When it comes to serving the nation, the Airmen of the Illinois Air National Guard’s 182nd Airlift Wing are always on mission and ready to answer the call. They are neighbors, friends and family, but when called upon fill the ranks of the world’s greatest air force, and they do it well.
With the best C-130 mission capable rates in entire Air Force eight out of the last nine years, the 182 AW’s aircraft are a proven choice for the warfight. Its alliance with Poland since the inception of the National Guard State Partnership Program in 1993 has solidified its place as an enduring choice for security cooperation. The state of Illinois has depended on the unit time and time again to be a first choice for homeland operations in the face of civil unrest and natural disasters.
The wing holds seven Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards. Its maintenance group is leading the way in changing maintenance inspection processes. Its tactical air control party specialists helped create a ground breaking combat simulator for Battlefield Airmen. The Peoria Airmen ensure ratings of excellent and outstanding in readiness and compliance inspections while sustaining a deployment tempo that has deployed more than 5,600 Airmen in 29 countries since 9/11.
The wing’s list of accomplishments comes down to a warrior ethos the unit’s Airmen call “The Peoria Way,” and it means doing the right things always and doing it well, said Col. William Robertson, 182 AW commander.
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“From airman basic to wing commander, I have seen this unit rise to the call every time without fail,” said Robertson. “We’re not perfect in all regards, but we drive toward excellence in all we do! Every one of the Airmen in this unit makes a difference.”
Falling under Air Mobility Command, the wing has called Peoria home since 1946. It supports both the state of Illinois, the federal government and domestic operations by providing airland and airdrop capabilities with the C-130H Hercules aircraft. The unit also hosts the 182nd Air Support Operations Group, the 264th Combat Communications Squadron, and the Air National Guard Band of the Midwest—all of whom deploy overseas and within local communities to protect and serve the nation’s citizens.
“Every Air Guardsman brings something to the warfight, and then some,” said Robertson. “My job is to tap into it for the betterment of the mission for the community, state and nation.”
For the Peoria Air Guardsmen, it’s a worthwhile investment because when they’re not wearing the uniform, they live and work in the communities they serve in their military capacity.
Seventy-four percent of the 182nd’s Airmen are traditional guardsmen who train a minimum of one weekend a month and two weeks per year, all while remaining as proficient and equipped as their active duty counterparts.
“I believe some of our success is due to the multi-talented backgrounds you find in the militia,” said Robertson. “No military in the world has this diversity not only in culture but also civilian workforce skills. You bring this mix together and you have an unstoppable force. It’s about as American as you can get!”
The wing’s total force Airmen have participated in countless missions, from Operation Jump Start to detainee operations to hurricane relief and more. Half of the unit’s 36,000 flight mission hours since 9/11 have been dedicated to the support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
While the unit aims to fly, fight and win in the skies, its Airmen also take pride in their accomplishments on the ground.
One particular claim to Peoria fame falls on the unit’s maintenance group. The 182nd Maintenance Group began employing the LEAN Six Sigma concept, which improved their isochronal inspection process by 40 percent and led to the C-130 best mission capable rates in the entire Air Force the last eight of nine years, according to officials here.
The Peoria team also helped create the ANG Advanced Joint Terminal Attack Controller Training System simulator, which allows tactical air control party specialists to realistically practice calling in close air support in deployed overseas scenarios mixed with ground forces without costly field environments and aircraft. Peoria’s Battlefield Airmen identified a need for improved training, so they collaborated with Quantadyn to produce a 270-degree dome and software.
The system is expected to save the government $95 million through fiscal year 2018 by reducing the cost of qualification training by 48 percent, according to officials here. The simulator is now used by more than a dozen other ANG and active duty units and allied nations.
The Peoria ANG’s primary skillset is global airlift with the C-130H. The four-turboprop, 4,591 horsepower aircraft is a prime option for transporting troops and equipment into hostile areas and landing in impermissible environments.
With the ability to carry 16 container delivery system bundles, 92 combat troops, or any combination of vehicles, equipment and personnel up to 155,000 pounds, the airframe is so advantageous that it has been in continuous use in the Air Force fleet since 1956. The 182 AW’s Airmen have operated the Hercules since 1995.
“The unit has always done well in whatever mission it gets tasked,” said Robertson. “‘The Peoria Way’ has been driven into our culture.”