Jets assigned to the 157th Fighter Squadron, South Carolina Air National Guard prepares for takeoff during a Phase II Operational Readiness Evaluation (ORE). The Phase II ORE evaluates a unit?s ability to launch missions while in a chemical warfare environment. The 169th is home of the Swamp Foxes of the South Carolina Air National Guard. (USAF Photo by MSgt Marvin R. Preston)
Formed in 1946, the South Carolina Air National Guard consists today of more than 1,500 Airmen who work and drill at McEntire Joint National Guard Base. The 2,400-acre base is located about 12 miles east of Columbia.
The base was named for the late Brigadier General Barnie B. McEntire, Jr., the first commander of the SCANG and its first general officer. McEntire died in 1961 when he rode his malfunctioning F-104 into the Susquehannah River to avoid crashing in densely-populated Harrisburg, PA. The base previously was known as Congaree Air Base and was used in World War II as a U.S. Marine Corps training base.
About 900 of those assigned to the SCANG are traditional Guard members who leave their full-time roles as civilian employees and students to train part-time with the Air Guard. About 300 federal employees serve as full-time technicians at McEntire and drill with their respective Air Guard units. Close to 50 state employees also work at McEntire (some of whom also are members of the Air Guard). About 150 active duty Airmen round out the SCANG's Total Force wing, as McEntire is home to the the largest Active Association program in the nation's Combat Air Forces. More than 1,000 Army National Guard personnel also work and drill at McEntire.
The primary unit of the SCANG is the 169th Fighter Wing. It is comprised of the 169th Operations Group (and the 157th Fighter Squadron), the 169th Maintenance Group, the 169th Mission Support Group and the 169th Medical Group.
The mission of the 169 FW is to maintain wartime readiness and the ability to mobilize and deploy expeditiously to carry out tactical air missions or combat support activities in the event of a war or military emergency. More specifically, the wing specializes in the Suppression and Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses. The SCANG operates as part of the Total Force of the U.S. military and is fully integrated with the active duty Air Force to perform its military mission.
The wing flies the F-16 Fighting Falcon, a single-seat, multi-purpose fighter with the ability to fly at up to twice the speed of sound. It is capable of performing air-to-air and air-to-ground tactical missions. The 169th flew the F-16A from 1983 to 1994 and, in 1994, transitioned to the F-16C/Block 52 (the newest, most advanced F-16 in the Air Force).
The SCANG's state mission is to respond to the call of the governor in the event of natural disaster or domestic disturbance.
The 245th Air Traffic Control Squadron also is located at McEntire. In addition to providing the base's ATC services, the squadron possesses the ability to perform ATC at other fixed air bases and remote sites.
Over the past six decades, the SCANG has been called to active military service for numerous historic contingencies. In 1950, SCANG Airmen were called to serve during the Korean War at various installations in the United States and abroad. In late 1961, the SCANG was called to active duty during the Berlin Crisis, and the 169th Tactical Fighter Group was stationed at Moron, Spain. In late 1990, units of the SCANG were activated and deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield/Storm, flying 2,000 combat missions and dropping 4 million pounds of munitions, while maintaining the highest aircraft mission capable rate in the theater.
In 2002, aircraft and personnel from the 169th deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and participated directly in combat operations. Also that year, 50 SCANG Airmen, then assigned to the 240th Combat Communications Squadron, deployed to Central Asia for six months in support of the Global War on Terrorism, and the 245th ATCS deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
In 2003, nearly 400 Airmen from the 169th and all its F-16s were mobilized and deployed to Southwest Asia as part of what became Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 169th was attached to the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, stationed in Qatar, and flew more than 400 combat missions (performing the Suppression and Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses mission and flying numerous precision bombing missions over Iraq).
Over the years, the 169th also deployed for Operation Southern Watch (Qatar, 1996), Operation Northern Watch (Turkey, 2000) and again for Southern Watch (Saudi Arabia, 2001). This made the 169th the first Air Guard unit to deploy alongside active-duty Air Force units to comprise an Air Expeditionary Force.
In 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission announced an historic expansion at McEntire. Five more F-16s would arrive at the base in 2006 and five more the following year. Then, in 2007, Regular Air Force personnel began arriving at McEntire as the base prepared to host and operate the largest Active Association unit in the nation's Combat Air Forces, bringing about 150 active duty personnel on board to work, train and deploy with the 169th.
Since then, the many components of the SCANG have continued to support the Global War on Terrorism and have lent their muscle to Total Force operations and Air Expeditionary Force deployments all over the world. Airmen from the 169th Civil Engineer Squadron deployed to Southwest Asia, Airmen from the 169th Security Forces and 169th Force Support Squadron to Kyrgyzstan and the list goes on.
Meanwhile, the Swamp Fox team has maintained a rigorous pace of operations on the home front. In addition to highly rated performances in recent Phase I and Phase II Operational Readiness Inspections and achieving record outstanding scores on Standardization and Evaluation and Logistics Compliance Assessment Program inspections, McEntire also hosted the state's first-ever Air Ground Expo for the community. Plus, the 169th represented the U.S. and the Air Force's Central Command in 2009's Falcon Air Meet, where it was declared the overall winner of the three-nation F-16 competition. This was the first time an Air Guard unit was selected to participate in the event.
In 2010, thanks to the wing's groundbreaking Active Associate program, the 169th became the first Air Guard unit to support an AEF mission for a full 120 days. While simultaneously deploying Airmen for Operation Enduring Freedom, the wing deployed more than 300 Airmen in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, during which the 169th flew more than 800 combat air patrol missions over Iraq. The unprecedented deployment also allowed the Swamp Fox team to escort the last Army combat forces out of Iraq on the last day of Iraqi Freedom (fitting, as the 169th had been there for day one of the operation in 2003).
In 2011, in the midst of major construction, improvements and expansions across the base, the Air Sovereignty Alert mission migrates from nearby Shaw AFB to McEntire. As the 169th assumes responsibility for this vital continental air defense mission, the men and women of the SCANG remain poised and ready to support their nation and the state of South Carolina at home and abroad in the years to come.