Always First: The SC Air National Guard, Part 1 - Early Years

The South Carolina Air National Guard has grown from a group of just 50 members to an essential fighting force of the United States military. South Carolina Air Guardsmen have served our country in every major combat operation since the Second World War and today stand ready in defense of America. All three of the state's primary Air Guard units are frontline combat forces, often the first to be called upon when our nation's security is threatened.

It took the vision of some extraordinary early leaders to put the Air Guard on this path. Lieutenant General James C. Dozier, Medal of Honor winner from the First World War, was the state's adjutant general and head of the South Carolina National Guard.

General Dozier remembered well the lessons of the world wars, and instead of pushing for disarming after World War II, he knew it was time to rebuild and strengthen the United States' nation's defense. He recognized the need for a strong Air Guard and was sure Congaree would be a good home for it.

So Dozier set out to find the officers and airmen who would build the South Carolina Air National Guard. Among them were Lieutenant Colonel Barnie B. McEntire and Major Bob Morrell, both experienced aviators with distinguished military records.

Dozier charged McEntire and Morrell with the job of finding the men needed to launch the fledgling Air Guard operation. 50 airmen were assembled at Congaree Air Base in lower Richland County for the first muster of the South Carolina Air National Guard on December 9, 1946.

The area that's McEntire Air National Guard Station, formerly Congaree Air Base, was farmland. The federal government during World War II acquired the property from 20-plus property owners. Aircraft and buildings replaced cattle and farmhouses.