MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
Doing something different this month, a chronological historic synopsis about Congaree/McEntire from my viewpoint, I call it a Special Edition, and it’s long!
Our April Luncheon brought us 57 participants to our luncheon table. Our featured speaker was the 169th Logistical Readiness Squadron commander, former 245th Air Traffic Control Squadron commander, Lt. Col. Craig Hummel. He enlightened us about the new manpower mandates and more. Most of us didn’t fully understand the impact of all this, mainly because we have never been a squadron commander or the new mandates seemed a bit strange and different to us. Nevertheless, McEntire will survive due to its reputation and survivability over the past 73 years, which has prompted my next viewpoint.
McEntire History: For the past couple of years we have been honoring all the folks on our Monument, which now reaches the number of 330 persons. However, we still have another 36 names that haven’t made the Monument, 23 that passed away on us last year and another 13 that was missed. I believe the Chief’s Council is working on the remaining 36 folks to be engraved on the Monument.
“Why I love and Respect Congaree/McEntire”, a “Special Edition”. I joined the South Carolina Air National Guard mainly by accident back in 1978. I was in the Navy and discharged in 1965 to go to Coastal Carolina, which at that time was a two-year feeder school for the University of South Carolina. So I had to come to Columbia to finish my degree, which I finally did in 1972. Prior to that, I took some time off from school, got married, had a son and adopted two daughters. The son was attending Mill Creek Elementary School and we had an arrangement with Jim Bowie’s wife, Marion, who was a Teacher’s Assistant at Mill Creek to take him and some other children to their home around the corner from the school and the parents would come by and pick them up after work daily. One day, Jim Bowie approached me and asked me if I would be interested in joining the Air Guard. I believe I hemmed and hawed a bit stating I was too old, etc. The next thing I knew SCANG Recruiter Dewey Daniels knocked on my door, and it was a whirlwind adventure, taking tests and getting checked out medically. I did fairly well on all the tests, even qualified to be a wrench turner as Dewey put it, but I knew I was weak mechanically. So I ended up being interviewed by CMSgt Thomas Blessinger, and he hired me as a radio operator in the 240th Combat Communications Squadron. I really wanted to apply for Air Traffic Control, but could not afford the time it would take, school wise and training wise. I was then working at the Department of Mental Health in an administrative capacity. Well, here I am 41 years later still being involved with the McEntire experience. I did retire in 1996 at that time for two reasons, after Desert Storm, the manning documents were changing, spiraling downward, plus I was 54 and did my stint with Desert Storm, and was tired of subsequent ORI’s, so I and many others retired about that timeframe. After my retiring Chief Jim Hatchell, Sr. would put on Monday Night drill events either at the old Canteen, Pecan Palace, or new Dining Hall, about every quarter, my wife and I would attend some of them. Again, by accident, after one of the meetings the Chief looked at Jean and I and said ‘take over’ about the turn of this century. Shortly after that, the trio of Generals Hood, Tuten, and McLean came up with the idea of having monthly breakfasts starting out at Lizards Thicket on Beltline Boulevard. From there, the monthly breakfast moved on to Fort Jackson NCO Club and I tail-ended by taking over the meetings and the Retiree’s Corner, and as you know still doing it. I have, by osmosis over my 41 years, learned and watched how Congaree/McEntire has evolved from hardscrabble times to an efficient first-rate well thought of Fighter Squadron that all of us who have been associated with can be proud of. This didn’t happen by accident, but by good leadership and stewardship over the 72+ years.
From Infancy and the ’40s: How was the South Carolina Air National Guard formed? First of all during WWII, over 2200 hundred acres were acquired from 21 different landowners to make an airfield in the heart of Lower Richland, and finally, the U.S Army Air Corps built some runways and a few buildings on the property. Toward the end of WWII, the land was leased to the Navy Department and the Marine Corps came in with, I believe, some Corsairs (F4U) for training purposes. After the war, Congaree Air Base was shuttered, just like many other training bases all over the south. Adjutant General James C. Dozier had been eying Congaree Air Base and forming an Air Guard for some time, so his first hire was Maj. Robert H. Morrell, and shortly afterward, Lt. Col. Barnie B. McEntire, Jr. to head up the newly formed South Carolina Air National Guard. They, in turn, recruited a number of people, all with WWII experience to become the nucleus of the SCANG. So one eventful night on December 9, 1946, 50 men met first muster, 14 officers and 36 enlisted men. At that time it was called the Congaree Army Air Base manned by 44 full-time mechanics and administrative personnel. However, the field was an eyesore and a fire hazard. Finally, there were some tractors and mowers purchased to make the base cosmetically look better and safer. The unit was growing by leaps and bounds in 1948 with over 300 personnel assigned. Yet Air Force property value was less than two million dollars at the end of fiscal year 1949. Maj. Morrell brought a dear friend in, Capt. William Riddle, to help run the show as the commander of the 157th Fighter Squadron. One has to give credit to the many early timers, they had to do not only their assigned jobs but anything else that needed to be done, security, firefighting, grass cutting, odd jobs, etc.
The Korean Conflict, Active Duty, Air Defense, and the Cold War: With the event of the Korean War in 1950, the folks in the Air Guard stationed at Congaree Air Base were called to active duty officially Oct. 10, 1950, and all four units of the Air Guard were ordered to be re-assigned to Lawson Air Force Base Georgia, which was co-located with Fort Benning. All Guard members were now assigned to the 14th Air Force which was headquartered at Robins AFB. The 157th Fighter Squadron became the 157th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, later became part of the 117th Tactical Recon Wing with other Air Guardsmen from Alabama and Ohio. In addition to these changes the 110th Aircraft, Control and Warning Squadron was formed to augment NATO, however, it was disbanded in 1953, with many of its personnel being absorbed into the 157th Fighter Squadron. The members assigned to Lawson Air Field stayed on active duty for about 21 months. In the meantime, the base at Congaree was shuttered except for a skeleton crew. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the forming of the 240th Mobile Communications and the 240th Flight Facilities Flight effective April 18, 1952. Also, another unit was formed May 18, 1953, the Forecasting-Observing Flight, and was deactivated December 31, 1957. After active duty, in which some of the pilots went from the P-51s, RF-51s to the F-80 jets, back to F-51s. Later in the mid-’50s, the base went to all jets, the F-80s and to more of an Air Defense Mission. Then the F-86s became part of the base’s inventory. Another interesting fact is most of the initial members were WWII prior service people, but any new members coming in during the early ’50s did basic training at the base. I believe it wasn’t until 1955 that new recruits were sent to Lackland AFB for basic training, then on to a technical school. During this decade, the top leadership remained with Col. McEntire, Lt. Col. Morrell, Maj. Riddle and a new guy Capt. Sam Finklea. Some of the notable ranking enlisted folks running their shops and sections were Francis Christmas, James Hare, Brosig Harmon, John Mills, Clemence Turbeville, Will Wright Jr., Dennie Dillard, Ferrell Horton, Bill Horton, Joe Leech, Bill Russ, John Motley Sr., Pete Palmer, Buford Madden, Roy Wiedemann, John Aiken and Edwin Jones.
The ‘60s, Berlin Crisis Call-Up, Air Defense and the Cold War: One of the most notable events that happened was the death of Brig. Gen. Barnie McEntire on May 25, 1961, over Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, steering his flamed out F-104 Starfighter away from the population and industrial zones into the Susquehanna River instead. For this and other reasons, Governor Fritz Hollings, Senators Strom Thurmond and Olin Johnston made a formal dedication re-naming Congaree Air Base to McEntire Air National Guard Base effective November 10, 1961. Adjutant General Frank Pinckney appointed Col. Bob Morrell as the new Chief of Staff and he remained the Chief of Staff until his mandatory retirement in 1976. Also in 1961, the call to active duty for 747 Guardsmen for the Berlin Crisis Call-Up. The maintenance guys disassembled the F-104s and loaded them up in C-124s and flew them to Moron, Spain. About half the unit served at Moron, Spain, other members were assigned all over Europe, mainly France and Germany. The leadership consisted of Lt. Col. Bob Corbett for this call-up as well as Lt. Col. Orville Fetterly, Majors Bob Johnson, Homer Keisler, Don White assigned to Headquarters. Lt. Col. Jack Moak, Capt. Stan Hood, the CAMS Squadron, and ranking enlisted Charles Huffstetler, Ford T. Cox, and the others named during the Korean Call-Up. Majors Bernie Daetwyler, Bob Merck, and Grady Patterson Jr. for the 157th Fighter Squadron. Majors Robert McCook and Capt. Dan Fraley with the 169th Air Base Squadron. Maj. George Fort with the 169th USAF Dispensary, along with Charles Buford Madden. Lt. Col. Eddie Elkin, who by the way was the only pilot to fly combat missions in WWII and Korea. Also, Captains Willie C. Rish and James H. Tuten, along with Chief Master Sgt. Bill Gwinn and Senior Master Sgt. Tom Joyner with the 169th Material Squadron. The Medical Unit had two women nurses assigned to them. However, the first woman was 1Lt. Jean Clark in 1958. Later, after the release from active duty in 1962, the SCANG opened up its recruiting to both women and African Americans, which has proven to be an integral part of the modern future leadership roles, they have been a boon to the growing roles of SCANG members. The SCANG went about its business the rest of the ’60s with different training for all units including the tenant units throughout this decade. Air defense was still the 169th's main mission throughout the ’60s. In the meantime, the Vietnam War showed up and later in the ’60s, there were no recruiting problems for the SCANG. Many members came in to avoid being drafted and going to Vietnam. Many didn’t really want to be there but they had to do something. For many the Guard and Reserves were the way to go, this also increased discipline problems that lasted for a decade. By the time I came in, most of those folks were being phased out and from that time on it was an all-volunteer force.
The ‘70s, a new mission, and more Cold War: If left up to the Defense Department, we would have been flying helicopters on air rescue missions. Fortunately, with some back door maneuvering, Senator Strom Thurmond used his Senatorial powers and provided McEntire with a new plane and mission, the A7D Corsair II, originally a Navy plane. So the mission changed from Air Defense to a more tactical nature, and during that era, a Total Force concept was adopted. Actually, it was Silver Anniversary time for the SCANG. Once the A7 was in place the 169th went to different parts of the world for training missions, Hawaii, England, Norway, and Panama. Changes in leadership became necessary with Col. Bob Johnson taking over the helm as group commander, Col. Grady Patterson Jr. was named Assistant Adjutant General and Col. Bob Corbett as Deputy Chief of Staff. Some of the ranking enlisted folks who retired in the ‘70s and who helped guide McEntire to excellence during those years, to name a few were; Buck Buchanan, who was transferred to the Army National Guard, Darryl Maples, Otto Harper, Leonard Beckham, Hugh Harbort, Rob Honeycutt, the last of the original 50, George Reeves, and Bill Threat. There were many training deployments for all units during this timeframe.
The ‘80s, a totally new plane, and more Cold War: Through McEntire’s leadership and quality reputation, good things happened. We were the first Guard unit to be assigned the fairly new F-16 Viper/Falcon in 1983, a historic moment. The 240th Combat Communications Squadron became part of the Rapid Deployment Force and we went to some ‘garden spots’ in the world, our motto was ‘on the road again’! Leadership was headed up by Wes Davis, Stewart Teer and Bob Smart. Our ranking enlisted leaders during this timeframe were Tom Blessinger, Jim Connelly, Paul Bell, Ron Gregory, Dick Myers, Gary Dugger on the Comm side. On the Air Traffic Control side was Mark Morrell, John Rush, John Rockholz, Joe Woodard, Billy Wannamaker, Don Eleazer, Leon Crosby, Bud Maxwell, and Kenny Wicker. The 169th folks who led the Group and different Squadrons were Bob Johnson, Stan Hood, Frank Rogers, Ralph Bradford, Tom McLean, Joe Khare, Phil Latham, Ed Fisher, George Inabinet, Dugan Foster, Randy Frick, Mason Brooks, James McFarland, and Randy Collins. Some of the ranking enlisted guys who retired during the ’80s from supervisory roles were; Don Corley, James Hare, Bob Giacobbi, Bill Huffstetler, Harold Simmons, Franklin Drafts, Roy Caldwell, John Ruff, George Wagstaff, James Haack, Algie Hare, James Lindsay, Jimmy Young, Ed Boozer, Roy Young, Howard Clay, Frank Dunn, Sam Chapman, Jack Coward, Jack Dempsey, John Frick, Jim Hatchell Sr., Sheldon Mincey, and Jimmy Joye. Many of these guys all served from the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, and 70’s coming up through the ranks. They knew, did, and experienced a lot! Everyone adapted to the F-16 well and it raised the adaptability of the Group to a much higher level and standard for being a fighting force
The ‘90s, Desert Storm, and the Middle East Deployments: The world was in a shock by the overtaking of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein in August 1990. Militarily, different units were starting to be called-up on a contingency basis, including us at McEntire. Personally, I got the call from Chief Piucci around Thanksgiving time to get ready. I took a leave of absence from work after making arrangements for my departure and a replacement for me. For the other 726 members, I am sure the same thing was being done in their case. I went out to McEntire for several weeks and helped the technicians load up, get the pallets ready, etc. The units involved were the 169th Resource Management Squadron, 169th Services Flight, 169th Tactical Fighter Group, 169th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 169th Mission Support Squadron, 169th Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 169th Security Police Flight, and the 240th Combat Communications Squadron.
The Services Flight was the first to go, the 240th next, then bits and pieces of the 169th Group started to come in. All units were in place by early January at the forlorn bare-base at Al Kharj, Saudi Arabia. The Security Police were waylaid to another base in Saudi Arabia, Jeddah. We all started to come trickling home in March 1991. Some, including me, didn’t come home until June 22, 1991. There were not many of us left at the base there, it felt sort of funny most of the tents were torn down, looked like a ghost town, and the food was horrible, thank goodness for Baskin Robbins and ramen at the PX. Found out that was a good way to lose weight, plus I did a lot of walking exercise and played golf at our “country club golf course”. By the way, I set the course record of 22 for nine holes there, plus had 4 1/2 snake kills on the course. It was the first time McEntire was called-up on a war footing. Our pilots flew over 1700 missions, both combat and CAP missions. CAMS had the highest mission capable rate in the entire theatre at 90 percent, which turned some head honcho heads about the McEntire Group! We had a visit from General Norman Swartzkoff right after the New Year in the 240th Ops Tent, I remember him saying, “folks I know you are Guard, and we will try to get you home as soon as possible”, what happened we were the last ones out? Oh well, I got a short term ribbon for that (over 180 days). Beats the 21 months the Korean Call-Up did. The folks who led the Desert Storm for the 169th Group was Lt. Col. John Marshall, others noted were Bob Gray, Scott Cain, Dick Noble, George Patrick, Jet Jernigan. When things calmed down, during my day shift watch, I would sneak out and watch our pilots come back in to the Entry Control Point and see who they were, since I wasn’t privy to who did the morning missions, for some reason saw Dick Noble a lot. Other leaders by unit were Ed Fisher, Cliff Hendrix, and Charlie Savage, the CAMS group leaders, Glenn Addison for the Services Flight, Charles Wesley led the Security Police and Stewart Teer, Mark Huneycutt, Joe Williams, Jim Hartley, and Gene Brislin were the 240th leaders. Some of the ranking enlisted guys were Richard Penix, I believe he was either the head guy or one of them at the POL facility at the base, remember the bladders? For the service flight, Leonard Belk, James Burgess, Nat Cooper and Doris Luellen. For the Tactical Fighter Group, I recall seeing John Motley Jr, Jim Chumley and Danny Sightler stalking around, doing their job. For CAMS, many, section supervisors, probably too many to mention, but I’ll try. They were Jim Bowie, Flight Line Leader, Dane Brown, Leo Chapman, Jerry Couch, Jerry Foster, Tom Halcum, Bob Hutto, Joe Kopak, Tom Marshall, Larry Crowson, and John Wrenn. I know I missed a bunch of supervisors. For the 169th Security Flight, Phil Fleming, Jimmie James, and Freddie Lorick. For the 240th ranking enlisted, Paul Bell, Gary Dugger, Ron Gregory, Mark Morrell, Richard Piucci, Bill Easterlin, Roy McMickell, and Tim Treaster. Much credit must be given to the folks who stayed home, they supported us ferociously. Speaking for the 240th, if we needed something we would either call Doug Horton or he would call us to see what was needed, he would get it to us as fast as possible. I am sure the 169th had the same arrangement.
After Desert Storm, as usual after a war, the Defense Department decided to downsize the military around the middle of the ’90s, so many of us who were of the retirement age were asked to leave at the end of our term. Personally, I was ready, went through several ORIs after Desert Storm and was getting a little older and tired. Well lo and behold, Saddam Hussein wasn’t through playing games with the world, so the 169th had to go back to the Middle East, Qatar in 1997 for Operation Southern Watch. This was another bare-base operation initially. Here are some of the 1990s retirees who were instrumental in leading components of SCANG, they are in order of retirement: Harold Guerry, Whitey Hewitt, Jack Hollis, Harry Lockman, Bill Maddox, Hanes McEntire, Bobby Petty, Gerald Stoudemayer, Hugh “Square” Turner, James “Willie” Williams, Comer Collins, Inez Benjamin, Bobby Berry, Bill Cliett, Jim Connelly, Grady McIver, Deleon Wallace, John Cloyd, Doug Lovette Sr., Jim Berry, Dola Cordoni, Joe Lowder, Allen Pate, Trezevant Timmons, Fred Deshong, Hubert Paul, Chuck Barlow, Charlie Blount, Gene Clark, Phil Kozlik, Bob Landrum, Charles Plunkett, Willie Williams, Mel Harp, Johnny James, Tazewell King, Ricky Mantai, David Massey, Moses Moultrie, Wayne Burdett, Joe Camp Jr., Sam Ezzell, Larry Huggins, Sue Joyner, Jerry Risher, Robert Spires, Tom Christmas, Billy Cobb, Richard Felder, John Harsey, Richard Naumann, Melton Shealy, Mike Stroble. Everyone that served had a contribution to make the system work, you pay your dues, be a team player, and lead accordingly!
The 21st Century, War on Terror, Multiple Deployments, etc.: Unfortunately, I am now working on memory, SCANG News articles, and my son’s deployments, there are no Anniversary Books to assist me with the written word and facts. Fortunately, I have been working on primarily the ‘hierarchy of McEntire’s leadership’ and how the different leaders managed through the changing and evolving times, such as; pending base closures, pending replacement aircraft, the Active Associate program and all along provided deployment packages through this time period, still ongoing. Assistant Adjutants General, Chiefs of Staff, Wing Commanders, Squadron Commanders to name some who have retired during this era; Larry Windham, Phil Gee, Jet Jernigan, Fred Monk, Charles Savage, Claude Eichelberger, Dick Noble, Thorne Ambrose, Nelson McLeod, Scott Cain, Vince Hood, Jim Hartley, Janet Noble, Jim Hiott, Tim Rush, Chuck Wesley, Deane Pennington, Grady Patterson III, Sandy Gibson, Les Carroll, Gene Brislin, Cal Elam, Michael Manning, Boris Armstrong, Mark Hall, Jim Chow, Lorinda Keck, Terrance Hedley, Lee Meares, Thad Myers, Michael Hudson, Richard Noble Jr., John Wilcox, Rita Whitmire, Keith Miller, Chip Blount, Bryan Wright, Russell Rushe, Michael Metzler, Bob Smart, Bullet Bellinger, Cal Hodges, Gerald Harmon, Leroy Williams, Keith Coln, Scott Williams, and Scott Bridgers. Present leaders are currently Scott Lambe, Boris Armstrong, Jim Roth, Abu Gandhi, Michael Dunkin, Robert Tarrant, Michael Rose, Michael Ferrario, John Wilcox, Robert Gainous, Joseph Stewart, Tom Dotson, Richard Smith, Craig Hummel, Paul Laymon, Thomas Rivers, Robert Cole, Adrian Meyer, Chris Gamble, David Bell, Grady Patterson, IV, and Jason Mascetta. Many of the above names and folks have come to our Monthly Luncheons as our featured speakers, and speaking for many Retirees we are impressed with what we hear from them, they are all eloquent, and knowledgeable about their professions and roles. They all seem to have the same theme and what is best for the longevity of McEntire and that is what impresses me about both the past and present leadership, so this is why “I love and respect McEntire”!
Just to list some of the larger deployment packages during the 21st Century: Northern Watch (Turkey) where many units were deployed, the 169th, the 240th, and the 245th; Prince Sultan AB, Saudi Arabia, part of Southern Watch; Qatar I, Operation Enduring Freedom; Qatar II, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraq, part of Operation Iraqi Freedom; Afghanistan, part of Operation Enduring Freedom; Korea; and a few to Southwest Asia. There have been many other deployments by different units, or sections of deployed member such as the civil engineers, fire department, Security Forces, the 240th and 245th. Now it is sometimes down to individual members who deploy to help augment the active duty forces all over the world. There may be currently 50-100 members who are deployed, so it is almost mind-boggling to manage this and keep a viable force existing.
Some of the senior ranking enlisted folks who retired and who have provided leadership roles during this Century and the past are: Pat Miller, Bud Rose, Dane Brown, Dan Simmons, RG Turner, Jud Pardue, Tinamarie Pastore, Jim Morris, Mac McCabe, Danny Sightler, Julian Tanner, Mary Jones, Jerry Foster, Richard Piucci, Howard Pees, Bob Hutto, Marty Gladden, Tom Muller, Sherman Goodwin, Preston Cook, Joe Gilbert, Bob Morrell, Gary Dugger, Dave Irving, Ed Sutton, Jim Hatchell Jr., Tommy Temple, William Mustard, Becky Daniels Wallace Reese, Jimmie Luke, Warren Connor, Ernie Sowers, Phil Fleming, Richard Gilbert Jr., Don McManus, Malcolm Rast Jr., Leonard Belk, Paul Banner Jr., Joe Jefferson, Carland Allen, Steve Corley, John Rockholz, Tom Bryant, Robert Mays, John Rush, Dennis Massey, Rodger Thomas, Don Smyth, Terry Austin, Keith Williams, Charlie Dickson, Billy Daniels, Phillip Whack, Byron Shealy, Howard Favor, Matthew McClam, Frank Fields, Tanda Fleming, David Roach, Jack Tedder, Randy Coleman, Terry Wingard, Ron Joye, John Tjaarda, Pete Prioleau, Don Freeman, Floyd Taylor, Terri Lever, Larry Amick, Ron Bryant, Aubry Carde, Tim Treaster, Zane Wall, David Joos, Emily Jones, Mae Jones, Mike Hale, Cliff Weir, Mark Morrell, Russell Oswald, Deborah Marshall, Linda Coleman, Debrah Smith, Joe Brunson, Robert Davis, Larry Crowson, Martin Philpott, John Wrenn Jr., Donna Gore, Scott Robinson, Ralph Guyton, Dennis Burton, Clyde Boyer, Lester Worthy, Robert Hux Jr., Dean Widener, Lee Shepherd Jr., Tom Witchek, Dan Shelley, Kathie Iorga, Carl Christie, Dan Goldie, Gary Jackson, Tommy Nash, Mark Drafts, Tommy Claytor and Ellie Huestess. Please don’t be upset or disappointed if you do not see your name in this “Special Edition”, we all have our own personal McEntire History, combined we help make Congaree/McEntire what it is. I simply went down the Retirees List and selected those that I either know or knew of. Honestly I don’t know all retirees and what all you did. I would like to, so come to our Monthly Luncheons so we can get to know each other! Our next Luncheon is on May 7th at our usual place, the NCO Club at Fort Jackson, beginning at 1200.
We are getting up there in the number of Retirees we have, I am estimating we now have close to 1500, including some ‘missing links’ that still remain out there. Also, we are closing in on our 75th Anniversary come December 9, 2021. I have been recommending some kind of function, and/or a 75th Anniversary Book for historical purposes. We have a wide gap between our 40th Anniversary Book and other than some eccentric like me that tries to keep up with it, our history may go away, hence this “Special Edition”. Six years ago, the Chief’s Council made me an honorary Chief, for this Special Edition I am signing off as a Chief!
Commentary by Robert “Bob” W. Barkalow, Jr, CMSgt (retired)