History of the Maryland Air National Guard

The Maryland Air National Guard traces its origins to June 29, 1921, when the 104th Observation Squadron received federal recognition. The 104th was the first post-war National Guard flying unit to be equipped with its own aircraft, 13 Curtiss JN-4 Jennies.

The unit operated out of Baltimore's Logan Field and initially served as division aviation for the 29th Infantry Division. In addition to Jennies, the 104th flew a variety of other aircraft during the interwar period, almost all of them two-seat biplanes.

The 104th's World War II service began on Feb. 3, 1941, when it was mobilized along with the rest of the Maryland Guard. During the war, the 104th flew antisubmarine patrols out of Atlantic City, N.J., as part of the 59th Observation Group using O-46 and O-47 aircraft.

In late 1942, the 104th was inactivated and its personnel transferred to the new 517th Bombardment Squadron, which soon moved to Langley Field, Va. There the unit, which was later redesignated the 12th Antisubmarine Squadron, flew B-18B Bolo, and later B-24 Liberator and B-25 Mitchell bombers against German U-boats in the Atlantic.

The unit was moved to California and redesignated the 859th Bombardment Squadron in September 1943. By this time most of the original National Guard members had been transferred elsewhere as individual replacements, although a handful were still serving with the unit when it entered combat in Europe in May 1944.

The 104th returned to Maryland when the 104th Fighter Squadron was reactivated in 1946 at Harbor Field in Baltimore, equipped with P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft, later replaced by F-51 Mustangs. From 1955 to 1958, the unit was organized as a fighter-interceptor squadron and charged with defending the Baltimore-Washington area against possible Soviet bomber attack. The unit soon converted to the F-86 Sabrejet, and in 1957 relocated to the Glenn L. Martin Company Airport, whose longer runway was necessary to support jet operations.

Maryland gained a second flying unit - and its first group-level headquarters - in 1955, when the 135th Air Resupply Group was organized at Harbor Field. The 135th was one of only a handful of Air Force special operations units in existence at the time. Equipped with Curtiss C-46 Commando transports and SA-16 Albatross seaplanes, its mission was the covert infiltration, resupply, and extraction of special forces. Following the closure of Harbor Field in 1960, the unit also relocated to the Martin Company Airport.

A second group headquarters was added in 1962, when the 175th Tactical Fighter Group was established that October. The 104th Tactical Fighter Squadron, which had heretofore operated as an independent squadron, became part of the new group. 

The Spring of 1968 brought considerable activity, with both the 135th and 175th being called out to help quell rioting in Baltimore following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and elements of the 175th being federalized and deployed to Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., in response to the Pueblo Crisis in Korea. While mobilized, the unit trained Air Force pilots to serve as forward air controllers. The 175th returned home and demobilized that December.

The 135th endured multiple changes in designation, mission and aircraft during the 1970s, switching first from special operations to a tactical air support role, where it flew forward air control missions aboard O-2A Super Skymasters. Then in 1977, the unit converted to a tactical airlift mission, flying the C-7A Caribou. In 1980, the unit converted to the C-130 Hercules aircraft, which it has flown ever since.

The 175th, which had flown the A-37 Dragonfly since turning in its F-86s in 1970, received brand new A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft from the factory in Hagerstown, Md., beginning in 1979. The unit continues to fly the famed tank killer to this day.

The military facilities at Martin State Airport were formally renamed in honor of Maj. Gen. Edwin Warfield III, former adjutant general of Maryland, in 1982, and the base has since been known as Warfield Air National Guard Base. The civilian portion of the field had been purchased by the state and renamed Martin State Airport in 1975.

Despite the end of the Cold War, the Maryland Air National Guard remained active in operations around the world through the remainder of the century. During the build-up to the 1991 Persian Gulf War, a number of unit personnel were mobilized to fill support roles. The same year, the 175th won Gunsmoke, the U.S. Air Force Worldwide Gunnery Competition, earning recognition as the best fighter unit in the Air Force.

The 135th participated in humanitarian relief efforts in Somalia, peacekeeping and humanitarian relief in Bosnia, the U.S. intervention in Haiti and the enforcement of U.N. sanctions against Iraq during the 1990s. A-10s from the 175th were likewise kept busy patrolling the skies over Bosnia and enforcing the "no-fly" zone over southern Iraq, where it was called upon to fly retaliatory strikes against Iraqi targets.

On June 15, 1996, the units of the 135th and 175th merged to form the 175th Wing. The 175th Wing, which carries on the lineage and honors of the 175th Fighter Group, is a composite organization with an Air Combat Command-gained fighter unit, an Air Mobility Command-gained airlift unit, a U.S. Air Forces in Europe-gained civil engineer flight, and, since 2006, a network warfare squadron.

The wing has been deeply involved in fielding the latest Air Force aircraft. In 1999, it dedicated its first C-130J, the latest and most advanced version of the venerable transport. The 135th had played a major role in the test and evaluation of the aircraft and its procedures and was the first fully equipped C-130J unit in the U.S. Air Force. The wing was also selected to be the Air Force's lead unit in converting to the new "precision engagement" A-10C. Wing personnel were deeply involved in the test and evaluation process and in September 2007, the 104th Fighter Squadron became the first unit to take the A-10C into combat, when it deployed to Al Asad Air Base, Iraq.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, members of the 175th Wing have repeatedly volunteered or been mobilized to take part in the Global War on Terrorism. From January to June 2003, the 104th Fighter Squadron was deployed to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, where it flew strikes against Taliban and al Qaeda forces and earned the distinction of being the longest-deployed Air National Guard fighter squadron at Bagram. Elements of the 135th Airlift Group remained almost continuously deployed in support of the War on Terror from December 2004 until January 2007, flying airlift missions throughout the combat theater as part of the 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. In addition, the 135th maintained a continuous presence of two aircraft and personnel in Afghanistan from April to September 2008.

The Maryland Air National Guard has also remained fully engaged at home. When Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, the 175th Wing was among the first to respond, flying 42 relief missions and deploying nearly 200 troops to support recovery and relief efforts in Louisiana and Mississippi. From 2006 to 2008, numerous wing members deployed to the U.S.-Mexican border as part of Operation Jump Start, the National Guard mission supporting the U.S. Border Patrol.

Maryland Air National Guard marked its 90th year of operation in 2011. The year saw big changes for the unit with the transition from C-130J Hercules to the new C-27J Spartan Joint Cargo Aircraft that will allow the unit to continue airlift transport capabilities around the world. The unit saw the completion of the $7.9 million 12 bay fire station, now centrally located on base to handle any aircraft emergencies. Joint HQ office provided support to more than 200 full-time members that were mobilized in 2011. The 175th Wing performed humanitarian and domestic operations as seen in the responses to the earthquake in Haiti and Hurricane Irene. Three lifesaving humanitarian airlift missions for 28 patients were performed as part of Joint Task Force Haiti. During Hurricane Irene, the wing established a receiving, staging and shipping warehouse operation to support various government agencies in distributing 195 pallets of water and food to Maryland locations throughout the state. The wing conducted operations in Cyprus, Afghanistan, Iraq, Africa, Kyrgyzstan, Germany, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Haiti, Estonia, Cuba and Puerto Rico.