Mechanics from the 126th Air Refueling Wing (ARW), Illinois Air National Guard, deployed to Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany, during Operation Creek Party, prepare a KC-97L tanker for a mission. Creek Party provided in-flight refueling services for fighter aircraft assigned to the U.S. Air Forces in Europe for 10 consecutive years. Enlisted Guardsmen, working in austere conditions, usually outdoors, at Rhein-Main, played a vital role in sustaining their aging KC-97L aircraft. In addition to providing a template for volunteerism in real-world missions outside the continental United States, the latter stages of Creek Party marked the initial inclusion of small numbers of African-Americans in critical aircraft maintenance specialties within the Air Guard's tanker community. The Air Guard had been called upon for help by the Air Force because the latter's tanker assets were overtaxed while supporting the Strategic Air Command's nuclear alert mission and the growing requirements of the Vietnam War. Creek Party was the earliest known sustained overseas volunteer rotation by a Reserve component of the U.S. armed forces to support a real-world military mission in a situation short of war. In addition to the 126th ARW, aircraft and personnel from the following Air National Guard units shared responsibility for the operation: 126th Air Refueling Group (ARG), Illinois; 128th ARG, Wisconsin; 134th ARG, Tennessee; 136th ARG, Texas; 136th ARW, Texas; 139th ARG, Missouri; 151st ARG, Utah; 160th ARG, Ohio; 161st ARG, Arizona; 171st ARG, Pennsylvania; and the 171st ARW, Pennsylvania.
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