Always First: The SC Air National Guard, Part 5 - The Aircraft

The strength of the South Carolina Air National Guard has always been its people. And what has given these people their best opportunity to excel is great aircraft. It started with the P-51 Mustang. Older pilots still call it the best.

RF-80s and F-86s ushered in the jet fighter era. Air Guard pilots made their first Atlantic crossing in the RF-80 for deployment to Germany in the early '50s. When the Swamp Foxes returned to Congaree Air Base, the F-86 became the primary aircraft for the unit.

The first real superstar jet to grace the ramp at Congaree Air Base was the F-104 Starfighter, which could fly twice the speed of sound. The F-102 Delta Dagger enjoyed a stellar 9-year run, serving primarily in an alert role.

The arrival of the A-7 in the mid-'70s brought a new airplane and a new mission, from interceptor to fighter-bomber.

Early leaders envisioned the Air National Guard becoming a key asset and vital member of America's total defense force. With the coming of a new fighter jet in the 1980s, the Swamp Foxes' reputation continued to grow. To keep these aircrafts over the years in good working condition, McEntire hires some of the best mechanics.

The 245th Air Traffic Control Squadron stationed at McEntire National Guard Station is one of ten air traffic control squadrons in the Guard in the United States. Their role at McEntire is not only to provide air traffic control services for the fixed base in the U.S., but also to prepare for wartime missions.