From the beginning of military aviation....
The "Flying Yankees" of the 103rd Airlift Wing will celebrate their 90th anniversary this year with a lineage that dates back to the earliest years of military aviation. The wing's geographically separated unit the 103rd Air Control Squadron, known as "Yankee Watch," is one of the oldest units of its kind in the Air National Guard.
...in the infancy of air warfare...
After fighting to free France in World War I, the parent of today's Flying Yankees spent a brief time in Rhode Island before standing up at Hartford's new Brainard Field in 1923. The 118th Observation Squadron was formed as the 43rd Aero Squadron's first component with the unit's first aircraft, the Curtis JN-4 "Jenny" arriving on June 13, 1924.
...to its proof as a force...
The nation called again in 1940, sending the Flying Yankees to perform long-range anti-submarine patrols and convert to a fighter/bomber mission with the P-40 and legendary P-51 Mustangs. As 1943 closed they were committed to the China-India-Burma Theater of Operations as the 118th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. Incorporated into Gen. Claire Chennault's Flying Tigers, they flew daily fighter and ground support missions against the Imperial Japanese infantry and cavalry forces with resounding success. The 118th Black Lighting Squadron achieved "Ace" status in just over six months of combat with 14 enemy aircraft destroyed in the air and four on the ground.
...fighting into the cold war and modern aviation age...
In September 1946, the 103rd Aircraft Control and Warning (AC&W) Squadron was founded at Hartford's Brainard Field and by 1951 the unit was activated to establish an AC&W squadron in Iceland. As Korea erupted into war, the Flying Yankees again answered the call sending virtually all the unit aircrews overseas for the fight.
...and defending the nation from the nuclear threat...
Following Korea, the Flying Yankees were assigned to Air Defense Command and redesignated the 103rd Fighter Interceptor Wing in 1956. As the cold war dominated the national psyche the unit stood 24-hour runway alert flying F-84, F-86, F100A and the F-102. While the cold war got warmer, Yankee Watch was activated for the Berlin Crisis in October 1961 to control Berlin-Frankfurt air corridor flights from Rothwesten Air Base, Germany. The Squadron redeployed home a year later and moved to its new and present home in Orange, Conn.
...then mastering the mission of today...
When national defense strategy changed again in the spring of 1971, the Flying Yankees were reassigned to Tactical Air Command flying the F-100D and F models in the close air support ground attack mission. For over 30 years, the Flying Yankees have perfected their skills in this mission. Gaining what is still the undisputed master of the ground support mission in 1979, the unit converted into the A-10 Thunderbolt II's. Since that time the Flying Yankees have accumulated a war chest of accomplishments winning competitions and staying on the cutting edge of modernization.
...developing capability, constantly in demand...
The nineties brought the Yankee Watch into the nation's Drug War, deploying frequently to remote locations from the Caribbean to the depths of the Amazon Jungle. The Flying Yankees proved the A-10s continued relevance in two deployments to Italy in support of U.N. and NATO forces in Bosnia. The Yankee Watch also deployed to Italy in 1994, 1996, and 1999 to support the coalition forces in the Balkans, becoming the first Guard radar unit to bring this capability to the theatre. Marking a first in the same theatre, the Flying Yankees were the first A-10 unit to deploy all its aircraft fully modified with the Night Vision Imaging System in 1996.
...the most capable units in the Air Force...
Iraqi no-fly zone enforcement and support filled the accomplishment list for both units in the late 1990's and into the new millennium. Members of each unit supported Operations NORTHERN and SOUTHERN WATCH from countries surrounding Iraq. The Flying Yankee's Operation SOUTHERN WATCH tour in September 2001 marked the first time A-10s deployed with all aircraft configured with the Countermeasures Management System and Embedded GPS/INS systems.
...ready for anything...
While the Flying Yankees had aircraft and most unit maintenance personnel guarding the skies over Iraq at the time of the tragic 9-II attacks, four home station A-10 aircraft were still loaded and placed on alert status in response to NORAD tasking within hours of the attack. The Yankee Watch's skill and position along Long Island Sound brought it to the forefront controlling airspace over the Sound and New York City immediately following the attack and establishment of Combat Air Patrols that blanketed the sky in the days and year that followed.
...and the Flying Yankees add capability as needed...
In late 2002 the Flying Yankees became part of the test modification of A-10s to employ LITENING II Targeting Pods. In February 2003 over 300 Flying Yankee personnel took seven specially modified A-10s from the 103rd to Southwest Asia for what became Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. The pod equipped unit scoured Western Iraq denying Iraq tactical ballistic missile launch opportunities - a new mission successfully completed along with a multitude of CAS and CSAR missions that saved the lives of many coalition forces. In 2003 the unique skills of Yankee Watch were employed in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom, to provide command, control and communications for the coalition forces engaged in daily fighting.
...and evolve with the needs of the nation...
While still maintaining A-10s, the Flying Yankees received C-21 transport aircraft in 2007 and began flying airlift missions October 1, 2007. At the same time, the wing supported these separate aircraft missions; it began operation of the Centralized Intermediate Repair Facility - TF-34 shipping its first engine November 3, 2007. The Flying Yankees also began a new command and control mission with the foundation of an Air Operations Center and an Air Mobility Detachment at Bradley in the 103rd Air and Space Operations Group, on January 1, 2008. The wing formally became the 103rd Airlift Wing later that year on April 1st.
...and now a new chapter begins...
In 2013 the deactivation of the 103rd Air and Space Operations Group began after nearly five years of direct support to the air war in Southwest Asia. During it's time the unit filled more than 400 individual deployments totaling approximately 14,000 days of deployed service providing command and control to operations in the skies over and around Iraq and Afghanistan. As one mission closed a new capability emerged; in June of 2013 the Flying Yankees began the conversion process from C-21 operations to C-130 operations.
...the best at what we do.
The Flying Yankees continue to evolve to meet the needs of the state and nation, maintaining a solid track record of mission success and viability. The Yankee Watch provides highly skilled Airmenfor the low density high demand air control mission. Both units keep with the motto: "Fidelis Et Alertus" translated as "Faithful and Alert." Faithful and Alert they remain, through dedicated efforts across the units, Connecticut Airmen strive to maintain their edge as the one of the most highly capable and combat-ready forces in U. S. Air Force.