The 193rd Special Operations Wing, located at Harrisburg International Airport, Middletown, Pennsylvania, is home to the only airborne Military Information Support Operations broadcasting platform in the U.S. military. As a Pennsylvania Air National Guard unit, these Airmen essentially wear two hats. In peacetime, the unit serves under the governor of Pennsylvania, bolstering missions such as support to civilian authorities during natural disaster or homeland security. In wartime or in a contingency, the 193rd SOW reports to Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Florida, its gaining major command.
The 193rd SOW’s primary mission is to fly and maintain the EC-130J Commando Solo, a specially-modified four-engine Hercules transport, conducting information operations, military information support operations and civil affairs broadcasts in FM, TV and military communications bands. A typical mission consists of a single-ship orbit offset from the desired target audience - either military or civilian personnel.
The 193rd SOW employs more than 1,900 Guardsmen, mostly traditional Airmen who serve one weekend a month and at least 15 active duty days per year. Full-time federal technicians are the nucleus of the wing. They provide management continuity to keep the units combat ready. Technicians carry a dual status as full-time civil service employees for the Air Force who, as a condition of employment, must participate as Guardsmen. More than 450 technicians support the wing in day-to-day operations.
As the only airborne Military Information Support Operations broadcasting unit, the 193rd SOW maintains a very high operations tempo and deploys in numerous contingencies throughout the world.
The airborne radio and television broadcast mission originated in the mid-1960s with the EC-121, known as Coronet Solo. The mission later transitioned to the EC-130E , in 1980 and eventually to the EC-130J in 2004. Soon after the 193rd SOW received EC-130s, the Air National Guard unit participated in the rescue of American citizens in Operation Urgent Fury in 1983. Then known as Volant Solo, the aircraft acted as an airborne radio station, keeping the citizens of Grenada informed about the U.S. military action. Several years later in 1989, Volant Solo was instrumental in the success of coordinated psychological operations in Operation Just Cause. During this mission it broadcast throughout the initial phases of the operation, helping to end the Noriega regime.
In 1990, the 193rd joined the newly formed Air Force Special Operations Command, and the wing’s aircraft were re-designated Commando Solo, with no change in mission. In 1990-91, Commando Solo was deployed to Saudi Arabia and Turkey in support of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Its missions included broadcasting the “Voice of the Gulf” and other highly successful programs intended to convince Iraqi soldiers to surrender.
In 1994, Commando Solo was used to broadcast radio and TV messages to the citizens and leaders of Haiti during Operation Uphold Democracy. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was featured in these broadcasts, which contributed to the orderly transition from military rule to democracy. In 1996, Commando Solo was dispatched on short notice to the Balkans in order to broadcast information that ultimately led to the successful implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Continuing its tradition, in 1997 the 193rd SOW and Commando Solo supported the United Nations’ Operation Joint Guard with radio and TV broadcasts over Bosnia-Herzegovina in support of stabilization forces operations. In 1998, the unit and its aircraft participated in Operation Desert Thunder, a deployment to Southwest Asia to convince Iraq to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions. The Commando Solo was again sent into action in 1999 in support of Operation Allied Force. The aircraft was tasked to broadcast radio and television into Kosovo to help prevent ethnic cleansing. In 2001, before one bomb was dropped or multitudes of troops deployed, the Commando Solo aircraft broadcasted messages to the local Afghan population and Taliban soldiers during Operation Enduring Freedom. In 2010, the unit and its aircraft, participated in Operation Unified Response, contributing to the relief efforts in Haiti after it the southern reign of the country was struck by the magnitude 7.0 earthquake.
Throughout the Global War on Terror, the Commando Solo was deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. More recently, the EC-130J was redeployed to the Middle East in support of the Global War on Terror.
• 193rd Air Operations Group, State College, Pennsylvania. The mission of the 193rd AOG is to be an integral component for an Air Operations Center, which acts as the Joint Force Air Component Commander’s headquarters for running an air war. In short, the AOG’s complex job is to produce logical plans for each day of a conflict, execute them and then evaluate their effects for input into the next day’s plan.
• 148th Air Support Operations Squadron, Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. The 148th ASOS provides combat-ready Tactical Air Control Parties for combat maneuver units of the 28th Infantry Division including the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team. Their primary job is to provide mission planning of direct combat air support and operate and supervise communications nets to support Air Force air resources and Army ground maneuver units.
• 201st RED HORSE Squadron, Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. The mission of the 201st RHS is to directly support combat airpower and provide Commanders in Chief, Federal and state authorities a flexible, well-rounded, heavy construction and repair capability anytime, anywhere.
• 203rd Weather Flight, Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa. The 203rd WF is a small, elite unit that analyzes and predicts atmospheric conditions for pilots, war planners and decision makers. They go anywhere, at anytime, and forecast for any type of flying mission or troop activity.
• 211th Engineering Installation Squadron, Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. The mission of the 211th EIS is to engineer, install and relocate fixed command, control, communications and computer (C4) systems in facilities. The members of the 211th EIS are “Above All Others” in providing C41 communications capabilities to our nation, state, and community.
• 271st Combat Communications Squadron, Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. The 271st CBCS is to deploy, operate and maintain tactical communications packages in support of Air Force missions worldwide or civil and disaster-relief missions within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
• 553rd Air Force Band (Air National Guard Band of the Northeast), Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. The Air National Guard Band of the Mid-Atlantic is assigned to the dual missions of supporting regional Air National Guard units through performances in ceremonies, activities and recruiting tours; and public relations concert tours for the Air National Guard and the “Total Air Force.”
• Bollen Air-to-Ground Weapons Range, Detachment 1, Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. Provide a quality, realistic, tactical range environment for air-to-ground, airdrop and Joint Terminal Attack Controller training to ensure the combat readiness of flying units throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region.
• 193rd Special Operations Medical Group, Detachment 1, Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. The 193rd SOMDG, Det. 1 provides specially trained medical personnel as part of a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Task Force and provides critical command and control and life-saving capabilities during major or catastrophic CBRN incidents. Among their expertise they conduct search and extraction, mass casualty decontamination and medical stabilization in order to save lives and mitigate human suffering.
• 193rd Special Operations Security Forces Squadron, Middletown, Pennsylvania. 193rd SOSFS provides a cadre of specially trained Deployed Aircraft Ground Response Element airmen. Their mission is to provide security for Special Operations Forces aircraft transiting airfields where security is unknown or inadequate. They advise the mission commander on force protection measures, conduct FP surveys, provide close-in security, and assist with SOF led protective service operations.
• Lightning Force Academy, Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. The Lightning Force Academy is committed to developing the level of knowledge and skill needed to train personnel to support the Engineering Installation mission, both active-duty and ANG. Students become familiar with the practices to accomplish the EI wartime mission: Project engineering, management, and total project oversight. Workload includes: combat restoration, repair, installation, removal or relocation of communications-electronics equipment.
• Regional Equipment Operators Training Site, Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. The REOTS mission is to provide additional readiness training for upgrading proficiency levels of civil engineer heavy equipment operators, throughout the Department of Defense.
• Regional Training Site, Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. The RTS is manned and operated by the 201st RHS and their goal is to provide Department of Defense students the resources to satisfy their ongoing training requirements that are not included in heavy equipment operation. Courses of instruction include power production, engineering, electrical, HVAC, water and fuel systems maintenance, structures, operations and services.