end of the Vietnam War, the California National Guard bureau decided to downsize the 146th Tactical Airlift Wing. With C-130s units being transferred to Military Airlift Command, the junior 195th TAS was inactivated on 30 September 1974. The personnel, equipment and aircraft of the 195th TFS were reassigned to the 115th TAS.

In the early 1970s, USAF's "Total Force" policy brought the wing into full partnership with its Air Force counterparts by mandating co-operation and teamwork between Air Guard and active duty Air Force units in all phases of military airlift operations. As a result, in succeeding years the wing's C-130s traveled to all corners of the world, airlifting troops, passengers, and cargo during training missions, exercise deployments, and real-world military operations to support Federal and State military airlift requirements.

115th TAS C-130E Hercules 62-1851 about 1981

The 146th is one of only four C-130 Air Guard and AF Reserve units whose contribution to the nation's aerial fire fighting capability includes equipment and techniques for efficient, effective suppression of large wildland fires from the air. Since 1974, using the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) units supplied by the U.S. Forest Service and mounted in four C-130s, the wing's aerial fire fighting crews have been credited with saving many lives and countless millions of dollars worth of structures, forests, and brush land in California, and many other States and countries as well, taking part in over 5,000 aerial firefighting missions in California and across the Western United States saving valuable property, natural resources, and lives. The fire seasons of 1993 and 1994 were the worst on record. The Malibu fires of 1993 literally burned to the edge of the 146th AW's base. But it was in 1994, with over 55,000 wildfires raging throughout the western States, that the 146th, along with three other MAFFS-equipped guard and reserve units flew nearly 2,000 missions, dropping fifty-one million pounds of fire retardant.

The 146th TAW and its subordinate units participated in numerous Cold War military exercises such as Team Spirit, Volant Oak, Red Flag, and Reforger. Other Joint Chief of Staff exercises included "Ember Dawn IV" in Alaska and "Brave Shield" in Europe. In 1979, the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve assumed full responsibility for airlift operations in Panama, which recently moved to Puerto Rico, a commitment still fulfilled.

In mid-December 1989, and continuing for several weeks, wing aircraft, air crews, and support personnel on deployment for exercise Volant Oak at Howard AFB, Canal Zone, Panama, flew combat airlift missions for U.S. Southern Command during Operation "Just Cause" in Panama. More than 100 combat sorties were flown by 146th aircraft and crews, with no casualties or damage to aircraft.

In December 1988, after more than six decades of Air National Guard flying tradition in the San Fernando Valley, the 146th Airlift Wing began moving from Van Nuys to a brand new facility, built on Federal land leased to the State of California, adjacent to the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, an active duty Navy flying installation. The 146th operates from the military airfield at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, along with Navy and other Federal aviation activities. By March 1990, all but a small remnant of wing personnel had transferred operations to Channel Islands ANG Station. Shortly thereafter, the old Van Nuys facility was closed and turned over to the City of Los Angeles. On 30 April 1990, the flag at Van Nuys ANG Base was lowered for the last time during a special ceremony.

Modern era[edit | edit source]

C130J-30 California National Guard 115th Airlift squadron

In August 1990, the world was moving swiftly toward armed confrontation in the Persian Gulf. By late January 1991, the 146th Airlift Wing had provided U.S. Central Command and U.S. Air Forces in Europe more than 650 personnel, voluntarily and involuntarily activated, who participated in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Aircraft and air crews from the 115th Airlift Squadron flew two-month-long tours of duty in Operation Volant Pine, a backfill of military airlifters to Europe by Air National Guard C-130s.

In 1997, wing members deployed in excess of 10,000 days supporting State and Federal missions. During the period the unit played critical roles in support of DoD missions deploying to Oman and Saudi Arabia in support of Southern Watch, and in peacetime humanitarian airlift and aerial fire fighting, among the many missions accomplished by the wing during the award period.

Lineage[edit | edit source]

115th Airlift Squadron and 745th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, Al Udeid AB, Qatar (Home Station: Channel Islands AGS, Oxnard, California, 2005

Emblem of the 115th Observation Squadron

1960s 115th Air Transport Squadron Emblem

  • Organized as 115th Aero Squadron** on 28 August 1917
Re-designated 115th Aero Squadron (Supply) on 1 September 1918
Re-designated 636th Aero Squadron (Supply) on 1 February 1918
Demobilized on 8 April 1919
  • Reconstituted and consolidated (1936) with 115th Observation Squadron which, having been allotted to California NG, was activated on 16 Jun 1924
Ordered to active service on 3 Mar 1941
Re-designated: 115th Observation Squadron (Light) on 13 Jan 1942
Re-designated: 115th Observation Squadron on 4 Ju1 1942
Re-designated: 115th Liaison Squadron on 2 Apr 1943
Inactivated on 25 Dec 1945
  • Re-designated 115th Bombardment Squadron (Light), and allotted to California ANG, on 24 May 1946
Extended federal recognition on 16 September 1946
Federalized and placed on active duty, 1 March 1951
Released from active duty and returned to California state control, 11 December 1952
Re-designated: 115th Fighter-Bomber Squadron on 1 January 1953
Re-designated: 115th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 1 July 1955
Re-designated: 115th Air Transport Squadron, 1 October 1961
Federalized and placed on active duty, 1 October 1961
Released from active duty and returned to California state control, 31 August 1962
Re-designated: 115th Military Airlift Squadron, 8 January 1966
Re-designated: 115th Tactical Airlift Squadron, 1 April 1970
Re-designated: 115th Airlift Squadron, 16 March 1992

** This unit is not related to another 115th Aero Squadron (Service) that was activated in March 1918 at Kelly Field, Texas.

Assignments[edit | edit source]

  • Post Headquarters, Kelly Field, 28 August-31 October 1917
  • Aviation Concentration Center, 31 October-3 December 1917
  • Second Aviation Instruction Center, 27 December 1917 – 11 January 1919
  • Aviation Concentration Center, c. 25 Mar-8 Apr 1919
  • California National Guard (divisional aviation, 40th Division), 16 Jun 1924
  • III Army Corps, 3 Mar 1941
  • Fourth Air Force, 1 Sep 1941
  • 69th Observation (later Reconnaissance) Group, 3 Sep 1941
  • II Air Support Command (later II Tactical Air Division), 11 Aug 1943
  • I (later III) Tactical Air Division, 18 Apr 1944
  • Tenth Air Force, 29 Oct 1944
Attached to 1st Liaison Group [Prov], 18 Nov 1944 – 30 Apr 1945
Attached to 312th Fighter Wing, 24 Jul-1 Aug 1945

Stations[edit | edit source]

Detachment at Myitkyina Airfield, Burma, after 3 Jan 1945

Operated primarily from Peishiyi Airfield, China, after 11 Aug 1945
Operated from: Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, 1 April 1951 – 1 November 1952

Aircraft[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Series "E", Volume 24, History of the 636th-667th Aero Squadrons. Gorrell's History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917–1919, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

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