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History of the South Carolina Air National Guard

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, the first commander of the SCANG and its first general officer. McEntire died in 1961 when he rode his malfunctioning F-104 into the Susquehanna River to avoid crashing in densely-populated Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. 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 National Guard. About 300 federal employees serve as full-time technicians at McEntire JNGB and drill with their respective Air National Guard units. More than 100 Active Guard Reserve personnel are integrated throughout the full-time forces of the base and nearly 50 state employees work at McEntire JNGB (some of whom also are members of the Air National Guard). About 90 active-duty Airmen round out the SCANG’s Total Force wing, as McEntire JNGB is home to 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 the installation.

The primary unit of the SCANG is the 169th Fighter Wing. It is comprised of the 169th Operations Group, which include the 157th Fighter Squadron, 245th Air Traffic Control Squadron and the 316th Fighter Squadron (Active Association), the 169th Maintenance Group, the 169th Mission Support Group and the 169th Medical Group. The 245ATCS provides for the base’s air traffic control services and possesses the ability to perform this service at other fixed bases and remote sites.

The mission of the 169FW 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 jet with the ability to fly up to twice the speed of sound. It is capable of performing air-to-air and air-to-ground tactical missions. The 169FW 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 U.S. 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.

Over the past seven 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 STORM/SHIELD, flying 2,000 combat missions and dropping four million pounds of munitions, while maintaining the highest aircraft mission capable rate in the theater.

In 2002, aircraft and personnel from the 169FW 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 Manas Air Base, Kyrgystan for six months in support of the Global War on Terrorism. The 245ATCS deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

In 2003, nearly 400 Airmen from the 169FW and all its F-16s were mobilized and deployed to Southwest Asia as part of what became Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. The 169FW was attached to the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, stationed in Qatar. The deployed contingent 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 169FW deployed for Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, (Qatar, 1996), Operation NORTHERN WATCH (Turkey, 2000) and again for SOUTHERN WATCH (Saudi Arabia, 2001). This made the 169FW the first Air National 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 JNGB. 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 JNGB 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 169FW.

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 (AEF) 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 JNGB also hosted the state’s first-ever Air Ground Expo for the community. Plus, the 169FW represented the U.S. and the Air Force’s Central Command in the 2009 Falcon Air Meet in Jordan, where it was declared the overall winner of the three-nation F-16 competition. This was the first time an Air National Guard unit was selected to participate in the event.

In 2010, thanks to the wing’s groundbreaking Active Associate program, the 169th FW became the first Air National 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 FREEDON, during which the 169FW 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 Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (fitting, as the 169FW had been there for day one of the operation in 2003).

The 169FW continued its reputation of exceptional performance with an “Excellent” grade during a Unit Compliance Inspection (UCI), conducted by the Air Combat Command’s Inspector General in February 2011. The 169th Medical Group followed with an “Excellent” rating during their Health Services Inspection in March 2011.

In May 2011, the 169FW accepted the Aerospace Control Alert mission from nearby Shaw AFB. As the 169FW maintains 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.

In August 2012, the 169FW wrapped up an historic four-month deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. The Swamp Foxes added to their rich legacy as the U.S. Air Force’s premier fighter wing by flying 2,194 combat sorties for 9,192.8 combat hours and never missed an air tasking order (ATO), thus concluding the AEF deployment with a 100 percent completion rate. The deployed unit completed 1,465 joint tactical air requests, 410 troops-in-contact and 500 priority taskings, 246 “shows of force,” dropped 207, 500lb GBU bombs and expended 7,303 rounds of 20mm munitions.

Since August 2012, the men and women of the SCANG and the 169FW continued building on their Swamp Fox reputation with the following achievements. In September 2012, the SCANG’s Aerospace Control Alert unit “aced” their ACA mission evaluation from 1st Air Force. They followed-up this performance by passing a “No-Notice” North American Aerospace Defense Fighter Alert Force Evaluation in December. ACA, Command Post, Intelligence, Maintenance and Operations personnel all played a role in receiving “Mission Ready” in all inspection areas.

SCANG history was made in January 2013 with the promotion of Brig. Gen. Calvin Elam as the units’ first black general officer.

January 2013 also kicked-off an aggressive readiness exercise schedule as the 169FW prepared for a Certified Readiness Evaluation in September. This first-of-its-kind evaluation benchmarked the execution of future Air Force-wide inspections.

Receiving high honors in February 2013, the 245th Air Traffic Control Squadron was named the 2012 Airfield Operations Flight Complex of the year. In 2013, various elements of the 169FW deployed throughout the world. Included were an elite team of 169th Security Forces personnel and their six-month deployment with the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia. The 169th Civil Engineer Squadron deployed to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and participated in a Silver Flag exercise.

In March 2014, the 169FW deployed more than 300 Airmen and 12 F-16s to Southwest Asia – this time to Jordan – as part of a month-long AFCENT Theater Support Package. While deployed the SCANG flew 740 flight hours and accumulated more than 670 sorties with a mission capable rate of 87 percent, the highest in the AOR and missing zero sorties. In August 2014, the SCANG again sent six F-16s and 100 people overseas; this time to Rionegro, Colombia to conduct bilateral training during Relampago 2014 with our State Partnership Program nation. During the two-week exercise, the SCANG F-16s flew alongside with the Colombian Air Force Kfir fighter jets.

In 2015, the SCANG honed its warfighting skills by training with the active duty to integrate the existing F-16s based at McEntire JNGB with F-35s from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The unit participated in exercises such as RED FLAG, COMBAT SHIELD, Quick Draw and Long Rifle. Throughout the entire year, the wing supported operations around the globe with its Agile Combat Support packages by deploying more than 300 Airmen of varying specialties.

Also in mid-2015, the 169FW sent more than 100 Airmen and a contingent of F-16CJ fighter jets to Łask Air Base, Poland to train with the Polish Air Force’s 32nd Tactical Air Wing and the 52nd Fighter Wing Wings 480th Fighter Squadron from Spangdahlem, Germany. This month-long, bi-lateral training, called Aviation Detachment Rotation 15-3, paired Swamp Fox and 480th FS pilots, maintainers and support personnel with its Polish counterparts.

The SCANG also provided support to civil authorities during the statewide historic flooding in October 2015 as well as disaster response and recovery efforts for Hurricane Mathew in October 2016. The Air Operations Branch coordinated efforts to local emergency management agencies which included air support for life-saving search and rescue capability, damage assessments and resupply efforts.

In July 2017, the 169FW supported an overseas deployment to Osan AB, South Korea, providing Theater Security Package support with 12 F-16CJ fighter jets and approximately 300 additional Airmen while deploying approximately 30 Air Traffic Control personnel to Iraq in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE. During this same time period, the SCANG also sent two F-16s and held a Key Leader Engagement with its State Partner, the Republic of Colombia’s Air Force during the F-AIR air show in Rionegro, Colombia. The 169CES participated in a Deployment for Training (DFT) in New Mexico working alongside US Navy SEABEEs in constructing homes for veterans on an Indian reservation. In October 2017, the 169FW was called on again to support after another natural disaster. McEntire JNGB deployed 30 members of the 245ATCS to Puerto Rico to support disaster relief efforts after Hurricane Maria. McEntire JNGB also served as a hub of South Carolina Army National Guard Soldiers and equipment heading to Puerto Rico.

In 2018, the 169FW deployed again to Southwest Asia, filling an Air Expeditionary Force rotation. During the four-month deployment to Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait, the wing flew sorties against ISIS during Operation INHERENT RESOLVE. During September 2018, Hurricane Florence hit the coast and caused extensive flooding (again). The SCANG deployed Airmen to the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, Florence, Horry and Beaufort counties to support the Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) mission in direct support of state emergency response and recover efforts. These Airmen included security forces, to work with local law enforcement, and public affairs specialists.

During 2019, the 169FW participated in two multi-national flying exercises. The first in June to Sweden as the wing flew with partner air forces during the U.S. Air Forces Africa/Europe hosted Arctic Challenge Exercise (ACE 2019). Just a couple weeks later in July, the wing sent four F-16s to the Republic of Colombia to support Air Forces Southern and U.S. Southern Command during F-AIR 2019 and an additional two weeks of flying with the Colombian Air Force’s Kfirs fighter jets. The 169SFS deployed defenders to Afghanistan and 169CES deployed members to both Southwest Asia and Africa as part of the Agile Combat Support taskings.

In July 2020, the 169FW began installing APG-83 SABR (Scalable Agile Beam Radar) and the first flight of an APG-83 in a SCANG aircraft occurred on 31 July. All upgrades were completed by September. The APG-83 is an Advanced Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) which provides substantial capability enhancements over the original, factory installed 1980s era, APG-68 mechanically scanned radars. Coupled with other display and avionics upgrades the AESA provides greatly enhanced autonomous, all-environment stand-off precision targeting. It provides greater target detection and tracking, and combat identification capabilities.

Also in 2020 and 2021, in support of its state mission McEntire JNGB and the 169FW played a critical role in South Carolina’s COVID-19 response by providing medical personnel and logistics support. The SCANG’s State Air Surgeon was a key advisor to the Governor and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. Numerous expert Airmen from the 169th Medical Group were mobilized and deployed into “hot zones” to augment local authorities’ response to the pandemic.

In April 2021 Approximately 300 Airmen and a contingent of F-16CJ Fighting Falcon fighter jets from the 169FW deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base (PSAB), Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. During the next several months, the SCANG will support U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) by preserving operational depth, staging joint forces and projecting overwhelming combat power in the region. This is the SCANG’s largest deployment since the summer of 2018 when they supported an Air Expeditionary Force rotation to Kuwait. While deployed to PSAB, the 169FW will be attached to the 378th Air Expeditionary Wing. This deployment is defensive in nature with the intent to increase defensive capabilities against potential threats in the region.

The SCANG continues to set the standard for excellence and combat capability in both our federal and state missions. Whether rescuing flood victims, coordinating for air support, suppressing and destroying enemy air defense, deploying our Swamp Fox Airmen around the globe, engaging with our state partner Colombia, or scrambling to meet an airborne threat, the Airmen of South Carolina's National Guard continue to lead the way...always first! Semper Primus!

(Current as of May 2021)