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The 165th Airlift Wing began its proud history Oct. 12, 1946, at Travis Field in Savannah, Ga. First known as the 158th Fighter Squadron, it was equipped with the P-47 Thunderbolt, a powerful aircraft that saw unlimited action in World War II. Within two years the 158th was one of the first units in the Air National Guard to receive the new jet fighter, the F-80C Star. Regarded as one of the top units in the Air National Guard, the 158th Fighter Squadron received the Spaatz Trophy for being the most outstanding Air National Guard fighter squadron in the country in 1949.
In March 1949, the 158th moved to Hunter Field where it was based until called to active duty during the Korean conflict Oct. 10, 1950. In November 1950, personnel reported to George Air Force Base, Calif., where they transitioned to the F-84 Thunderjet. In 1951, the unit deployed to Misawa Air Base, Japan, where its mission was to provide air defense for the northern portion of Japan. While assigned in Japan, the squadron flew regularly to Korea to provide air support to allied forces. The 158th Fighter Squadron returned from Japan in 1952, and was released from active duty. The unit returned to Travis Field with the P-51 Mustang fighters and it later received the F-84D, F-84F and F-86L Sabre jet aircraft.
Reorganization came in 1962, when the unit transitioned from a fighter mission to an airlift mission. The 158th Fighter Squadron became 158th Air Transport Squadron assigned to the 165th Air Group. They performed worldwide airlift missions with new aircraft, the C-97 Stratocruiser. In 1967 the huge C-124 Globemaster replaced the C-97.
On Aug. 8, 1975, the first of the C-130E Hercules aircraft came to the city of Savannah at the international airport to replace the older C-124s. While the C-124s were being retired from the Air Force inventory, the C-130s were arriving at the 165th Tactical Airlift Group. Currently, the unit flies C-130H aircraft received directly from the Lockheed Martin Corp. factory during September and October 1981. On April 15, 1992, the unit was redesignated the 165th Airlift Group.
On Oct. 1, 1995, the unit received its current designation, the 165th Airlift Wing.
In 2001, the 165th Airlift Wing was federally activated following the events of 9/11. Since then the Wing has had over 13 major deployments to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, as well other geographic commands. .
Beginning in 2015 and finishing in September 2016, the unit replaced its entire C-130 fleet with C-130 H 2.5 and C-130 H3 models.
In 2017 the Wing was selected to establish a central hub and fly relief supplies and personnel into Puerto Rico,. Units from the Wing responded in less than 24 hours to stand up a 24-hour air bridge operation to support Hurricane Maria relief efforts. In total the Wing processed more than 2,000 personnel from over 200 Federal and State agencies and launched over 400 missions resulting in more than 2.3 million pounds of aid delivered to the island.
As of 2018, the Wing has received 12th Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards.