History of the 182nd Airlift Wing

The 182nd Airlift Wing’s mission is to provide the president of the United States, the governor of the state of Illinois and the adjutant general of Illinois Airmen capable of providing C-130 airland and airdrop; joint terminal attack control and support; command, control and communications; logistics; civil engineering; security; and support services for the nation, state of Illinois, and domestic community.

The Illinois Air National Guard defends and assists our communities, state and nation, providing combat-ready capability to perform core missions of defense support to civil authorities, air and space superiority, rapid global mobility, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and command and control.

What is now the 169th Airlift Squadron originated during World War II as the 304th Fighter Squadron, which was activated on July 23, 1942. The 304th was assigned to the 337th Fighter Group at the Pinellas County Airport, Florida, and served as an operational training unit equipped with the P-39 Airacobra and the P-40 Warhawk. The 304th was disbanded May 1, 1944, and reconstituted May 24, 1946, redesignated the 169th Fighter Squadron and allocated to the Illinois National Guard.

The 169th Fighter Squadron held its first drill in December 1946 under the command of Lt. Col. Ralph Pickering, and it received federal recognition on June 21, 1947. The unit consisted of 40 officers and 215 Airmen by the end of its first year. The original base consisted of a shale runway and a single hangar for eight F-51 Mustang fighters, four AT- 6 Texan trainers and a B-26 Marauder tow target plane. The first annual training was held at Chicago Municipal Airport, now known as Chicago Midway International Airport, with flying done at Douglas Field, now known as O'Hare International Airport. In 1952, the 169th Fighter Squadron was redesignated the 169th Fighter Interceptor Squadron and then the 169th Fighter Bomber Squadron.

A large construction project had expanded the base facilities by 1953, and in 1954 the 169th obtained the copyright for the Indian Chief, the cartoon character from Walt Disney’s feature film “Peter Pan”, to display as their emblem. The squadron received its first F-84F Thunderstreak in 1958.

The unit flew the first ever Air National Guard air- to-air refueling mission in 1961. The 169th received its first federal activation in 1961 in response to the Berlin Crisis. The 182nd Tactical Fighter Group was formed a year later and assumed control of the redesignated 169th Tactical Fighter Squadron. The 182nd was redesignated the 182nd Tactical Air Support Group in May 1969.

The unit received its first O-2A Skymaster aircraft in January 1970. In 1975, the governor activated members of the 182nd to state active duty to provide domestic operations assistance to Canton, Illinois, when an F3 tornado destroyed 37.5 square miles of the city, necessitating the declaration of a federal disaster area. The tornado killed three citizens, injured more than 69 and caused $25 million in damage. The 182nd was awarded its first Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for excellence in fiscal years 1977 through 1978, and the group converted to the OA-37 Dragonfly in 1979.

The 182nd received an "Excellent" rating on its first Operational Readiness Inspection under the 12th Air Force. In 1987, construction began on the new base facilities, which were formally dedicated in December 1990.

One hundred thirty-eight Airmen were called to active duty for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in January 1991, and in July 1992 the unit converted to the F-16 Fighting Falcon and was redesignated the 182nd Fighter Group. Airmen served on state active duty in response to the Mississippi River flooding of Southern Illinois in June 1993. The National Guard established the State Partnership Program in 1993, through which the 182nd established a relationship with Illinois’ partner country, the Republic of Poland. This eventually led to the successful establishment of the Polish Air Force’s first C-130 flying squadron. Due to government budget constraints and military restructuring projects, the 182nd converted to the C-130E Hercules and was redesignated the 182nd Airlift Wing effective Oct. 1, 1995. The wing began participation in ongoing flying missions for Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia in 1996. Peoria’s Airmen celebrated the unit’s 50th anniversary in 1997, during which time it also received an "Excellent" in its first Air Mobility Command Operational Readiness Inspection.

Members of the wing were called up to support the Air Force at various locations around the world after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and wing aircraft flew combat supply missions into Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom during a September 2002 deployment with 405th Air Expeditionary Group, Southwest Asia. Immediately following mobilization in March 2003, six aircraft and more than 350 personnel were deployed to Minhad, United Arab Emirates, for Operation Iraqi Freedom. These Airmen returned in August after providing airlift support throughout the theater. On March 29, 2003, Staff Sgt. Jacob Frazier of the 169th Air Support Operations Squadron was killed in action while serving with Army Special Forces in Afghanistan. He was the first member of the wing to die in combat. Since the initial mobilization, smaller numbers of wing personnel and aircraft have continually supported Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. On Dec. 28, 2003, a wing crew delivered earthquake relief supplies to Iran, becoming the first U.S. aircraft to land there since 1981. The wing was the lead unit for eight Air National Guard C-130 units participating in operations in the CENTCOM AOR from 2003 to 2005. In January 2005, the wing began converting from the C-130E to the newer H3 model. The wing received a rating of "Excellent" after serving as the lead wing during an Air Mobility Command Operational Readiness Inspection in Gulfport MS during October 2006. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held April 5, 2008, for a new 37,700 square foot composite training facility for the 169th and 168th Air Support Operations Squadrons and 182nd Air Support Operations Group, marking the completion from moving from the old base to the new.  In June 2008, more than 200 wing members were called to state active duty to support the flood relief efforts in Quincy and Alton, Illinois.

The unit celebrated the opening of a new Operations Group building Sept. 8, 2012.  Air Mobility Command conducted a consolidated unit inspection during February 2013, for which the wing received an overall rating of “Outstanding”. The first “Outstanding” Air Mobility Command had given in 17 years. On November 17th, 2013, ten base firefighters were dispatched in three vehicles to help with urban search and rescue immediately following the F5 tornado which struck Washington, Illinois.. State and U.S. Congressmen attended the ribbon cutting for the 169th Air Support Operations Squadron’s Air National Guard Advanced Joint Terminal Attack Controller Training System Oct. 5, 2015. The training simulator, which was conceived and developed by Peoria Airmen, was estimated to save the government $95 million through fiscal year 2018 by reducing the cost of qualification training by 48 percent, according to an Air Force analysis. The simulator was quickly adopted by the Air National Guard and then the Air Force.

In 2017, the wing deployed four C-130H3 aircraft with associated maintenance and aircrew in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, primarily flying missions supporting U.S. and Iraqi forces in Iraq. During the deployment, the wing achieved the most fully mission capable C-130 hours since June 2013 while flying the most hours since October 2012 for the deployed location.

The 182nd Airlift Wing continuously maintains some of the best mission capabilities rates, including the highest C-130 Hercules mission capability rate in the Air National Guard for fiscal years 2007 and 2009 through 2019, as well as highest in Air Mobility Command for fiscal years 2010 through 2019. Additionally, the unit’s Tactical Air Control Party specialists have controlled more than 2,000 combat sorties, greatly reducing the enemy’s war making capability. Since 9/11, the unit has flown more than 38,620 hours, with 18,395 of them in support of Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and Freedom’s Sentinel. 

Some personnel remain deployed to combat zones while other members of the wing continue routine worldwide support to the Air Force.

Air and Space
Outstanding Unit Awards

Wing Commanders

Aircraft Assigned

Feb. 21, 1979
Dec. 19, 1986
Nov. 14, 2006
June 15, 2009
April 1, 2011
Jan. 25, 2013
June 26, 2015
July 25, 2017
Oct. 9, 2019
Oct. 12, 2021

Lt. Col. Ralph M. Pickering

Maj. Arthur F. Szold

Maj. Harold C. Norman

Maj. Harold E. Haskett

Maj. Arthur J. Schertz

Col. Harold C. Norman

Col. George H. Mason

Col. Harold C. Norman

Col. George H. Mason

Col. Roland E. Ballow

Col. Kenneth D. Peterson

Col. Frank D. Rezac

Col. Alan L. Paige

Col. Barry W. Beard

Col. William P. Robertson

Col. Daniel R. McDonough
Col. Rusty L. Ballard

1946 – 1947

1947 – 1951

1951 – 1956

1956 – 1959

1959 – 1962

1962 – 1975

1975 – 1975

1975 – 1976

1976 – 1977

1977 – 1983

1983 – 1989

1989 – 1993

1993 – 1998

1998 – 2004

2004 – 2017

2017 – 2022
2022 – Present

AT-11 Kansan

F-51D/H Mustang

T-6G Texan

A/B-26C Invader

F-80C Shooting Star

T-28A Trojan

VC/C-47 Gooney Bird

T-33A Thunderbird

F-84F Thunderstreak

T-29A/C Flying Classroom

U-3A/B Blue Canoe

O-2A/B Skymaster

C-131E USA Samaritan

OA-37B Dragonfly

C-26A Merlin

F-16A/B Fighting Falcon

C-130E Hercules

C-130H3 Hercules

1947 – 1947

1947 – 1956

1947 – 1956

1947 – 1952

1958 – 1958

1956 – 1958

1949 – 1972

1955 – 1969

1958 – 1969

1972 – 1975

1969 – 1970

1970 – 1979

1975 – 1989

1979 – 1992

1989 – 1995

1992 – 1995

1995 – 2005

2005 – Present


(Current as of March 2023)