The 128th Air Refueling Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, has had a long and illustrious record of service to the State of Wisconsin and the United States of America. From natural disasters to service in the Korean War, Desert Storm, Restore Hope and Deny Flight, the men and women of the 128th Air Refueling Wing have responded to changing world events and tasking requirements with dignity, honor and courage.
The Wisconsin Air National Guard was established in 1947. The first units were the 128 Fighter Group; 126 Utility Flight, Weather Station; 128 Aircraft Control & Warning Squadron; and Detachment A, 228 Service Group, all located at Mitchell Field, Milwaukee.
In September of 1949 the unit received the F-80 jet fighter aircraft.
1950 In November of 1950 the 128th Fighter Interceptor Wing was formed, replacing the 126th Fighter Squadron.
During the 1950's the unit continued to receive updated and more modern jet aircraft including the F-86 and F-89 jet fighters.
In January 1951 the 128th was activated and called to active duty for 21 months to serve in the Korean War.
In August 1961 the 128th Fighter Wing was redesignated to a Refueling Group, and in March 1962 the unit received the Refueling Tanker aircraft, the KC-97.
The 128th was the first Air National Guard tanker unit to become fully operational. This occurred in December 1963 when combat ready status was achieved.
The 128th Air Refueling Group participated in a historic operation in a foreign land for a sustained period of time without a call up. The 128th, along with four other Air National Guard refueling units, stationed a contingent of its KC-97's at Rheinmain Air Force Base, West Germany. It was designated Operation "Creek Party" and was destined to last for 10 years. This operation began on 2 June 1967, when 24 Wisconsin Air Guard members departed for Germany.
On 1 July 1976, the 128th Air Refueling Group was assigned to the Strategic Air Command. Along with this came plans to receive the KC-135S; a newer and faster jet tanker. On 4 October 1976, the 128th completed its first mission under the Strategic Air Command. After a year and a half of preparation, the conversion to KC-135S had begun.
The first functional KC-135 arrived at Mitchell Field on 2 December 1977.
In January 1979 the unit began the 24 hour per day Strategic Air Command (SAC) alert commitment. This commitment would be maintained for the next 12 years until President George Bush ended the SAC Alert Force in 1991.
The decade of the 80's found the 128th involved in many training exercises as well as "real World" flying missions. In 1982 the unit converted to a newer version model aircraft -- the KC135E.
In April 1983 the 128th Air Refueling Group was involved in the first Pacific Tanker Task Force, with flights to Guam, Korea and Australia.
Spring of 1984 brought a very large "first" for the 128th Air Refueling Group. The unit participated in Coronet Giant, an exercise which entailed a direct flight from the United States to West Germany by 12, A-10 Thunderbolt II attack fighters, refueled along the way by three KC-135's from the 128th. The route spanned 3600 miles, and was the largest mission of this type ever undertaken by a guard force.
A deployment to Wake Island was accomplished between 25 March and 3 April 1986 by aircraft and 130 personnel. A total of eight air refueling sorties were flown from Wake Island, with 458,000 pounds of fuel being off-loaded.
Early Spring of 1987 saw another significant accomplishment by the 128th. On 21 March one of our unit aircraft departed Fargo, North Dakota, with 40 civilian VIP's on board. The destination: Templehof Airport, West Berlin, Germany. This was the first ever sanctioned Air National Guard civilian flight outside the Continental United States, and was also the first KC-135 authorized into West Berlin.
A chain of events which had a spectacular effect upon the day-to-day operations of the 128th began in August 1990. On 2 August 1990 Saddam Hussein's Iraq invaded and occupied tiny, oil-rich Kuwait. On 7 August unit aircraft and volunteer personnel deployed to a forward operating base in support of Desert Shield; the defense of Saudi Arabia. As time passed the crisis went unresolved and in fact became more acute: Desert Storm. On 20 December 1990 the 128th received orders for a partial activation. All aircraft, aircrews and a number of support personnel were dispatched to the newest forward operating base at Cairo, Egypt on 27-29 December 1990. They became the basis for the 1706th Air Refueling Wing (Provisional). Other unit personnel were mobilized for use as stateside "backfill" (replacing troops sent forward) or sent to overseas destinations.
Conversion from KC-135E to KC-135R model aircraft began on 3 July 1991 when the 128th transferred aircraft to the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. The first permanently assigned KC-135R, arrived on 7 August 1991. The 128th ARG was the first Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve unit in the country to receive the "R" model tanker. The "E" model era came to an end on 9 February 1992.
Three aircraft and 47 volunteer guardmembers departed for Spain on 28 December 1992, in support of Operation Restore Hope. Our tankers became part of the Moron Tanker Task Force, based out of Moron Air Base, Spain. Over 16 million pounds of fuel were unloaded during the mission. The purpose of this humanitarian mission was to restore order and provide food and medical supplies needed to stop suffering in Somalia.
The 128th Air Refueling Group proved once again how capable the unit is at quickly deploying anywhere in the world. On 5 November 1993, four KC-135R's, along with 172 guardmembers deployed to Yokota Air Base, Japan. The deployment was designed to train American and Japanese Air Self Defense Forces for the defense of the Northern Japanese Islands, in the event of an attack by another country.
During a 24 February 1994 trip to the Azores the unit completed its very first "roller mission." The steel rollers are placed on the floor of the aircraft making it very easy to load and unload cargo. This gave the aircraft a dual mission; refueling and cargo transport. This was a flight of firsts, not only did the 128th Air Refueling Group have its very first roller mission, but our aircraft refueled a B-2 Stealth Bomber and a C-17, the newest Air Force Cargo hauler.
On 16 October 1995 the 128th Air Refueling Group was redesignated as a Wing due to the Air National Guard Realignment Programming Plan. The gaining command of the 128th Air Refueling Wing was Air Mobility Command.
The 128 ARW joined an elite group of Air National Guard units in April 1996, when the KC-135 simulator became operational. The simulator allows the 128th flight crews to be trained more safely and at a lower cost than the KC-135 aircraft. During the month of July 1996 over 400 members of the 128th deployed to Pisa Air Base, Italy for Operation Decisive Endeavor. Over 5500 personnel from 13 NATO countries joined the 128th as part of IFOR (Implementation Force) air component. Unit members had the opportunity to perform their job during deployment rotations from 1 July - 3 August 1996. This deployment gave the 128th the opportunity to work with other tankers units from Mississippi and Nebraska, along with the Italian Air Force.
Soon after the summer flooding of 1997, portions of Southeastern Wisconsin were declared a federal disaster area by President Clinton. This opened the door for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to step in. Five unit members volunteered for the state activation in order to help process claims and checks to people whose lives were upended following the disastrous flash floods in the Milwaukee area.
In January 1998, the 128th Air Refueling Wing was recognized as "The Best in the Business." The 128 ARW was awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the period 15 April 1995 through 14 April 1997. This was the fifth time the unit has won this prestigious award. The previous awards were 5 June 1967 through 10 May 1968; 11 May 1968 through 31 December 1976; 1 July 1988 through 31 June 1990 and 1 September 1992 through 31 August 1994.
On 30 April 1999, the 128 ARW was tasked for a Presidential Reserve Call Up due to the crisis in Kosovo. President William Clinton authorized the call up of 33,000 reserve personnel for up to 270 days. The 128 ARW and the 117 ARW (Alabama Air National Guard) deployed together to Europe to support Operation Allied Force.
During 2002 the 128 ARW continued to fully support air refueling missions around the world. The 128 ARW participated in NATO AWACS missions out of Geilenkirchen AB, Germany and Moron AB, Spain, as well as Iceland Tanker Task Force missions out of Keflavik NAS, Iceland. Along with supporting missions overseas, the 128 ARW also managed to accomplish it's mission at home and also participated in several air shows throughout the year.
Following the terrorist's attacks on the U.S., the 128 ARW was tasked to provide aerial refueling support for the countless fighter combat air patrols performed over major U.S. cities. Dubbed Operation Noble Eagle (ONE), the 128 ARW flew their first ONE mission on 12 September 2001. From Sep to Dec 2001, the 128ARW flew 64 sorties in 333.6 hours. A total of 100,956.6 pounds of fuel was off-loaded to 156 aircraft in support of ONE. The highest sortie production occurred in November when fighter combat air patrols occurred every four hours over most of the major U.S. cities. In addition to supporting ONE, the 128 ARW also provided support for Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), deploying aircraft and personnel to Spain to support combat air operations from late Sep 01 until the spring of 2002.
Throughout 2002, most of the personnel assigned to the 128 Security Forces Squadron (SFS) were mobilized since 11 September 2001 in support of Operation Noble Eagle and Operation Enduring Freedom. Members were deployed to Bagram AB, Afghanistan, Guantanemo Bay, Cuba, Southwest Asia, and several Continental U.S. locations. In addition, three 128 SFS personnel deployed on numerous classified Raven missions throughout the entire year of 2002. No other unit assigned to the 128 ARW was tasked as much as the 128 SFS. The Wing also actively supported the Global War on Terrorism with aircraft, aircrew and support personnel both in CONUS and OCONUS.
While the 128 ARW continued to support Operation's Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom during 2003, in March the unit also began major support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 128 ARW deployed to several different theaters of operation ranging from total bare base conditions to fully operational bases. The deployed unit members worked under various commanders, as well as commands, providing top-notch refueling support of combat air operations in Iraq.
The 128 ARW, along with the 126 Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) were tasked to perform at a very high OPSTEMPO during 2004, deploying eight aircraft and 204 personnel to Istres AB, France in support of Operation Joint Forge (OJF). In addition, six unit members from the 128 Civil Engineering Squadron (CES) transportation unit deployed to Iraq to provide convoy security along with two members of the 128 Security Forces Squadron (SFS) who provided training for Iraqi police officers and the Iraqi Army. The 128 ARW also had several 126 Weather Flight members deployed in various places throughout the globe, including: South America, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Qatar.
In March 2005, the 128 ARW gained a new Wing Commander, Colonel Donald P. Dunbar. During 2005, the 128 ARW was very active in supporting Operation Noble Eagle (ONE), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Pacific Tanker Task Force (PTTF) in Guam, Iceland Tanker Task Force (ITTF), and Hurricane Katrina Relief efforts. Additionally, the 128th supported an Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) at Incirlik AB, Turkey sending the 128 ARW Wing Commander, Colonel Donald P. Dunbar, to command the entire operation.
Throughout 2006 the 128 ARW continued to support Operation Noble Eagle (ONE), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). In addition, the 128th ARW deployed two aircraft and 30 unit members to Geilenkirchen AB, Germany in support of NATO and three aircraft and 96 unit members to Eielson AFB, Alaska in support of COPE THUNDER. The 128 ARW deployed 13 SFS members to Qatar in support of OEF, 33 CES unit members to Kirkuk, Iraq in support of OIF and 37 unit members who volunteered in support of Jump Start, a program to patrol of the border between Mexico and the United States.
Throughout 2007 the 128 ARW continued to support Operation Noble Eagle (ONE), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). In addition, the 128 ARW deployed four aircraft and 189 personnel to Incirlik AB, Turkey in support of Air Expeditionary Force (AEF). The 128th CES deployed 24 unit members to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in support of OEF. The 128 continued to support Operation Jump Start, NATO in Geilenkirchen AB, Germany, and several Business Efforts.
Throughout 2008 the 128 ARW continued to support Operation Noble Eagle (ONE), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). In addition, the 128 ARW deployed two unit members from the 126th Weather Flight to Columbia in support of Southcomm, CES deployed three unit members to Kuwait and 13 unit members to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in support of OEF. We also had members deployed to Balad, Iraq (OIF), Geilenkirchen AB, Germany (NATO), and Manas AB, Kyrgystan (OEF).
Throughout 2009 the 128 ARW continued to support Operation Noble Eagle (ONE), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). In addition, the 128 ARW deployed 31 members of the Security Forces Squadron (SFS) to Afghanistan in support of OIF. The 128 ARW CES deployed six unit members to Kuwait in support of OEF. We also had members deployed to Balad, Iraq (OIF), AL Dhafhra, United Arab Emirates (OEF), Misawa, Japan, Guam, Kyrgystan and many CONUS locations.
Throughout 2010 the 128 ARW continued to support Operation Noble Eagle (ONE), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). In addition, the 128 ARW deployed three members from the 126th Weather Flight to Kosovo in support of Joint Forge, 24 unit members from the 128 Medical Group (MDG) to Nicaragua in support of Southcomm, and 17 unit members from the Security Forces Squadron (SFS) in support of OEF. We also had several unit members deployed to Qatar, Iraq, Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates, and Haiti, along with many other CONUS locations.
The 128 ARW continues to successfully support many on-going operations abroad, along with continuing to accomplish its mission at home. With hopes high for true lasting peace throughout the world, but with the understanding that they would be called upon again, members of the 128th train for another conflict they hope will never come. It is truly a great day to be an airman and even a greater day to be a member of the 128th Air Refueling Wing.
With hopes high for true lasting peace throughout the world, but with the understanding that they would be called upon again, members of the 128th train for another conflict they hope will never come. It is truly a great day to be a airman and even a greater day to be a member of the 128th Air Refueling Wing.