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The 189 AW is a direct descendant of the Arkansas National Guard's 154th Observation Squadron, which was formed Oct. 24, 1925, at Little Rock Municipal Airport in Little Rock, Ark.

The 154th Observation Squadron was ordered to active duty in 1940 and saw action during World War II in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and England. It was redesignated the 154th Fighter Squadron on its return to inactive status after the war.

The squadron again was ordered to active duty in October 1950 for the Korean conflict,
flying combat missions out of Itazuke Air Base, Japan, and Taegu, Korea, as part of the 136th Fighter Group. The squadron returned to inactive status in the spring of 1952 and was redesignated the 154th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. The squadron moved from Adams Field to Little Rock Air Force Base, Jacksonville, Ark., in September 1962 and reorganized as the 189th Tactical Reconnaissance Group one month later when elements of the 123rd Air Base Group were added.

In June 1965, the group became the first Air National Guard organization to be equipped with RF-101 aircraft. As a result of the Pueblo Crises, the 189th was recalled to active duty in January 1968. In July of that year, the 154th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (augmented) deployed from Little Rock AFB to Itazuke, Japan. In December, the squadron was released from active duty and returned to inactive status at Little Rock AFB and assumed the RF-101 Replacement Training Unit mission from the active Air Force.

On Jan. 1, 1976, the unit was designated as the 189th Air Refueling Group and converted to a KC-135 air-to-air refueling mission, becoming one of the first Air National Guard units to be assigned to the Strategic Air Command as a gaining command.
As an integral part of SAC under "Total Force," the 189th ARG maintained an around-the-clock ALPHA Alert, participated in European, Alaskan and Pacific Tanker Task Forces, and supported world-wide temporary tanker task forces performing in-flight refueling of all types of aircraft as assigned by the Strategic Air Command.

On Oct. 1, 1986, the unit was redesignated as the 189th Tactical Airlift Group and converted to the C-130 aircraft. The mission squadron was redesignated as the 154th Tactical Airlift Training Squadron and assumed a proportionate share of initial aircrew qualification training, from the 314th Tactical Airlift Wing, Little Rock AFB. Student training actually began Sept. 25, 1986.

During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, 135 members were activated and served in both stateside and overseas locations. Aircrews from the 189th flew 123 mission sorties in support of the two operations without affecting the unit's day-to-day aircrew training mission.
The 154th Training Squadron is one of the most highly decorated Air National Guard units in the nation, boasting 16 battle streamers on the wing organizational flag.

On April 16, 1992, the 189th Tactical Airlift Group was officially redesignated as the
189th Airlift Group, and the 154th Tactical Airlift Training Squadron was redesignated as the 154th Training Squadron. On Oct. 1, 1995, the 189th Airlift Group was designated as the 189th Airlift Wing.

The 189th Airlift Wing was the first Air National Guard unit in the country to be located on an active duty Air Force base flying the same type aircraft as its active duty counterpart, and performing the same day-to-day mission.

The 189th Airlift Wing has also played a role in current operations since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The wing sent 30 volunteers to perform state active duty at Little Rock National Airport for the airport security mission, beginning Oct. 4, 2001, and ending May 31, 2002; then, on Oct. 16, 2001, the wing's entire security forces squadron was mobilized for two years. Security forces members spent time at multiple overseas locations and two stateside locations, providing air base ground defense.

Since 9/11, the wing has deployed more than 850 members to support Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Noble Eagle and other operations around the world.
The wing also played a vital role in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that struck the Alabama-Mississippi-Louisiana-Texas Gulf Coast region in Fall 2005. Nearly 200 members deployed to the New Orleans area on 30-day tours over a four-month period to assist with clean-up efforts, to keep the peace and help restore order. Wing aircrews flew 29 missions, hauling 1,600 people and 102 tons of cargo to and from the region. According to National Guard Bureau statistics, the wing ranked third in the nation among Air Guard wings that hauled passengers and cargo to support hurricane relief efforts.

In February 2008, 189th Airlift Wing members were called to provide security assistance to areas in and around Clinton, Arkansas, after tornadoes ravaged the area.

In January 2009, fifty wing members were placed on a week of State Active Duty to help clear roads in Fulton County, Arkansas, after ice storms struck northern Arkansas.

The 189th Airlift Wing transitioned from the C-130E to the C-130H aircraft during 2010
in preparation for all C-130E model aircraft to be retired from the Air Force inventory.

During 2010 the 189th Airlift Wing was selected as the lead unit for the C-130 AMP (Avionics Modernization Program) transition. The 189th's AMP qualified crews participated in the Design Testing and Evaluation program as the first major flying milestone to proving the capability of the new AMP modification and working toward certification of the new design.

In May 2010, the 189th Airlift Wing Rapid Augmentation Team deployed 50 personnel to East End in Saline county to help residents recover from tornado damage.

In Feb. 2011, fifteen Airmen from the 189th Airlift Wing Rapid Augmentation Team deployed to help motorists in emergency situations on Central Arkansas interstates. The team assisted local authorities by patrolling I-40, I-430, and I-630 and went into action helping 23 people and checking on 62 total people and more than 100 vehicles.

Sixty seven Airmen from the Arkansas Air National Guard's 189th Airlift Wing Rapid Augmentation Team deployed Apr. 2011 to Vilonia in Faulkner County to help residents recover from tornado damage.

The team provided security and patrolled the roads throughout Vilonia and also provided search and rescue.

In May 2011, the 189th Airlift Wing Civil Engineering Squadron constructed a new facility to meet current space and functionality requirements for the maintenance and repair of C-130 engines and propeller assemblies. The new facility met the Unites States Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certification. This certification ranks it as a facility designed and constructed with sustainability in mind. The facility features design elements aimed at reducing energy consumption, water waste, solid waste, and creating comfortable work spaces. The building materials used employed local resources and high recycled content wherever practical.

During the 2011 flooding in several SE Arkansas counties sixty one 189th personnel supported the response alongside the unit's emergency management Mobile Emergency Operations Center (MEOC) that was used to provide communications and a field operational HQ for the Army National Guard troops during the Levee monitoring mission. Also, a Disaster Relief Beddown Set (DRBS) was deployed to provide air conditioned billeting (tents), latrines, showers, an MWR area, and a DFAC for the Army National Guard troops supporting the mission. The 189th was presented with individual Keys-to-the-City from the Mayor of Lake Village for their support during this mission.

In early 2012, the 189th AW was the first C-130 unit in the Air Force to modify its aircraft with the Wheel and Brake System Improvement (WBSI) components. WBSI is an Air Mobility Command funded Improved Item Replacement Program for the C-130 that is expected to exceed $327 million dollars in life-cycle cost avoidance.