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Celebrating 100 Years of 133rd AW Aviation

U.S. Army Capt. Raymond S. Miller, left,  Lt. Col. W.C. Garis, center, and Gen. Walter Rhinow pose for a photograph in Falcon Heights, Minn., Sept. 26, 1921. Miller, Garis, and Walter flew to Washington D.C. to lobby for aviation units.

U.S. Army Capt. Raymond S. Miller, left, Lt. Col. W.C. Garis, center, and Gen. Walter Rhinow pose for a photograph in Falcon Heights, Minn., Sept. 26, 1921. Miller, Garis, and Walter flew to Washington D.C. to lobby for aviation units. (Courtesy photo submitted by the Minnesota Air National Guard Historical Foundation)

On Jan. 17, 2021, the 133rd Airlift Wing celebrated their 100th anniversary. A century ago, they became the first federally recognized Air National Guard unit in the nation. The origins of the 133rd Airlift Wing are traced back to the founding unit, the 109th Observation Squadron, known as the 109th Airlift Squadron today.

In the summer of 1920, U.S. Army Lt. Col. William C. Garis, Lt. Ray S. Miller, and T. Glenn Harrison gathered at a restaurant in downtown St. Paul to discuss the formation of aviation units in the National Guard. It was through these discussions that the future of the Minnesota Air National Guard was conceived.

On Sept. 26, 1920, Army Gen. Walter Rhinow, along with Lt. Col. Garis and Capt. Miller took off from Curtiss Field in Falcon Heights, Minn., in a rented Oriole biplane for Washington D.C. to lobby for the formation of a flying squadron. The trip took seven days through bad weather and with little to no air support. This impressive display of aircraft capability convinced the Militia Bureau to format the Air National Guard. On Jan. 17, 1921, the 109th Observation Squadron became the nation's first federally recognized Air National Guard unit. The Minnesota Air National Guard was born.

"To be part of a unit like [the 109th Airlift Squadron], with the history and legacy like that, it is something to be proud of and an honor to carry [the unit] into the next century," said U.S. Air Force Dana Novinskie, commander of the 109th Airlift Squadron. "I consider it a privilege to serve, both at the state and federal levels. Our Wing has an important mission. I am honored to command the 109th Airlift Squadron."

Throughout its 100 years, the 133rd Airlift Wing has served in every major conflict. They range from World War II, Korea, Desert Storm, and Sept. 11 to the current state active duty missions of civil unrest, COVID-19 testing, and providing support to long-term care facilities. From World War II to civil unrest and pandemic response in its hometown, the 109th Airlift Squadron, and the 133rd Airlift Wing have seen it all.

On the weekend of their 100th anniversary, the 109th Airlift Squadron returned to Washington D.C., transporting more than 130 troops to support this week's inauguration. These flights, historic in their own way, memorialize the Wing's takeoff into its next 100 years.

"I continue to be impressed by the caliber of men and women I serve with here at the 133rd Airlift Wing," said Col. James Cleet, commander of the 133rd Airlift Wing. "Last year was a difficult one, and our hard work is not yet over. Trying times define people and organizations, I have no doubt the 133d Airlift Wing will continue to meet the needs of our state and nation."