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126th Air Refueling Squadron
126th Air Refueling Squadron - KC-135R 63-8029.jpg
126th Air Refueling Squadron – KC-135R 63-8029
Active 30 July 1940–Present
Country  United States
Allegiance  Wisconsin
Branch US-AirNationalGuard-2007Emblem.svg  Air National Guard
Type Squadron
Role Air Refueling
Part of Wisconsin Air National Guard
Garrison/HQ General Mitchell Air National Guard Base, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Tail Code Red tail stripe "Wisconsin" in white letters
Engagements World War II
126th Air Refueling Squadron emblem 126th Air Refueling Squadron emblem.jpg

The 126th Air Refueling Squadron (126 ARS) is a unit of the Wisconsin Air National Guard 128th Air Refueling Wing located at General Mitchell Air National Guard Base, Wisconsin. The 126th is equipped with the KC-135R Stratotanker.

The squadron is a descendant organization of the Wisconsin National Guard 126th Observation Squadron, established on 30 July 1940. It is one of the 29 original National Guard Observation Squadrons of the United States Army National Guard formed before World War II.


World War II

A U.S. Army Air Forces North American O-47A (s/n 37-365) from the 126th Observation Squadron, Wisconsin National Guard. Unlike prewar observation squadrons, the 126th was not assigned to a Guard division, rather it was assigned directly in support of the II Army Corps and performed various duties, including photographing portions of the Carolina Maneuvers in the autumn of 1941.

Authorized by the National Guard Bureau in 1940. Performed reconnaissance training for the Wisconsin National Guard. Was activated in November 1940 by the United States Army Air Corps as part of the build-up of the United States military after the Fall of France. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, operated from Hyannis Airport, Massachusetts, performing antisubmarine patrols over the New England Atlantic coast. Inactivated after the Navy took over the Antisubmarine mission.

Reactivated as part of Third Air Force in early 1943 and trained as a tactical reconnaissance squadron. Deployed to the European Theater of Operations (ETO), and assigned to Ninth Air Force in England. Equipped with F-4 and later F-5 (P-51 Mustang) high speed reconnaissance aircraft. Performed aerial reconnaissance of enemy-held territory in Occupied Europe prior to the Normandy Invasion. The squadron supported the Normandy invasion in June 1944 by making visual and photographic reconnaissance of bridges, artillery, road and railway junctions, traffic centres, airfields, and other targets.

Moved to France in August 1944, aiding the US Third Army and other Allied organizations in the liberation of France and the battle to breach the Siegfried Line, by flying reconnaissance missions in the combat zone. Flew reconnaissance missions over Germany from January 1945 to V-E Day, assisting the advance of Third Army across the Rhine, to Czechoslovakia and into Austria, eventually being stationed at Fürth, Germany (ALG R-30) when hostilities ended. It then became part of the United States Air Forces in Europe and part of the Occupation Forces in Germany; inactivating in November 1945 in Germany.

Wisconsin Air National Guard

Air Defense Command

126th Fighter Squadron – North American F-51D Mustang, 44-74536, 1948

The wartime 34th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron was re-designated as the 126th Fighter Squadron, and was allotted to the Wisconsin Air National Guard, on 24 May 1946. It was organized at General Mitchell Field, Milwaukee, Wisconsin and was extended federal recognition on 25 June 1947. The 126th Fighter Squadron was entitled to the history, honors, and colors of the 34th PRS by the National Guard Bureau. It was assigned to the newly formed 128th Fighter Group, and activated on 29 Jun 1948, and equipped with F-51D Mustangs.

The 126th was gained by Air Defense Command (ADC) with an air defense mission of the Great Lakes, Chicago and Wisconsin. Upgraded to F-80A Shooting Star jet aircraft in 1949. Was re-designated as the 126th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron in November 1950. Federalized during the Korean War in February 1951, and was moved to Truax Field, Madison where it flew air defense training missions until being returned to Wisconsin state control in February 1952.

The squadron continued its air defense mission though the 1950s, being upgraded to F-86F Sabres in 1957, and dedicated F-89 Scorpion interceptors in 1961.

Cold War

126th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron – North American F-86A 48–129, 1953

The parent 128th FIG was transferred to Strategic Air Command (SAC) on 1 August 1961, designated the 128th Air Refuling Group and was equipped with second-line KC-97 Stratotankers. The 126th Air Refueling Squadron was the first Air National Guard tanker unit to become fully operational. This occurred in December 1963 when combat ready status was achieved. The squadron participated in a historic operation in a foreign land for a sustained period of time without a call up. The 128th ARG, along with four other Air National Guard refueling units, stationed a contingent of its KC-97s at Rhein-Main Air Base, West Germany. It was designated Operation "Creek Party" and was destined to last for 10 years. This operation began on 2 June 1967, when 24 Wisconsin Air Guard members departed for Germany.

In July 1976, the squadron received KC-135S Stratotankers; a newer and faster jet tanker. On 4 October 1976, the 126th completed its first mission with the new aircraft. After a year and a half of preparation, the conversion to KC-135S had begun. The first functional KC-135 arrived at Mitchell Field on 2 December 1977. In January 1979 the unit began the 24 hour per day Strategic Air Command (SAC) alert commitment. This commitment would be maintained for the next 12 years until President George Bush ended the SAC Alert Force in 1991.

126th Air Refueling Squadron – Boeing KC-97L-26-BO Stratotanker 52-2698, 1966

The 1980s found the squadron involved in many training exercises as well as "real World" flying missions. In 1982 the unit converted to a newer version model aircraft—the KC-135E. In April 1983 the 126th Air Refueling Squadron was involved in the first Pacific Tanker Task Force, with flights to Guam, South Korea and Australia. Spring of 1984 brought a very large "first" for the 126th Air Refueling Squadron. The unit participated in Coronet Giant, an exercise which entailed a direct flight from the United States to West Germany by 12, A-10 Thunderbolt II attack fighters, refueled along the way by three KC-135's from the 128th. The route spanned 3600 miles, and was the largest mission of this type ever undertaken by a guard force.

A deployment to Wake Island was accomplished between 25 March and 3 April 1986 by aircraft and 130 personnel. A total of eight air refueling sorties were flown from Wake Island, with 458,000 pounds of fuel being off-loaded. Early Spring of 1987 saw another significant accomplishment by the squadron. On 21 March 1986 one aircraft departed Fargo, North Dakota, with 40 civilian VIP's on board. The destination: Tempelhof Central Airport, West Berlin. This was the first ever sanctioned Air National Guard civilian flight outside the Continental United States, and was also the first KC-135 authorized into West Berlin.

During Operation Desert Shield, the squadron received orders for a partial activation on 20 December 1990. All aircraft, aircrews and a number of support personnel were dispatched to the newest forward operating base at Cairo West Airport, Egypt on 27–29 December 1990. They became the basis for the 1706th Air Refueling Wing (Provisional). Other unit personnel were mobilized for use as stateside "backfill" (replacing troops sent forward) or sent to overseas destinations.

Post-Cold War era

Three aircraft and 47 volunteer guardmembers departed for Moron AB, Spain on 28 December 1992, in support of Operation Restore Hope. Our tankers became part of the Moron Tanker Task Force. Over 16 million pounds of fuel were unloaded during the mission. The purpose of this humanitarian mission was to restore order and provide food and medical supplies needed to stop suffering in Somalia.

During a 24 February 1994 trip to the Azores the unit completed its very first "roller mission." The steel rollers are placed on the floor of the aircraft making it very easy to load and unload cargo. This gave the aircraft a dual mission; refueling and cargo transport. This was a flight of firsts, not only did the squadron have its very first roller mission, but our aircraft refueled a B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber and a C-17 Globemaster III, the newest Air Force cargo hauler.

During July 1996 over 400 members of the 128th ARW deployed to Pisa Airport, Italy for Operation Decisive Endeavor. Over 5,500 personnel from 13 NATO countries joined the 128th as part of IFOR (Implementation Force) air component. Unit members had the opportunity to perform their job during deployment rotations from 1 July – 3 August 1996. This deployment gave the 128th the opportunity to work with other tankers units from Mississippi and Nebraska, along with the Italian Air Force.

Soon after the summer flooding of 1997, portions of Southeastern Wisconsin were declared a federal disaster area by President Clinton. This opened the door for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to step in. Five unit members volunteered for the state activation in order to help process claims and checks to people whose lives were upended following the disastrous flash floods in the Milwaukee area.

On 30 April 1999, the 128 ARW was tasked for a Presidential Reserve Call Up due to the crisis in Kosovo. President William Clinton authorized the call up of 33,000 reserve personnel for up to 270 days. The 128 ARW and the 117 ARW (Alabama Air National Guard) deployed together to Europe to support Operation Allied Force.

Global War on Terrorism

Following the terrorist's attacks on the United States the squadron was tasked to provide aerial refueling support for the countless fighter combat air patrols performed over major U.S. cities. Dubbed Operation Noble Eagle (ONE), the 126th ARS flew their first ONE mission on 12 September 2001. From Sep to Dec 2001, the 126th ARS flew 64 sorties in 333.6 hours. A total of 100,956.6 pounds of fuel was off-loaded to 156 aircraft in support of ONE. The highest sortie production occurred in November when fighter combat air patrols occurred every four hours over most of the major U.S. cities.

In addition to supporting ONE, the 126th ARS also provided support for Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), deploying aircraft and personnel to Spain to support combat air operations from late Sep 01 until the spring of 2002.

The 126 Air Refueling Squadron was tasked to perform at a very high tempo during 2004, deploying eight aircraft and 204 personnel to Istres AB, France in support of Operation Joint Forge (OJF).


Emblem of the World War II 34th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron (1943–1945)

  • Designated 126th Observation Squadron and allotted to Wisconsin NG on 30 Jul 1940
Activated on 12 Nov 1940
Ordered to active service on 2 Jun 1941
Re-designated: 126th Observation Squadron (Light) on 13 Jan 1942
Re-designated: 126th Observation Squadron on 4 Jul 1942
Inactivated on 18 Oct 1942
  • Activated on 1 Mar 1943
Re-designated: 126th Reconnaissance Squadron (Fighter) on 2 Apr 1943
Re-designated: 34th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron on 11 Aug 1943
Inactivated on 22 Nov 1945
  • Re-designated: 126th Fighter Squadron, and allotted to Wisconsin ANG, on 24 May 1946
126th Fighter Squadron extended federal recognition on 25 Jun 1947
Re-designated: 126th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron on 1 Nov 1950
Federalized and placed on active duty, 1 February 1951
Released from active duty and returned to Wisconsin state control, 1 November 1952
Re-designated: 126th Air Refueling Squadron on 1 August 1961


Attached to Provisional Reconnaissance Group, 16 Oct 1944


  • St-Dizier Airfield, France, 12 Sep 1944
  • Dijon Airfield (Y-9), France, 6 Oct 1944
  • Azelot Airfield, France, 3 Nov 1944
  • Haguenau Airfield (Y-39), France, 3 Apr 1945
  • AAF Station Fürth, Germany, 15 Ju1 – 22 Nov 1945
  • General Mitchell Field
Now General Mitchell Air National Guard Base, Wisconsin, 24 May 1946–Present
Operated from Truax Field, Wisconsin, 1 April – 1 December 1952 (Federalized Service)


See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

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