The 153rd Air National Guard unit, the predecessor of today's 186th
Air Refueling Wing at Key Field, was founded in 1939 as an observation aviation group.
Howard Smith of Meridian was a member of the 153rd on Oct. 15, 1940, when the active duty call came and he remembers their mission.
"Primarily it was to work with the Army ground forces to see what movement there might be with enemy troops, movement of vehicles, enemy aircraft and it had also to do with obtaining weather at distant locations," said Smith.
In December 1941, the war started and the 153rd was sent to Europe where they received an unpleasant surprise.
"We moved over and we didn't have aircraft over there," said Smith. “You understand at that particular time the United States was not prepared for any war at all, especially in aircraft."
They were put to work servicing British aircraft. Eventually a part of the Meridian unit was spun off, given small observation planes and sent to France to perform the duties for which it had been trained.
Smith and his friend Foam Windham served together four years and old photographs remind them of their service to their country. With that reminder comes the realization that the small observation group they helped start has become the mighty 186th of today.
"The 186th air refueling group which we take a great deal of pride in that they evolved from what we started and it's a wonderful outfit there at Key Field," said Smith.