February 18, 2021 (by TSgt. Amy Lovgren) - Sunday marks the 50-year anniversary of the C-130A Hercules flying mission at the Minnesota National Guard’s 133rd Airlift Wing in St. Paul, Minn. The Wing’s first mission flight was “wheels up” on Feb. 21, 1971.
Over the last 50 years, the Wing has received three updated models of the aircraft. One of the original C- 130A models is still on display at the Minnesota Air National Guard Museum, co-located at the 133rd. The current model, the C-130H3 Hercules, has been with the 133rd Airlift Wing since 1996.
The C-130 is a legendary cargo aircraft known for its tactical abilities; it can operate from rough, dirt strips and is the prime transport for airdropping troops, equipment, and aid into hostile areas, as well as providing medical evacuations. In Minnesota, the cargo aircraft are often used to assist with natural disasters and state emergencies. Over the last 50 years, the 133rd Airlift Wing has collected a total of 213,753 flying hours, equal to 27 years of nonstop flying.
"Our history flying C-130's has earned us the reputation as one of the premier Airlift Wings in the Air National Guard," said Col. James Cleet, 133rd Airlift Wing Commander. "The success of our wing has been integral to the success of the Minnesota National Guard and United States Air Force. We look forward to continued success flying C-130's well into the future."
The 133rd Airlift Wing’s capabilities were recently demonstrated during the 59th Presidential Inauguration in January. In just three days, the Wing’s C-130 aircraft and crews transported 1,465 personnel, 119 tons of cargo and accumulated more than 199 flight hours in the span of 76 “sorties” or flights to and from Washington, D.C., with a total of 31 missions. These numbers placed the 133rd Airlift Wing in the top three busiest Air National Guard units for the 59th Presidential Inauguration mission.
The 133rd Airlift Wing has a proud heritage as part of the Minnesota National Guard, and this year marks the Wing’s Centennial. In 1921 the 109th Observation Squadron was designated the first federally recognized Air National Guard unit in the nation. Today’s 109th Airlift Squadron at the 133rd Airlift Wing is the descendent unit of the original 109th Observation Squadron.
Before the arrival of the C-130, the 133rd Airlift Wing operated the C-97G Stratofreighter, a long-range cargo aircraft based on the design of the B-29 Superfortress. It was capable of transporting 96 troops or 69 litters and had a cruising speed of 300 mph. With the arrival of the C-97G Stratofreighter came the entrance of a new squadron, 109th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. The arrival of the C-130 furthered the medical evaluation mission and increased cargo to 74 litters, with a cruising speed of 336 mph. The Wing completed the transition on March 24, 1971, when the last C-97G Stratofreighter was given to the Confederate Air Force museum in Harlingen, Texas.