Editor’s note: In place of the monthly column by Greater Peoria Regional Airport Director Solomon Balraj, Major Bill Soddy of the 182nd Airlift Wing is using this space to inform our readers about how local air support contributes to America’s military initiatives.
With all of our thoughts on the situation in the Middle East, we thought everyone should know how the 182nd Airlift Wing is supporting our country’s freedoms.
The 182nd Airlift Wing is a premier Air National Guard unit operating from facilities near the Greater Peoria Regional Airport, employing more than 300 full-time and 1,100 part-time members—most from local communities.
For more than half a century, the 182nd has played a key role in military and state emergency operations. More recent and notable operations include Operation Desert Storm, Southern Watch, Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom, and state flood support in 1993.
The unit currently has more than 350 of its members deployed to worldwide locations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, providing a variety of support functions including airlift transportation with its C-130 Hercules aircraft.
Getting equipment and personnel to forward deployed locations is a critical ability of today’s military. Because of the 182nd and units like it, the Department of Defense can stage operations virtually anywhere in the world in a very short amount of time. “Our mission and the planes we fly allow today’s military to reach as far around the globe as it does,” said Wing Commander Col. Barry Beard.
According to Beard, the aircraft they fly can transport up to 45,000 pounds of cargo for more than 2,200 miles without refueling.
As much as their aircraft have proven to be a workhorse, so has the Air National Guard proven to be an increasingly powerful part of global military operations. In fact, the National Guard and Reserve make up more than 50 percent of the nation’s military force.
The 182nd Airlift Wing and Air National Guard Units like it are unique in that they serve both a federal and a state mission. Federally, they report through active duty channels and can be mobilized by the Department of Defense to carry out military operations wherever needed.
They also serve a mission to the State of Illinois, reporting through military and civilian channels up to the governor, who can mobilize the unit to support state emergency situations.
Perhaps equally as unique as their mission is the integration of their full-time and part-time personnel. With approximately 300 of their members full-time, the remaining 1,100 traditional, or part-time members, also have professional or academic careers in the civilian sector.
These members leave their civilian careers at least one weekend each month and 15 business days per year for military duty. Much of this time is spent performing rigorous training so each member stays proficient in his or her military specialty.
A number of traditional members spend more than the minimum time required performing training and participating in real-world military operations around the world, as is the case with the more than 350 members currently deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Let’s all pray for the safety of our men and women serving in the 182nd Airlift and all of the military services during these difficult times. IBI