MANSFIELD — A transition two years in the making becomes official on Saturday.

The 179th Airlift Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard will conduct a historic redesignation ceremony to officially become the 179th Cyberspace Wing at 3 p.m. on the grounds of the base at Mansfield Lahm Regional Airport.

After 75 years with a flying mission, the 179th received word in August 2021 it would be the site of the first Air National Guard cyberspace wing. It had been a finalist along with the 133rd Airlift Wing in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Gov. Mike DeWine made an official announcement about the coming change in 2022, setting the stage for the departure of the unit’s eight C-130 aircraft that had called Mansfield home for 46 years.

According to officials, the event on Saturday will celebrate the 75-year aviation history of the wing and also highlight the importance of the new cyberspace mission for the nation, Air Force, state, and community.

The ceremony will feature several speakers and include a traditional changing of the unit flag and guidon.

‘Great news for the state of Ohio’

“The transition of this wing from an airlift wing to a cyberspace wing is great news for the state of Ohio and a model for the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard,” DeWine said Thursday in an emailed press release.

“Ohio speaks with one voice in aerospace and defense matters, and we were successful in winning this new mission because it requires bipartisan support at the local, state, and national levels.

“The strategic realignment of the 179th Wing to a cyber mission will cement Mansfield’s critical cyber warfare role well into the future,” DeWine said.

In 2021, when the decision was made, DeWine said the new cyber mission in Mansfield will bring an additional 175 positions that are STEM and IT focused and will bolster Ohio’s efforts to gain a competitive advantage in the workforce by attracting in-demand cybersecurity jobs.

There are nearly 90 flying units in the Air National Guard. But there is only one cyber unit,
making the 179th more relevant for tomorrow’s fight than ever before, officials said.

OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital staff members watch as two C-130 aircraft from the 179th Airlift Wing fly over the facility in May 2020 during a 2020 salute to COVID-19 medical responders. (Richland Source file photo)

“This transition solidifies Mansfield’s place at the tip of the spear in cyber operations vital to our national security and defense,” said Brig. Gen. David B. Johnson, Ohio assistant adjutant general for Air.

Winning new mission was bipartisan effort

In 2021, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, hailed the Air Force decision to bring the new mission to Mansfield, praising the work of U.S. Rep. Troy Balderson (whose district then included Mansfield), DeWine,Sen. Sherrod Brown and then-Sen. Rob Portman.

“The reinvestment into the Mansfield base will create more jobs for Ohioans and bring the base into the 21st century while reinforcing Ohio as a leader in national security,” Turner said.

According to a 2020 Air Force magazine article,  a cyber wing brings together experts in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; electronic warfare; information operations; and public affairs.

The article said such units help tackle overarching problems in the cyber realm, including U.S. election security, protecting air defenses, and rooting out malignant influences on networks.

The wing has continued to maintain several of its former functions at the base, including firefighting and security forces.

Roots of 179th go back to 1948

The 179th was organized in Mansfield in 1948 as the 164th Fighter Squadron and has
predecessor units that can be traced back to World War II.

Throughout its 75-year aviation history, the wing has flown more than nine different airframes, deployed in support of every major contingency operation, participated in multiple humanitarian airlift efforts, responded to countless natural disaster relief taskings, and answered the call when the COVID-19 pandemic struck Ohio in 2020.

Chuck Hahn, Cleveland Financial Group, invests in this independent reporting through a Newsroom Partnership. Learn more about Newsroom Partnerships.

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when...