In the spring of 1971, big things were in the air for the 190th. The Pentagon announced that the Squadron was to be reequipped, this time to be with RF-4 "Phantom" jets. The new equipment was scheduled to begin arriving in the following spring, and both the unit and the newspapers reflected on this at various intervals, the mechanics no doubt considering the F-4s notoriously difficult maintenance, and the pilots blithely soaring above such difficulties.
Conversion from RB-57s to RF-4s would not be a mere matter of landing new planes at the base, though. Not only would many of the personnel require retraining - both pilots and maintenance personnel - but the Aircraft Ground Equipment (AGE), which was essentially the same for any model of the Canberra , would have to be almost totally replaced to maintain the RF-4.
Fortunately, if there is one thing the Air National Guard has experience at, it is acquiring hand-me-downs from the regular Air Force. The AGE for the new planes was mostly in Vietnam , so in August of 1971, nine members of the 190th, under the command of LtCol Anthony Leis were dispatched to Tan Son Nhut AFB, RVN.
The team, consisting of both officers and enlisted men, left Topeka on 9 Aug 1971 , and arrived at Tan Son Nhut on the 14th. From that afternoon to the morning of the 19th, the team was almost continuously at work, identifying, locating and inspecting equipment with a total value estimated at almost five million dollars.
Several procedures may be noted. First, the team arrived while the losing unit (the 460th TRG) was still operational, thus letting the men of the 190th see the equipment in use, and speak with the men who used it. Second, by being on the spot, the 190th was able to look for particular items needed, in this case BAK-12 barriers. Third, the team was able to oversee packing, and see that TO's, forms, diagrams and other time-saving devices were packed with test benches and related equipment.
On the morning of Aug 29, the team began leaving Tan Son Nhut, and the last elements (delayed by booked-up flights in Honolulu ) arrived at Topeka at 0925, 2 Sept 1971 . Behind them, in 10 Sea Land vans, came much of the more than 4,000 types of items needed to maintain the RF-4. The entire unit needed now was training and the aircraft themselves.
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