Celebrating 70 years! Pillars of the Past… Remembering the 2000s

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, had a profound impact on the defensive and offensive posturing of the U.S. It set the tone for military deployments and commitments from the time of the attacks through today. In the days and weeks following the terrorist attacks, and with the inception of Operation NOBLE EAGLE, F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 115 FW were either in the air or on the tarmac, always on the alert, round-the-clock, 365 days a year. This alert status came into play on October 8, when the unit assisted NORAD with an emergency situation in Midwest airspace.

Operation NOBLE EAGLE was a reaction to the September 11 attacks and was defined by a focused and concerted defense of the U.S. homeland. Thousands of Airmen from the active duty Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and ANG participated in this mission. On October 23, 2001, the 115 FW mobilized of 62 personnel. That same month, personnel from the 115th Security Forces Squadron (SFS) were mobilized and deployed to various Air Force bases throughout the continental U.S. to support Operation NOBLE EAGLE. The deployments would last 1-2 years. Members from the 115 SFS would also deploy worldwide, filling spots with high operational tempo at locations throughout the globe.

In January 2002, two members of the 115 CES deployed stateside, and six of the Wing’s firefighters headed for the CENTCOM area of operations. In March, six more Airmen deployed overseas for a 180-day rotation. In early 2002, Brigadier General Fred R. Sloan, 115 FW Commander, related, “This has been the largest single call-up of men and women from the 115 FW since the Korean conflict. To date, we have had over half of this unit called to active duty in support of Operation NOBLE EAGLE (ONE), Operation ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF), or one of the Expeditionary Combat Support (ECS) deployments in support of Operations SOUTHERN and NORTHERN WATCH (OSW/ONW).” The dedication to duty, displayed by the Airmen of the 115 FW, was exemplified outside of Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) rotations and volunteer deployments.

In December of 2005, the Wing received an “Outstanding” rating for its Unit Compliance Inspection (UCI). The 115 FW compliance rate was 99.4% and the highest rating to date. As of 2000, no Air Force base, active, Guard, or Reserve had garnered a rating higher than 98.8%. In September 2005, the 115 FW provided support to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. The 128th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) based out of Milwaukee airlifted ten members from the 115 FW, 41 members of the WI ANG 32nd Infantry Brigade Military Police, and 17 tons of cargo to Naval Air Station (NAS) Belle Chase, New Orleans, Louisiana, on three KC-135 aircraft. Further missions to the affected areas would be carried out by unit personnel throughout the month.

As the decade closed out, roughly 350 members of the 115 FW deployed to Balad Air Base, Iraq, from January to March 2007. This included 12 F-16Cs, assigned to the 176 FS. Two years later, in September of 2009, the 115 FW deployed 14 F-16s and around 200 Airmen to Iraq as part of the wing’s scheduled AEF rotation. The mission was to support ground forces in Iraq with CAS and other capabilities. September was truly a historic month, as the Wisconsin Army National Guard had over 3,200 Soldiers on the ground in Iraq and a large contingent of Wisconsin ANG personnel supporting those boots on the ground. Contingency deployments for unit personnel would continue into the next decade, even as operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, declined, while other hotspots emerged.