Wyoming Air National Guard airmen along with former unit members celebrated the 153rd Airlift Wing’s 70th anniversary this weekend. About 100 retirees attended the event.
Col. Paul Lyman, wing commander, told the audience that this drill is his favorite day of the year because Guard members get to relax a little with family and friends.
While the mission and equipment have changed over the years, making and maintaining the Guard friendships seems to be an enduring theme for guard members.
“I miss the friendships and the camaraderie,” said retired Lt. Col. Verdella “Delle” Bauer, a flight nurse who was assigned to the 187th Aerial Evacuation Squadron from March 1968 to October 1988, adding that aside from patriotism and the mission, friendships were her favorite part.
“I’m always proud when I see a C-130 and wonder if it’s the Wyoming Air National Guard,” Bauer said, “I love this unit. It’s the ultimate.”
While it was a special experience for retirees to attend the event and see how the unit has changed it was just as special for current members to meet with retirees.
“You remember things when you see their faces,” said Lt. Col. Gary Monroe, wing flight safety officer. “I wanted to see who was there who would remember me, and who I would remember. Being reconnected to the past reminds you of how things used to be. It’s nice to see where you came from, and where you are today.”
Bauer and Monroe both agree the unit has changed a great deal over their respective periods of service. Before either of them served there were already traditions that are only known through historical records and through at events like the picnic.
The theme of the 70th anniversary event was “Mustangs and $2 Bills,” which paid homage to the wing’s history dating back to the 187th Fighter Squadron, established in November 1946 when P-51 Mustangs were flown. During that time the growing unit sought to validate its importance to the local community. One idea was to pay military members in $2 bills so local businesses would notice the importance of the guard to its economy.
Since its inception the wing has evolved from a few dozen members in a small hangar on the southwest side of Cheyenne Municipal Airport to 10 squadrons and nearly 1,200 members today. As a result of its growth it remains an important economic contributor, and without the need to use $2 bills to make it known.
“Our history is rich and our present is just as busy as we’ve ever been,” said Lyman, “We’ve been in conflict for a better part of our history, throughout it all we’ve had the Wyoming Air National Guard serving and defending freedom.”