Air Guard helping NORAD mark 50th birthday

  • Published
  • By Maj. Kevin Hynes
The Nebraska Air Guard is helping the North American Air Defense Command celebrate its 50th birthday by being the first Air Guard unit to put a distinctive NORAD logo on the nose of one of the 155th Air Refueling Wing's KC-135R Stratotanker. 

According to Chief Master Sgt. Barb Gossage, 155th ARW command chief master sergeant who also works full-time for NORAD and U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs, Colo., the logo is designed to recognize units that are currently assigned to air defense units or those that were once assigned to help NORAD protect the aerial sovereignty of Canada and the United States. 

NORAD first stood up on Sept. 12, 1957, at Ent Air Force Base, Colo. It grew into its current configuration on May 12, 1957, when the governments of Canada and the United States ratified and signed the initial agreement sanctioning shared air defense command arrangements for all of North America. 

The Nebraska Air Guard has served several different roles within the NORAD framework over the years. Beginning in 1954, the Nebraska Air Guard's 173rd Fighter Interceptor Squadron was assigned to the Air Defense Command. The 173rd's mission was to maintain a level of effectiveness to destroy enemy airborne weapons and provide base services to support the flying mission. 

The unit remained a fighter intercept unit until May 1963 when the 155th Fighter Group was transitioned into an aerial reconnaissance organization. 

The Nebraska Air Guard has served a more modern role with NORAD recently, most notably beginning during the hours following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks when tanker crews belonging to the 155th ARW began supporting combat air patrol aircraft flying over American cities as part of Operation Noble Eagle.