Only a year after the Air Force itself was born, the 109th was established in 1948 as a fighter unit. Through six different types of aircraft, the leadership of 10 outstanding commanders, and ever-changing missions, the men and women of the 109th have succeeded in deploying statewide, worldwide and from North Pole to South Pole.
The first Lockheed C-130 Hercules turbo-prop transport arrived at Schenectady in the spring of 1971. Its ability to land and take off in unimproved areas has proven invaluable under battle conditions in the evacuation of wounded and in the delivery of troops, supplies and weapons. In peacetime, the function of the aircraft includes evacuation of earthquake and flood victims as well as food and medical airlift or airdrops to troubled areas throughout the world.
In 1975, the 109th was entrusted with the first and only active mission in the Air National Guard: Supply of the Distant Early Warning (DEW Line) radar sites in Greenland on the polar ice cap. We assumed the mission from the Air Force’s Alaskan Command receiving their eleven C-130s, five of which had those strange looking skis with which we are now so familiar. In October 1984, our C-130D aircraft were replaced by eight new C-130 H models, of which four were LC-130's (ski equipped). The last flight to radar site DYE 3 in December 1989 marked the end of the DEW Line mission. Operational science support missions and training still continue to this day on the Greenland ice cap.
Our first mission to Antarctica was in January 1988 in support of the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Navy's VXE-6 unit. The 109th continued to augment the Navy's Antarctic flying operations for the next eight years. Early in 1996, it was announced that the 109th Airlift Wing was assigned the Antarctic mission, thus beginning a three-year transition process. On February 20, 1998, responsibility for airlift support to the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) was passed over to 109 AW from VXE-6, during a ceremony in Christchurch, NZ. The 109 AW now provides open field airlift support to the National Science Foundation scientific research mission in both the Arctic and Antarctic. The 109th is now the only LC-130 ski unit in the world.
The Wing’s high operational tempo increased dramatically with the surprise attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The 109th provided immediate support deploying 49 Civil Engineers, Services and Public Affairs personnel to Ground Zero within the first 24 hours. Since that time, the men and women of the 109th AW have continued to voluntarily deploy in support of military operations in Southwest Asia and around the world.