Our History

The 106th Rescue Wing (106 RQW) is a unit of the New York Air National Guard, stationed at Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base, Westhampton Beach, New York.

The 102d Rescue Squadron assigned to the Wings 106th Operations Group, is a descendant organization of the World War I 102d Aero Squadron, established on 23 August 1917. It was reformed on 4 November 1922, as the 102d Observation Squadron, and is one of the 29 original National Guard Observation Squadrons of the United States Army National Guard formed before World War II. The squadron has a history going back to 30 April 1908, and is the oldest unit of the New York Air National Guard. Constituted as 394th Bombardment Group (Medium) on 15 February 1943. Activated on 5 March 1943. Trained with B-26's. Moved to RAF Boreham England, February-March 1944, and assigned to Ninth Air Force. On the continent the group hit strong points at Brest and then began to operate against targets in Germany. Took part in the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944 - January 1945, by hitting communications to deprive the enemy of supplies and reinforcements. Bombed transportation, storage facilities, and other objectives until the war ended; also dropped propaganda leaflets.

By VE-Day, the 394th was based at Venlo (Y-55) in the southeastern Netherlands. The group remained in the theater to serve with United States Air Forces in Europe as part of the army of occupation at Kitzingen, Germany. It was transferred, without personnel and equipment, to the United States on 15 February 1946 and was inactivated on 31 March 1946. The wartime 394th Bombardment Group was re-designated as the 106th Bombardment Group (Light), and was allotted to the New York Air National Guard, on 24 May 1946. It was organized at Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, New York, and was extended federal recognition on 21 March 1947 and activated by the National Guard Bureau. The 106th Bombardment Group was bestowed the lineage, history, honors, and colors of the 394th Bombardment Group. It was assigned to the NY Air National Guard 52d Fighter Wing. With its return to New York state control in 1953, the 106th was again equipped with B-26 Invaders, the aircraft being returned from combat duty in Korea. The 102d trained in proficiency with the attack bomber until the removal of the B-26 from bombing duties in 1956 as neared the end of their service lives.

The 106th was transferred from Tactical Air Command to Air Defense Command (ADC) and assumed an air defense mission over Long Island and New York City, entering the Jet Age with the limited all-weather F-94B Starfire interceptor. With the Starfire, the 102d began standing end of runway air defense alert, ready to launch interceptors if ADC Ground Intercept Radar picked up an unidentified target. The squadron stood air defense alert from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset every day, 365 days a year. In 1957, ADC upgraded the 102d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron to the all-weather F-86D Sabre Interceptor. With the receipt of the F-86D, the alert mission was extended to 24 hours a day/7 days a week/365 days a year.

Today's Mission

The 102d converted to an Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron in 1975, flying Sikorsky HH-3E rescue helicopters and HC-130 Hercules tankers for in-flight refueling. The squadron's base on Long Island enables it to act as the only Air Force rescue organization in the northeastern United States. It upgraded its inventory to provide a capability for long range over-water missions using the aerial refueling capabilities of the HC-130s and Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters.

After the midair explosion of the Space Shuttle "Challenger" in 1986, the 106th Rescue Wing was designated to provide support for every shuttle launch thereafter. In October 1991, an HH-60 and a tanker flew to an endangered sailboat about 250 miles south of its base. The Pave Hawk and HC-130 dropped survival gear to the vessel, which was riding out the storm, and began their return to base. Both aircraft encountered severe weather conditions and the helicopter was unable to take on fuel.

The HH-60 was forced to ditch in the Atlantic Ocean about 60 miles south of the base in what would later become known as "the Perfect Storm", and all but one member of the crew were saved by the crew of the United States Coast Guard cutter Tamaroa. TSGT Arden Smith, a pararescueman (PJ), lost his life fulfilling the squadron's motto That Others May Live. The 106th Rescue Wing has assisted the state in battling the 1995 "Sunrise Wildfires" in the Hamptons, they were first on the scene after the crash of TWA Flight 800, and the recovery of the wreckage from the plane flown by John F. Kennedy, Jr., which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 1999. The squadron located the transponder of the wreckage of the plane underwater.

In 1998, the wing carried out the longest over-water rescue mission in an HH-60.

On September 11, 2001, the first ANG personnel on scene at World Trade Center were those of the 106th Rescue Wing.

In 2004, Air Force Special Operations Command re-organized Air National Guard rescue wings, establishing separate squadrons for fixed-wing, helicopter and pararescue. The squadron transferred its HH-60P Pave Hawk helicopters to the 101st Rescue Squadron; its pararescue personnel to the 103d Rescue Squadron.


Constituted as 394th Bombardment Group (Medium) on 15 February 1943

Activated on 5 March 1943Inactivated on 31 March 1946

Re-designated: 106th Bombardment Group (Light) and allotted to New York ANG on 24 May 1946

Extended federal recognition on 21 March 1947s

Established as 106th Bombardment Wing, 1 November 1950

Federalized and ordered to active service on: 1 March 1951R

E-designated: 106th Bombardment Group (Medium), 1 May 1951

Released from active duty and returned to New York state control, 1 December 1952

Re-designated: 106th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, 1 July 1956

Status changed from Wing to Group, 1 July 1958

Re-designated: 106th Aeromedical Transport Group, 1 July 1958

Status changed from Group to Wing, 11 January 1964

Re-designated: 106th Air Transport Wing (Heavy), 11 January 1964

Re-designated: 106th Military Airlift Wing, 8 January 1966

Re-designated: 106th Air Refueling Wing, 17 September 1969

Re-designated: 106th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, 2 December 1972

Status changed from Group to Wing, 14 June 1975

Re-designated: 106th Aerospace Rescue & Recovery Group, 14 June 1975

Re-designated: 106th Air Rescue Group, 1 October 1989

Re-designated: 106th Rescue Group, 16 March 1992

Status changed from Group to Wing, 1 October 1995

Re-designated: 106th Rescue Wing, 1 October 1995