The Great Move

By 1966, the 190th had been stationed at Hutchinson for nine years, and seemed ready to remain indefinitely. The runaway had been repaired and lengthened, and plans were being drawn up for a series of buildings for the specialized functions of the unit. Appearances were to prove deceiving. Before the next year was over, the 190th would leave Hutchinson , never to return. Its new home was 175 miles northeast - Forbes AFB, Topeka . The move was ordered as an economy measure, since it would leave the Air Force with one less base to maintain, and since Forbes was less crowded than it had been when the 117th was organized at Hutchinson . The move itself looked expensive, though, until Colonel Boggs hit on the idea of devoting Summer Field Training for 1967 to the project. Accordingly, weekenders and technicians of the 190th took the place of professional movers, and transported everything - the machine shop, the Colonel's desk, and the Group Regulations - a hundred and seventy-five miles to Forbes.

In order to make maximum use of limited time and equipment, the unit divided up into shifts. Vehicles were on the road 24 hours a day throughout summer camp. All told, more than 100,000 vehicle miles were logged, and some drivers made 14 to 18 round trips each week. Almost incredibly, there were no accidents (at least no traffic accidents) in the entire operation. It wasn't without close calls, though. There were at least two tire blowouts. In one case a tire blew on an M-51 dump truck, and the vehicle skidded into the oncoming traffic lane, back toward its own, and stopped 50 feet from the concrete pillars of an overpass. Despite such inconveniences, by the end of Summer Camp, the entire unit was functioning again at its new home. In 21 days, the men of the 190th had moved $6,000,000 of supplies and equipment without special equipment other than a few rented trucks.

By comparison with the personnel difficulties, though, the physical move was no problem at all. With operations shifted beyond reasonable commuting distance, the air technicians had to either move to Topeka or find new jobs in the more or less depressed economy of Hutchinson . Most of them moved. Weekenders were less dependent on the unit economically, but many of them had been with the unit 10 years already, and many of the others still owed Uncle Sam part of their initial six years. Over the years, many guardsmen from the Hutchinson area would leave the 190th, but the conversion was slow. Besides, in the late 60s, no guard unit remained below strength for any appreciable period of time. Thousands of well-qualified young men with some objection to wallowing in mud for a year were prepared to fill any and all vacancies.

Summer camp for 1968 took the 190th to a new location. Volk Field , Wisconsin can't be described as being near anything, unless the equally desolate Camp Douglas counts. It is, however, very pretty country, with more hills and trees than most Kansans are used to. If one came by car or motorcycle, there was the local tourist attraction, the Wisconsin Dells, less than an hour's drive away. There was little fishing, and few natives, friendly or otherwise, but it was quiet and relaxing two weeks.

It was to be the last such field training for the 190th in ten years or more.

With the unit not really requiring the participation of the whole group at any one time, and so many small exercises, a complete summer field training began to seem more an expensive luxury than a necessary expense. Besides, any choice of a particular two weeks caused howls from guardsmen (weekenders) that they could not be spared from school, business or family just then. Also, travel time was training time lost. The result was a gradual "winging down" of AFT. From 1969 on, training was held at Forbes rather than at some more distant station. Then instead of a particular two weeks, the unit stretched out the options for summer camp over a six-week stretch. By 1972, men of the 190th were performing their two weeks annual training at their own convenience and that of their supervisors year round.

This has not been done without some ill feeling. Many supervisors feel that the old AFT did a great deal both for unit training and morale. On the other hand, present methods are unquestionably cheaper and more convenient.

Perhaps the most that can be said is that junior air technicians (who get vacations regardless) bachelors with local girls or young married couples enjoy the present system, and that for the older married men, with a wife and two or three children at home, and a good chunk of vacation tied up with the Guard, those two weeks working and fishing at Gulfport, or the train ride to Alpena, look better and better looking back.

November of 1968 was a sad time for at least some of the 190th. Good old 42-93173, the KANG "Gooney Bird," was handed over to the Georgia Air National Guard. Colonel Boggs (then Major) had himself accepted it from the Navy in March of 1947, and flew it from 1947 to 1956. He lost it then with his transfer to the 117th, but the faithful bird followed along, coming to the 190th by 1966. By the time the 190th was due up for more modern equipment; it had logged 10,199 hours, and gone through at least 10 pair of engines.

In November of 1949, the Kansas Air Guard received its first F-84, and Major Boggs flew the pilots from McConnell to Tinker AFB, Okla. One of them was Second Lt. Donald McEachern. On 7 November, Major McEachern took 42-93173 on its last flight for the 190th. "It's kinda like Roy Rogers selling Trigger," as Colonel Boggs put it.