129th Rescue Wing
In April 1955, the 129th Rescue Wing, California Air National Guard, based at Hayward Airport, California, was activated as the 129th Air Resupply Group. The unit's mission was airlift of personnel and material using C-46 aircraft. Later that year, the Group was transferred from U.S. Continental Air Command to U.S. Tactical Air Command (TAC). Although the mission remained the same, the 129th underwent three name changes and several aircraft conversions between its initial activation and April 1975. The mission was unchanged even after the name was changed to Troop Carrier Group. Upon the arrival of the SA-16 Albatross seaplane, the Wing was redesignated the 129th Air Commando Group. The 129th later acquired C-119 Flying Boxcars and its named changed to Special Operations Group. During this period, the Wing also utilized small observation planes (U-10s, U-6s and U-3s) as ancillary aircraft.
Changes in Mission, Aircraft and Location (1975-1991)
In April 1975, the 129th received a new mission, designation and Air Force Command. Shortly afterward, the Wing also changed aircraft and operating base. The Wing's name became the 129th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group (ARRG), operating under the Aerohortage of facilities and in 1984 the 129 ARRG completed its programmed move to Moffett Field, California. In October 1989, the 129 ARGG was designated as the 129th Air Rescue Group (ARG). Operations began to convert from HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopter to the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter. The conversion was complete in 1991.
129th Rescue Wing at Moffett Field (1991-Present)
Though the mission of search and rescue has continued, the Group has continued to reflect reorganizations within the USAF. In March 1992, the name of the 129th Air Rescue Group was shortened to simply 129th Rescue Group and in June 1992, it became part of Rescue Wing. In April 1997 Air Combat Command evaluated the 129th Rescue Wing's war capability as an overall Excellent during its Operational Readiness Inspection. Today, the 129th Rescue Wing continues its search and rescue operations on a global scale.
"That Others May Live" - Past Rescue Mission Highlights
The motto of the 129th Rescue Wing, "That Others May Live", refers to the primary mission of the Wing - to save lives. The members of the 129th have performed rescues under a variety of conditions - from rough Pacific seas to the rugged Sierra Nevada. The using its combination of HC-130 tankers and HH-60 helicopters. Many high-risk lifesaving missions involved long-range, over-water flights, air refueling of helicopters by the HC-130 aircraft, and skilled maneuvering by ships and helicopters to recover patients from the decks of these vessels. On 3 September 1991, the 129th recovered a sailor from the merchant ship White Mana, the Group's 200th "save". Since its designation as a rescue unit in 1975, the 129th has directly saved the lives of 300 people.
Past State Support Missions
As an Air National Guard unit, many of the 129th's missions involved supporting the Governor's office during times of State emergencies, including earthquakes, chemical spills, fires and floods. The 129th provided aid during floods along the Yuba River in 1959 and the Eel River in 1964-1965. During record flooding in Sonoma, Sutter and Yuba counties in Northern California, 33 lives were saved in 5 days, from 18-22 February 1986. In all, 44 lives were saved in 1986, a record rescue for the 129th. During the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, the 129th established Command Post operations and was chosen to coordinate all military aircraft activities within the Bay Area. The 129th provided air transportation for State and Federal government officials to survey damage from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and the 1991 Oakland Hills fire. The unit has also been tasked with mutual aid to state law enforcement during the 1965 Watts (Los Angeles) riots and the 1992 civil disturbance in Los Angeles.
Other Missions and Activities
In 1990, the 129th began supporting U.S. Customs in the seizure of illegal drugs, as well as illegal animal and plant products, during cargo inspections. The unit has performed a number of humanitarian missions to foreign countries. From 1989-1991, the 129th deployed to sites in South America to assist in constructing hospital and school facilities.
During Desert Shield/Storm in 1990 and 1991, the 129th deployed personnel to both overseas and stateside locations. Three pararescuemen volunteered for combat operations and teams from the 129th Medical Squadron deployed to England, Saudi Arabia and Travis AFB. Individual members of the 129th volunteered to backfill for deployed active duty members. In July 1993, 129th members deployed to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as part of rescue force coverage for Southwest Asia.