Charleston soars through time

By Airman 1st Class Thomas T. Charlton | Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs | Dec. 7, 2016

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA —

From Charleston Municipal Airport in 1942, to Charleston Air Force Base (AFB) in 1953, to Joint Base Charleston in 2010, this installation has provided worldwide airlift support for over 70 years. 

Eight different cargo aircraft and four tenant unit aircraft have operated here since Charleston AFB’s founding.

“Virtually every contingency operation the U.S. has been involved in since the 1950s, our aircraft have had a part in it,” said Stan Gohl, 437th Airlift Wing (AW) historian. “We can also say the same about our humanitarian missions. Friend or foe, we have helped anyone in the world in the sense of a humanitarian mission. As one commander once put it, ‘We are the wings of hope.’”

The host unit of Charleston AFB changed frequently in the early years until the 1608th Air Transport Wing (ATW) became the lead wing from 1956 to 1966. After being activated from reserve status in Chicago, Illinois, the 437th AW, then known as the 437th Troop Carrier Wing (TCW), replaced the 1608th ATW. Through the years this installation has provided support for numerous missions including: escorting Keiko the whale from Newport, Oregon to Iceland, rescuing military members overseas and providing humanitarian support for countless natural disasters across the globe.

“We have a great flight path to reach Europe, the Middle East and South America in a relatively quick timeframe,” said Gohl. “When something needs to be done efficiently and quickly, it’s the 437th AW that is called.”

The C-121 Constellation, C-124 Globemaster II and C-141 Starlifter are displayed at the Air Park here to memorialize their contribution to the base’s mission. Additionally, a C-47 Skytrain rests outside the base headquarters building which was operational in World War II. The aircraft was not flown here, but was used by the 437th TCW during its time in Illinois.

“I think a lot of times, at first, young Airmen don’t grasp the idea they belong to something much larger than what they have previously known,” said Josh Mayes, 628th ABW historian. “Once they understand some of the history of JB Charleston, I think it brings a sense of belonging which contributes to more conviction in how they work.”