143rd Airlift Wing History
Published January 28, 2009
The 143d Airlift Wing traces its lineage back to 1915, when a group of Rhode Island residents purchased two Curtis Model "F" Flying Boats, one of which was assigned to the state national guard. From 1942 to 1975 the unit performed several varied missions including photoreconnaissance, air defense, re-supply and special operations. The aircraft assigned included P-47 Thunderbolts, P-51 Mustangs, the SA-16A Albatross, C-47 Skytrain, C-46 Commando, the U-10 Helio Courier, the HU-16 and the C-119G/L Flying Boxcar. Finally coming into its own in 1975, the unit became the 143d Tactical Airlift Group and was assigned the Lockheed C-130A Hercules aircraft.
In 1980 the 143d Tactical Airlift Group moved from T.F. Green airport to its new home at Quonset Air National Guard Base. As global airlifters, Rhode Island "Herks" were found in all parts of the United States, Europe, Africa, South America and the Caribbean. The 143d played a vital role in deployments such as Volant Oak, Volant Pine, Red Flag, Dragon Hammer, Volant Rodeo competitions and humanitarian efforts such as "Operation Toy Lift" which provided toys to the children of Granada on 1986. In 1989, the 143d was selected for conversion to the C-130E Model.
In 1990 unit volunteers provided support during Operation Desert Shield. In September, unit members flew out of Rhine Mein Air Base, Germany to support operational missions in Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The second group of volunteers arrived at RAF Mildehall in January of 1991 and was in the theater of operations when Operation Desert Shield turned into Operation Desert Storm. With the defeat of the Iraqi forces and the end of the Gulf War, members returned home in June 1991 and were released from active duty.
As part of the Air Mobility Command the Wing continues to be called upon to support State, Federal, and UN activities throughout the world. Volunteers from the 143d have participated in many United Nations relief missions during the last 10 years; Somalia in 1992, Operation Provide Promise in 1993 flying daylight air-land missions into Sarajevo along with night airdrops over remote areas of Bosnia-Herzegovina. In 1998 the Air Force formed the Expeditionary Air Force (EAF); smaller sized war fighting "packages" able to rapidly respond to regional conflicts. The Wing has participated in five AEF cycles, supporting Operation Joint Forge in the Balkans, Southern Watch in Southwest Asia and Coronet Oak in South America. On that infamous day of September 11th, the 143rd responded to the call again, deploying unit members to Ground Zero, to US bases for homeland security and implemented 24-hour operations here at Quonset.
A program of base infrastructure modernization and construction began in 2001 with the acquisition of adjacent land bringing Quonset to 103.6 acres. An eight-year, $65 million base modernization and construction program included the installation of new fiber-optic, communication and electrical power infrastructure to support future base wide construction; the completion of a new Life Support Building; the complete reconstruction of the Motor Pool roof; construction of a new Aircraft Maintenance and Hangar facility to accommodate the conversion to the C-130J-30.
In December 2001, the 143d received its first C-130J-30. The Wing became the first in the Air Force to receive the "stretch" version of the "J" model. As the most modern tactical airlifter in the world, the C-130J-30 can carry more cargo or personnel farther, faster, and more economically than the C-130E proving its increased airlift capability. The fleet for the 143d was completed with the arrival of the eighth J-model at Quonset on 15 June 2007.
The location of Quonset being the eastern most C-130 base has provided the 143rd AW with a unique opportunity to become a "bridge" between Europe and the Continental United States in support of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom. We are ideally located to fully support all C-130's both departing for and returning from their overseas missions.
Since September 11th the 143rd AW has supported the Global War on Terror by not only becoming a bridge to and from the theater but by also providing airlift in support of the war effort. The 143rd AW provided the 1st ever C-130J Aircraft in a combat role by the U.S. Air Force in December 2004 and continued to support the war effort with both the C-130E and C-130J until retiring the C-130E in 2005. The 143rd AW also provided and continues to provide the much needed troop support within Southwest Asia and many other areas of the world.
The Airlift Wing continues a long and distinguished heritage embodying the total scope of the Air Force Core Values; Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do.