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World War II
The Second Combat Cargo Squadron constituted April 11, 1944, to fly the C-47 “Gooney Bird” actively throughout Asia during World War II. The squadron had five flights, each of which was represented by a deuce of spades in the squadron emblem. The emblem shows a hand fanning a deck of five deuce playing cards—the deuce signifying the “Second” squadron. Just four months after the unit was constituted, the 2nd moved to Sylhet, India, where it flew more than a year, until October 1945. By Halloween, the squadron was in Peishiyi, China, where it was redesignated as the 327th Troop Carrier Squadron. Throughout the China-Burma-India theater of operations, the 327th flew combat troops into the battle field, and evacuated the wounded from it. They flew in China until Christmas, when the squadron was inactivated after more than 20 months in Asia. The squadron earned battle streamers and won citations for their wartime service.
The squadron remained inactive until the spring of 1947, when it was reactivated at Marietta Army Air Field, Ga., and equipped with C-46s. It was assigned to the 514th Troop Carrier Wing for two and half years.
In 1949, the 327th moved to Reading Municipal Airport, Pennsylvania and joined the 512th Troop Carrier Wing. At the halfway point of the 20th century, the 512th was flying C-46s out of Reading when it acquired the 327th.
Almost immediately thereafter, the 512th moved to New Castle County Airport, Del. in April 1950, leaving the 327th behind at Reading. By August 1951, the 916th Air Force Reserve Training Wing was activated at Reading to fill the empty support role left by the 512th.
The beginning of the Cold War saw tensions rise in Korea and March 15, 1951 the 512th activated to lend support to military actions in the Korean conflict. Shortly thereafter, the 512th was inactivated at New Castle.
Less than a year later, in June 1952, several more changes came to Reading and New Castle.
512th Troop Carrier Wing--The “Delaware Valley Wing”
The 327th activated for 17 days in May 1952 and deployed to Florida. While the flyers were deployed/activated, the 916th Training Wing was inactivated, and its
personnel and equipment moved to New Castle June 8. There, it was reactivated as the 512th Troop Carrier Wing (Medium). The 916th commander, Col. Frank W. Davis of Philadelphia, was appointed as the interim commander of the newly reconstituted 512th and veteran members of the original 512th reenlisted to rebuild their wing at its new home.
The 512th also gained three flying units during the move: the 326th, 327th and 328th troop carrier squadrons were organized under the wing’s 512th Troop Carrier Group. By June, the 327th had just returned to reserve status following its 17-day activation for the Korean conflict. Once again, they served under the administration of the 512th.
In the course of activations, deactivations, redesignations and moves, records of the unit’s lineage and honors became somewhat sketchy. The new 512th wing commander, Lt. Col. John Stone Bagby, ordered a research project of the wing’s history and combat background to bring some cohesion to the stories. The project disclosed the wing's entitlement to four battle streamers specifically attributed to the World War II service of the 327th: Central Burma, China Defensive, China Offensive, and the India-Burma Campaigns. The battle streamers were flown from the staff of the wing's colors thereafter. The study also found that the 326th and the 328th squadrons were entitled to Distinguished Unit Citations for service in China from 1 Sept - 30 Sept, 1945.
The 512th continued to fly the Curtis C-46 aircraft at New Castle for five more years, during which, the 512th enjoyed a relatively peaceful existence at New Castle. Training continued for the flight crews, who flew many exercise missions across the United States, dropping paratroops from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division over Fort Bragg, N.C. and others. Lt. Col. Bagby was promoted to Colonel March 22, 1954. Airmen of the 512th performed disaster relief exercises in the 1950s with great success, proving the effectiveness of Reservists in peacetime missions -- a recurring theme in the decades to follow.
The Flying Boxcar
The next big changes came in 1957. That summer, crews began training in the C-119 "Flying Boxcars.” The 327th would officially convert to the Boxcar on March 15, 1958. The squadron had flown the C-46 for ten years. But, 1958 brought many more changes than just the C-119.
Welcome to the Grove: The Willow Grove land purchase
In 1958, the Air Force Reserve purchased 162.21 acres of land in Horsham, Pa., adjacent to Naval Air Station Willow Grove. The area would become a new home to the 512th. The new Air Reserve Facility would be a self-governing, non-tenant unit, but would receive some support services from the NAS. Throughout the decades to follow, debates bounced back and forth over the exact nature of the relationship between NAS Willow Grove and Willow Grove Air Reserve Facility. General Order 8, dated Feb. 26, 1958 ordered development of Willow Grove Air Reserve Facility, and construction began shortly thereafter. The buildings went up quickly, and were completed by July 1959.
The 512th Troop Carrier Wing (Medium) began moving onto Willow Grove Air Reserve Station, Pa., at 2:00 p.m.., Sunday, July 20, 1958. Navy officers welcomed Col. Bagby and the 512th in formal ceremonies on the flight line with local dignitaries and much press coverage. More than eight hundred Airmen came to Willow Grove with the wing, including three troop carrier squadrons: the 326th, 327th and the detached 328th, stationed at Niagara Falls Municipal Airport, N.Y.
He was promoted to Brigadier General July 23, 1959, in a flag ceremony at Grenier Air Force Base, New Hampshire, during the 512th’s annual encampment. Gen. Bagby commanded the wing at Willow Grove ARF until 1965.
"What is worth living for is worth defending - and no one should be more deeply convinced of this than the American citizen. That this belief is part of the fiber of the American way of life can be seen in the response to every call to duty by the citizen - soldier since the first days of this nation. The reservist of today can claim kinship with an unbroken line of "minutemen" of the past. This kinship, forged through duty and honor, is today coupled with high standards of performance, patriotism and readiness to provide a legacy for future generations of which each reservist can be justly proud."
Brig. Gen. John S. Bagby
Commander, 512th Troop Carrier Wing
The Cuban Missile Crisis
On the evening of Oct. 27, 1962, Col. Stanley V. Rush, the 512th deputy commander under Gen. Bagby, was informed of a possible extended activation for the wing. Local news radio and television programs aired stories that the Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Robert S. McNamara, had ordered 24 Reserve troop carrier squadrons to active duty for the Cuban Missile Crisis. Col. Rush contacted the wing’s fulltime staff members late that night to tell them an extended activation was probable, and that it could come anytime with little or no notice. He then requested the Air Reserve Technician staff and some civilians report for duty. Upon arrival, they were told to prepare for a possible mobilization.
The actual call to active duty came just three hours later at 1:20 a.m. on Oct. 28, 1962. Headquarters Tactical Air Command at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, called Col. Rush by phone to confirm the activation of the 512th Troop Carrier Wing. He immediately contacted Gen. Bagby and the wing’s detached 328th squadron at Niagara Falls. By 9:00 a.m., Special Order G-153, dated Oct. 28, 1962, activated the 512th under Tactical Air Command. However, the majority of the unit commanders and staff officers had already reported for duty before then. The order activated the wing for one year unless sooner relieved by competent authority. By that evening, 97 percent of the unit members were on base.
Later that day, Gen. Bagby, Col. Rush, and Lt. Col. Allen A. Beaumont, wing operations director, reported to TAC Headquarters at Langley for a briefing on the wing’s missions during the activation.
With Gen. Bagby in command, crews from the flying units deployed to Florida to conduct exercise Sun Shade I. They remained in Florida until Nov. 22, when news came that wing would be demobilized early. Gen. Bagby led a small team back to Florida to take part in a military review for President John F. Kennedy immediately before demobilizing. The wing was relieved by TAC on Nov. 28, 1962; it had been activated for one month.
The Group Concept
When Reserve mobilizations for the Berlin crisis in 1961 demonstrated that the Air Force needed more flexibility to mobilize and employ Air Force Reserve units, the Air Force made plans to create Tactical Groups to administer each flying squadron under each wing … Then the Cuban Missile Crisis happened. Air Force Reserve wings, including the 512th, were mobilized while approval for this massive reorganization was still being made.
To avoid additional administrative disruption, new groups that would acquire squadrons not mobilized for the Cuban Missile Crisis were organized first. The change was delayed for mobilized units until they had returned to reserve status a month later.
Birth of the 913th
Following the demobilization of the 327th Troop Carrier Squadron, reorganization of the 512th under the Group concept was implemented. On Feb. 11, 1963, Special Order G-7 Headquarters Continental Air Command, dated Jan. 22, 1963, ordered the 512th Troop Carrier Wing reorganized under the Group concept.
The 912th and 913th Troop Carrier Groups were stationed at Willow Grove ARF, and the 914th at Niagara Falls Municipal Airport.
The 912th was commanded by Colonel Carl F. Hynek; the 913th by Colonel Charles E. Lewis; and the 914th by Colonel Salvatore A. Mauriello. Each group’s mission was to administer their respective Troop Carrier Squadron. However, the 914th group and its flying squadron would be transferred to another wing just ten months later.
At that time there were only four units under the 913th Troop Carrier Group: the 327th Troop Carrier Squadron, 913th Materiel Squadron, 913th Combat Support Squadron and 913th Tactical Dispensary.
Although a certain amount of confusion attended the reorganization, the closely-knit working relationships between staff sections, ART personnel and reservists enabled the units to make the transition with minimum loss of time and effectiveness. Perhaps the most pressing problem at the time was that of equally realigning the supply of “talent” between the two groups, as the reorganized wing structure called for many more non-rated officer positions. In 1964, a serious lack of pilots and navigators, illustrated the need for an aggressive and sustained recruiting program. Many of the pilots were aging WWII veterans, and the squadrons were heavy in the upper grades.
The wing Information Office had a creative idea. On Friday, Dec. 6, 1963, Mr. Keith B. Hubbard, civilian information officer, and Maj. Thomas T. Darlington, reserve information officer, spoke in a two-hour radio “open-mic” radio program on station WEEZ, Chester, Pa., to an estimated audience of 60 to 70 thousand people. The audience was invited to call in with questions about the Delaware Valley wing in an informal atmosphere. The constant signaling on the switchboard showed wide public interest in the Air Force Reserve program.
Many exercises and humanitarian missions kept the unit employed, while the influx of new Airmen from intense recruiting efforts kept supervisor busy with personnel issues and on-the job training programs. The efforts were highly effective, and while manning turnovers caused some difficult dynamics, the wing pulled together and scored an “Outstanding” rating in the 1965 ORI. The wing was “Ready Now.”
512th Leaves WGARF
In 1964, the Air Force had plans to redistribute Reserve wing headquarters more evenly across the country from east to west, which would lead to the relocation of the 512th headquarters to Carswell Air Force Base, Texas the following year. The 913th remained under the administration of the 512th until Jan. 8, 1965, and then assumed the role as host unit of Willow Grove Air Reserve Facility. Col. Reg L. Anderson became installation commander in addition to his role as group commander. The 912th Troop Carrier Group became a tenant of the Willow Grove Air Reserve Facility, continuing to administer the 326th Troop Carrier Squadron, and both groups were reassigned under the 302nd Troop Carrier Wing, Clinton County Air Force Base, Ohio.
In War, Indispensible … In Peace, Prepared.”
Beginning in 1956, and continuing through the mid-1960s, aircrews of the 326th and 327th Troop Carrier Squadrons performed yeoman service for the Pennsylvania State Game Commission In the harsh winters by airdropping tons of food to starving wildlife.
In January 1965, 44 Airmen from Willow Grove marched in the streets of Washington D.C. for the inaugural parade of President Lyndon B. Johnson.
In the fall of 1965, numerous civilian petitions to the Air Force prompted operation “Christmas Star.” Air Force Reserve wings were tasked with moving gifts, letters and cookies to American troops in Vietnam. Between December 1 and December 20, the base supply section processed more than 25,000 lbs of Christmas gifts, and volunteer Grove aircrews hauled it to distribution centers for transport to Asia.
The groups reported to the 302nd until July 1, 1966, and were reassigned to the 514th Troop Carrier Wing at McGuire AFB, New Jersey, under the command of Brig. Gen. Campbell Y. Jackson.
In 1966, the 913th Tactical Airlift Group was awarded the Flying Safety Award by the United States Air Force. Still another highlight was recorded when MSgt. John E. Phipps was named "Airman of the Year" at the Air Force Association convention in Dallas, Texas.
In 1966, 327 TCS was selected by the 514th TCW at McGuire as the Outstanding Aircrew of 1966.
“In addition to accomplishing all of the above during the reporting period, the 913th Aerial Port Flight performed the unit mission under all weather conditions and maintained flexibility and mobility of operations with necessary equipment to landing zones and/or drop zones. Teamwork and group integrity is constantly being displayed. The importance of these attributes during routine operations cannot be overlooked since it is this function that sits the Aerial Port Flight high on the roost of professionalism.” – History of the 913th Tactical Airlift Group, 1967.
In 1967, the 913th Consolidated Maintenance Squadron presented a plan for better aircraft maintenance—the Isochronal Inspection Concept. Up to this time, C-119 inspections were performed on a flying-hours based schedule. As each aircraft was flown, maintainers would inspect and service them based on how many hours it had been flown since the last inspection. With increased flying operations, and sporadic, short-notice schedules, maintenance and inspections occurred at a frenzied pace. Maintenance crews were overworked, and parts ordering became a problem because of the short notice caused by rapidly increasing flying hours.
The maintenance section had a proposal.
They would submit a new scheduling tool, based on calendar days, to make things flow more smoothly. It would require very careful thought and extensive planning and coordination, but the end result would be a predictable work schedule, with parts ordering far enough in advance to allow for manufacturer production and shipping times, and an aircraft availability schedule planned a year in advance. All of this would be accomplished without sacrificing inspection requirements or manhours.
“The attitude of everyone working under Isochronal has been outstanding,” said Maj. Pandis, in his follow-up report to CAC. “Everyone knows what they are doing, how they’re going to do it, and when. The inspection schedule is produced, implemented, and completed as scheduled. This alone is a terrific morale booster. Under the relaxed atmosphere of Isochronal Inspections, all problems that arise are solved in the best way possible, in a cooperative attitude. This speaks well for the ‘system’ of Isochronal Inspections.”
Ultimately, the project was reviewed and adopted by TAC and CAC. “Personnel of the 912th and 913th Tac Alft Gps are to be commended for their outstanding job in developing the proposed test, isochronal inspection, work deck,” said Col. Albert W. Satterwhite, CAC’s deputy chief of staff for logistics.” “... Technical Services personnel have stated that this work deck is superior to similar work decks developed for the C-130 and C-141 aircraft.”
The 913th Consolidated Maintenance Squadron was awarded the 1969 Air Force Reserve Outstanding Maintenance Unit citation.
The program continued to bring noteworthy praise and commendation across the Air Force throughout the decade.
YC-119 comes to WGARF
Early in 1967, Continental Air Command assigned the 913th Troop Carrier Group as the support unit and base for the YC-119K aircraft project. The project, named “Project Peace Lifter,” featured a standard C-119G Flying Boxcar with prototype engine modifications. Two jet engine pods were added, and the existing piston engines were enhanced to produce more power. The enhancements were designed to extend the useful life of the C-119 into the 1970s by adding greater airspeed and shorter takeoff distances.
A 327th crew flew the prototype across the United States on display for high-ranking Air Force officers including Tactical Air Command commander General Gabriel P. Disosway.
By June, the YC left Willow Grove permanently for further testing with the Fairchild-Hiller Corporation.
The YC-119 program at first appeared to offer a stable future and a continued mission for the Boxcar at Willow Grove, but, the C-119 would ultimately give way to the new Lockheed C-130A “Hercules” just two years later.
The 912th and 913th were renamed Tactical Airlift Groups on July 1, 1967, with no change in equipment. Special Order G-31, Headquarters Continental Air Command, dated 17 May 1967, redesignated nearly fifty Air Force Reserve units from “Troop Carrier” titles to “Tactical Airlift” titles. As the versatility on the new C-130 and other aircraft advancements became pervasive, “Troop Carrier” became a misnomer – an anachronism. The so-called troop carriers were carrying Jeeps and other vehicles, cargo pallets, people other than troops -- a variety of other items, and it was time to formally recognize the expanded capabilities of the groups.
913th Trains Vietnamese Aircrews
In August 1967, fourteen crews from the South Vietnam Air Force trained for several months on the C119 "Flying Boxcars" at Willow Grove Air Reserve Facility. Declassified documents indicate this was another first -- a United States Air Reserve unit training regular Air Force pilots from a foreign nation.
913TH DELIVERS C-119S TO VIETNAM
With the C-119’s useful days in the Air Force Reserve coming to a close, the United States made arrangements to transfer ownership and possession of some Boxcars to the South Vietnamese Air Force. The transfer included several 119s from Willow Grove.
Between January and March, 1968, crews from Willow Grove flew their Boxcars from St. Augustine, Florida, to Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base, South Vietnam, delivering them to the South Vietnamese Air Force. There, the Grove crews had a happy reunion between instructors and students as they met some of the very same Vietnamese aircrews they had trained just a few months earlier. Also on the flightline at Tan Son Nhut, former U.S. C-46s and C-47s, brought back memories of years gone by for crews from the old 327th and 328th squadrons.
Aircrew members who flew to S. Vietnam included: Lt. Col. Orville C. Gensler, Lt. Col. Jack W. Bailey, Maj. Robert J Allen, Maj. Raymond B. Carter, Maj. Thomas A. Clark, Maj. Harry L Cardon, Maj. William J. Meehan, Maj. Frank G. Thomas, Capt. Michael A. Brown, Capt. Alan Eck, Capt. Robert J. Montgomery and Tech. Sgt. Paul E. Bridges.
In addition to all the flights to Asia, 913th crews flew numerous joint exercises, paratroop drops, goodwill flights, and local training missions. Plus, the 327th dropped more than 26,000 lbs. of heavy equipment for their own training benefit and for the Army’s Rigger School at Fort Lee, Va.
That year, 5,411 Army paratroopers jumped from 913th C-119s at Fort Benning, Ga., and NAS Lakehurst, N.J. The Army’s “Golden Knights” and “Black Knights” parachute demonstration teams jumped from Grove Boxcars at airshows over the Reading and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton airports, and during the NAS Willow Grove 25th anniversary celebration.
According to official records, “Aerial Port Flight activities (in 1968) were efficiently and effectively accomplished.”
The flight took top honors at the Fort Benning informal “crew of the month” competition, with a circular error average of 12.0 yards over a total of 40 cargo drops. This was the lowest (CEA) recorded for C-119 aircrews that supported the Army at Fort Benning, and was “considered an outstanding contribution to the successful accomplishment of the mission, reflecting a high degree of crew training and professionalism.” Capt. Harry J. Ulrich, Jr. commanded the flight during that time.
Throughout 1968, the Group flew along the eastern shore of the U.S. from Newfoundland, Canada to Panama, moving 223,400 pounds of cargo for CAC and Military Airlift Command.
On July 14, 1970 Col. Theodore G. Behling, 913th TAG commander, announced that the Air Reserve Facility would remain open and the 913th would continue to train and equip reservists to perform the combat mission of aerial re-supply, including delivering people, equipment and supplies to tactical battlefields. Now, they would fly the C-130 "Hercules" cargo plane.
C-130s come to WGARF
The first C-130A Hercules, #54-1636, was delivered to the 913 TAG on September 29, 1970. 327th pilots Lt. Col. Marlin E. Osman and Lt. Col. Richard K. Copenhaver flew the “Hercules” in to Willow Grove from Ellington Air Force Base, Texas. Other crewmembers were Master Sgt. Harold Haig, Staff Sgt. James Moll, flight engineers, and Master Sgt. Leon Keffer, maintenance technician. It flew with the remaining 119s for the remainder of the year, as the last Flying Boxcars were finally transferred away from the 913th in early 1971.
By May, 1971, six C-130s were assigned to the 913th. Two of these, tail numbers 53-3134 and 53-3135, were built in 1952. The other four, numbers 54-1635, 54-1636, 54-1638 and 54-1639, were built in 1954.
In the early 1970s, the 913th TAG went through more growing pains as it entered transition to the C-130, which required new schooling for maintainers, aircrews, aerial porters, new supply chains for parts, and many other consequences of growth. Inspections from higher headquarters found the Group’s operational readiness declined, as expected with a new aircraft mission; however training and efficiency continued to be a top priority. Readiness was key.
One of the greatest disasters in the United States occurred in Pennsylvania on June 21, 1972, when "Hurricane Agnes" lashed the eastern seaboard with torrential rain, causing flood havoc to Harrisburg, Wilkes Barre, etc., in northeastern Pennsylvania.
The 913th Tactical Airlift Group (AFRES) answered the call immediately. C-130 "Hercules" aircraft and crews worked day and night, delivering food, clothing, equipment and supplies to flood-stricken areas.
Over 30 sorties -- and delivery of over 119 tons of food and cargo -- were flown into Harrisburg, Wilkes-Barre, and Elmira, New York.
The 913th Communications Flight personnel also assisted in repairing radio communications in Wilkes-Barre. The 913th Motor Pool transported food, supplies and equipment to Pottstown, Lock Haven, and Wilkes-Barre. The 913th Civil Engineering Flight worked to repair and reactivate the 92nd Aerial Port Squadron headquarters building at Wyoming Valley, Pa. during their training weekends.
In 1973, flying missions were cut back due the Middle East energy crisis and fuel shortages. However, the unit continued to fly humanitarian airlift missions over areas damaged by natural disaster.
E-Models come to WGARF
By September, 1976, the maintenance squadron was informed that a scheduled conversion from the A-model C-130 to the newer E-model had been advanced from March, 1977 to October, 1976. Within the next month, the new aircraft would come to Willow Grove. Generally, the speculation was that the outstanding reputation of the maintenance organization at the Grove largely accounted for the advancement of the program.
The first C-130E aircraft, # 63-7883, arrived at Willow Grove Aug. 19, 1976. Tech. Sgt. Neil Franklin was assigned as crew chief. A second C-130E, #63-7833, arrived shortly thereafter. Three of the A-model C-130s left Willow Grove in September, and by October, another E-model arrived. By the end of the year, the 913th acquired eight C-130E Hercules aircraft.
The late-1970s were troubling times for the C-130 maintenance and flying communities. During the fall of 1977, C-130s from Willow Grove were found to have cracked wing spars—a problem plaguing many C-130s. Time Compliance Technical Order (TCTO) 1C-130E-561 described the serious problem of cracks spreading through the main wing spars. Flying hours for the 913th TAG dropped by almost half that year while airframes were repaired on- or off-station. The wing crack problem, combined with other maintenance issues led to an average of less than two aircraft fully mission capable, and only 2.5 flyable as winter approached.
Throughout the coming decade, metal fatigue cracks would continue to ail the Grove fleet. However, it is important to note that the nature of tactical airlift inherently stresses aircraft structural components immensely—hence the need for “crack” maintenance an inspection teams. Keeping the cracks at bay is just one contribution the maintenance organization has made toward the 327th’s stellar flight safety record. From 1952 to 2007, the 327th amassed more than 220,000 “accident-free” hours of flying.
Effective 8 Jan 1976, the 913th TAG was reassigned to the 459th Tactical Airlift Wing at Andrews AFB, Md. In Summer, 1977, Maj. James E. Sherrard III assumes duty as Operations and Training Officer (ART) for the 913th TAG.
The sands of Egypt blew under the C-130s during Exercise Bright Star ’82. From Cairo, the 913th flew Joint Task Force intra-theater airlift missions to Somalia and Sudan. With Army, Navy and Marines also in the mix, the Air Force Reserve was the sole provider of intra-theatre airlift. From the Hercules, some 913th TAG personnel saw the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid at Giza.
The 913th also supported exercise Condor CRTE ‘82, a large-scale joint air search and rescue / reconnaissance mission at Selfridge AFB, Michigan. Other exercises included Reforger, Gallant Eagle, Paid Redoubt, Volant Scorpion, Ocean Venture, Maple Flags, Red Flags, Volant Partner, and the Volant Rodeo competitions at Pope AFB, N.C.
In the 1980 Rodeo, the 327th TAS took First Place for the Air Force Reserve, and Second Place overall in the competition. Other aircrews toured in support of Alaskan Air Command and to ferry Special Forces to Europe. Between 1981 and 1982, the Mobile Aerial Port Flight deployed no less than ten times in sixteen months to help other units. Recruiting and retention was up—the 913th remained more than 100 percent manned and won the 14th Air Force Recruiting Award for 1979. The 913th Tactical Clinic earned the first ever outstanding rating for a reserve unit during a Headquarters Air Force health services management inspection. The 913th Weapons Systems Security Flight distinguished themselves as one of the first reserve security units to complete the SP Tactics Course at Camp Bullis, Texas, garnering praise from the instructors for their outstanding professional appearance and attitude. The Civil Engineering Squadron completed a number of successful active-duty tours including base repair projects in Europe and rapid runway repair training at Eglin AFB, Fla. The 913th Combat Support Squadron’s Food Service section gained numerous commendations and a stellar reputation for their cooking and efficiency. They were always in demand to help other units learn how to do it right, including the 114th Army National Guard at Fort Dix, N.J.
The 913th TAG had greatly established itself with a place of honor and esteem across the military community. Letters of appreciation and commendation poured into the mailroom, lauding the professionalism and effectiveness of the 913th reservists in missions around the world. The airlift missions ranged in profile from airlifting the Chief of the Air Force Reserve and his staff to airlifting ROTC and Civil Air Patrol cadets.
For all this and more, Col. Eugene C. Galley, 913th TAG commander, nominated his Group for the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for 1981.
Back home, Grove Herc’s flew from McGuire AFB, N.J. while the Navy runway was resurfaced. All necessary personnel and maintenance equipment had to be trucked in to McGuire. Though the distance proved to be a significant inconvenience, there were no complaints from the crews on the daily bus rides to and from McGuire.
Twenty-Five years at the Grove.
On Sept. 10, 1982, the last C-119 pilot from Willow Grove retired. Major Robert Harris joined the 913th TCG in 1966, and served 16 years through the aircraft transitions. At that time, only three members of the Group remained from the original 512th Troop Carrier Wing when it moved from New Castle in 1958; they were William Smith, James Nugent and James Coccia, all of the aircraft maintenance organization. Mr. Smith and Mr. Nugent observed changes through their Air Force careers from the C-45, C-46, C-47, C-119, C-130A and C-130E. Both of them could recall working on the oldest C-46A, #41-24719. Mr. Smith retired as the last “charter” member in the grade of Chief Master Sergeant, in the position of CAMS Field Maintenance Chief on Sept. 13, 1983.
At the midpoint of the base’s 49-year history, Tech. Sgts. Claude and Clyde Mitchell of the Tactical Clinic studied workplace safety and environmental concerns. They subsequently developed new procedures for occupational health physicals for ARTs and fulltime civilians. Sergeant Claude Mitchell would eventually go on to become Col. Mitchell, commander, 913th Medical Squadron. His coworker, Tech. Sgt. Edward R. Aichele, chief of veterinary services, would go on to become Lt. Col. Aichele, commander, 913th Logistics Readiness Squadron.
Grenada Airlift Support
As the 327th TAS and the 459th TAW performed their duties in Panama, an unexpected mission surfaced. The United States provided assistance to the Grenada government by capturing Cuban arms and ammunition. Specifically, the Air Force Reserve brought the first American evacuees from Grenada to Charleston AFB, S.C. following the hostilities. The 913th TAG provided one C-130 while the 459th provided the aircrew to assist in the airlift operation. Reservists flying with active duty MAC crews brought 622 Americans home to the U.S. As luck would have it, the 913th CAMS was also on duty in Panama during the Grenada operation. Aircraft and personnel remained on alert for some time. The 913th supplied one aircraft, one flight crew and two mission essential ground personnel to support the Grenada operation.
In March, 1987, the 913th CAMS and the 327th TAS received Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards for exceptionally meritorious service from Jan. 1, 1985 to July 31, 1986, and July 15, 1984 to July 14, 1986, respectively. The 327th again received an OUA for the two years immediately following, directly attributable to the flying safety record and their support of Volant Oak.
After Volant Oak, the 913th performed many humanitarian airlift missions.
In 1989, local school teacher, Mrs. Kay Winters, collected over a ton of school supplies including 6,700 children’s books, 20 boxes of crayons and markers, 21 rolls of paper and hundreds of greeting cards. She wanted to send them to school children in the West Indies, and worked with Pa. Representative Peter R. Kostmayer to find a way to send them. In January 1989, the 327th delivered the cargo to the island of Antigua. The mission also included over-water training for the flight crew. Rep. Kostmayer was a driving force behind other humanitarian airlift missions flown by the 913th in the early 1990s.
Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm
Operation Desert Shield began Aug. 9, 1990, in the wake of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The end of 1990 was full of anxiety for the 913th and reserve units across the country. It seemed that almost every week some reserve unit deployed to the Gulf area. The UTAs took on a new sense of seriousness in the anticipation of call-ups.
The 913th CES staged a bivouac at WGARF in August, to refresh the unit on wartime activities.
In preparation for potential deployments, Lt. Col. Clifford B. Lewis and Master Sgt. Verl “Tom” Fenstermacher planned a mobility loading exercise during the 913th CSS annual tour period in May 1990. After studying the loading plans for the aviation package, they concluded it would probably take an extra aircraft beyond the Grove’s inventory to hold the entire load. The exercise would test the ability of the 913th’s eight C-130Es to hold all required mobility supplies and equipment.
The mobility teams tried to load the aviation package, however all materials, supplies, equipment for a 30-day initial deployment, plus the people who would deploy, wouldn’t all fit on the eight assigned C-130s. This discovery was significant for the people drafting mobility plans and war plans relative to the deployment of the 913th. The obvious conclusion was that the deployment of our aviation package would require additional airlift support for AFRES or MAC. The timely dispatch of backup airlift would be crucial to the “combat-ready” status of the 913th TAG.
By the end of 1990, more than 300 members from the 913th TAG were called to active duty to support Operation Desert Shield.
A Bigger Piece of the Action
As the Cold War was winding down, the U.S. military began downsizing in the 1990s, Reserve missions became even more integral to the larger Air Force role. The sharp lines between Tactical and Strategic turned into gray areas, and flying units learned to become ‘jacks’ at more trades. Just like “troop carrier” in 1967, the “tactical airlift” moniker became another misnomer.
As the Air Force was shrinking, the Grove was getting bigger, in a relative sense.
The 913th TAG was redesignated “913th Airlift Group” on Feb. 1, 1992, and the “Air Reserve Facility” became an “Air Reserve Station.” The group was reassigned to the 403rd Airlift Wing, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., June 1, 1992, but just two years later, the 913th Airlift Group became its own Airlift Wing, and moved up the chain of command under 10th Air Force on Oct. 1, 1994.