The History of the 105th Airlift Wing
The wing’s legacy dates back to its inception as the 504th Fighter Squadron which was re-designated as the 137th Fighter Squadron located at Westchester County Airport on 24 May 1946. From 1946-1961 the unit was tasked with various fighter aircraft to include F-47D Thunderbolts (1948-1951), F-51H Mustang (1951-1954), F-94B Starfire (1954-1957), F-86H Sabre (1957-1961). In 1961, the unit was reassigned to perform cargo missions and flew the C-119 Flying Boxcar (1961-1963), C-97 Stratofreighter (1963-1969), U-3A Blue Canoe (1969-1971). During the Vietnam War the unit was tasked to forward air control flying the O-2A from 1971-1984. In 1984 the 105th Airlift Wing returned to cargo missions flying the C-5A Galaxy until 2012 when the last C-5A left the unit and the C-17A Globemaster III became the primary Mission Design Series.
The C-17 is the premier tactical airlift platform allowing for ingress and egress at the most austere airfields. Employing the C-17, the 105th has engaged locally, nationally and internationally with agile and ready forces delivering global superiority in airlift and expeditionary combat support. All of the wing’s 1,300+ personnel are responsible for furthering the United States’ defense objectives across six Combatant Commands while also providing direct support to the Governor of New York State. The unit has directly impacted operations ranging from Operation Desert Shield to, most recently, Operation Allies Refuge, where the unit had a significant impact on the challenging and historic airlift of 2,524 evacuees during the withdrawal from Afghanistan. This impact earned one crew, comprised of only traditional Guardsmen, our Nation’s highest flying award, the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor and Air Medals with Valor. Since 2015 the 105th has performed over 25K flying hours, moved 75.4 million lbs. of cargo, and over 40K passengers to almost every inch of the globe.
The uniqueness of the 105th Airlift Wing is further underscored by its Base Defense Squadron which is the only Air National Guard squadron of its kind. This combat-tested and Active Duty-partnered unit allows for a more robust augmentation of the Total Force. In addition to recently responding to 8 in-flight medical emergencies and assisting with 38 other medical responses mid-flight during Operation Allies Refuge, the Base Defense Squadron detected a hidden weapon in flight safeguarding the integrity of the 300 million dollar C-17, the crew and the evacuees ensuring the safe completion of a high priority mission.
Outside of combat operations the 105th Airlift Wing has been vital in delivering humanitarian and disaster relief around the globe. The wing’s Airmen have long brought their professionalism and skills for aid to an earthquake in Soviet Armenia (1989) and major hurricane disasters from Gloria (1985), Gilbert (1988), Andrew (1992), Sandy (2012), to Irma and Maria (2017). Additionally, the 105th has been vital to New York State’s COVID-19 pandemic response. During the pandemic, the women and men of the 105th led the Javits New York Medical Station facility expansion to 4,200 beds in less than 10 days; further equipped 5 groups of first responders by completing 200+ mask fit tests which allowed for 800-1,000 daily COVID tests ensuring public safety during the height of the pandemic. Concurrently, the wing’s dedicated aircrews were flying dozens of American citizens, from all over the world, back to European located COVID care facilities, using state of the art Negative Pressure Containers.
The legacy of Stewart Air National Guard Base is robust extending back to World War II as a fighter squadron and continues on today as the premier C-17 Air National Guard unit, defending the freedoms of all Americans, increasing America’s security through rapid global mobility and enabling a greater, more secure future for all.