The 165th Airlift Wing began its proud history on 12 October 1946 at Travis Field (Chatham Field at the time) in Savannah, Georgia. First known as the 158th Fighter Squadron, it was equipped with the P-47 "Thunderbolt" aircraft, a powerful aircraft that saw extensive action in WWII. Within two years the 158th became one of the first units in the Air National Guard to receive the new jet fighters, the F-80C "Shooting Star". Regarded as one of the top units in the Air 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 on 10 October 1950. In November, 1950, unit personnel reported to George Air Force Base, California, where they transitioned to F-84 "Thunderjets". 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 for allied forces. The 158th Fighter Squadron returned from Japan in 1952 and was released from active duty. The unit returned to Travis Field with P-51 fighters and later received F-84D, F-84F, and F-86L jet aircraft.
Reorganization came in 1962 when the unit transitioned from a fighter to an air transport mission. The 158th Fighter Squadron became the 158th Air Transport Squadron, assigned to the 165th Air Transport Group. They performed worldwide airlift missions with new aircraft, the C-97 "Stratocrusier". In 1967, the huge C-124 "Globemaster" replaced the C-97. The 165th Air Transport Group distinguished itself in many parts of the world, including Southeast Asia.
On 8 August 1975, the first of the C-130E "Hercules" aircraft, aptly named the "City of Savannah", arrived at Savannah International Airport to replace the older C-124's. While the C-124's were being retired from the Air Force inventory and the C-130's were arriving, the unit was renamed the 165th Tactical Airlift Group. The unit now flies C-130H "Hercules" aircraft received directly from the Lockheed Factory during September and October 1981. On 15 April 1992 the unit was redesignated the 165th Airlift Group.
In July, 1994, over 350 Air National Guard men and women volunteered for state active duty and deployed to central and southeast Georgia in support of Operation Crested River, relief efforts in the flood stricken Macon, Albany, and Bainbridge areas.
As part of Operation Southern Watch, the Wing flew missions in Southwest Asia during April and May 1993, basing from Dhahran Air Base, Saudi Arabia. This mission was also accomplished in January 1996.
From October, 1993 to January, 1994, the unit participated in Operation Provide Promise, humanitarian relief for war-torn Bosnia. In August and September, 1994, the unit flew to Central Africa in support of Operation Support Hope, Rwanda famine relief. The Wing received the Joint Meritorious Unit Award for both Operations Provide Promise and Support Hope.
On 1 October 1995, the unit received its current designation, the 165th Airlift Wing. In May, 1996, unit personnel and aircraft responded to our nation's call by deploying to Germany for Operation Joint Endeavor, resupply of U.S. forces in Bosnia. This mission was repeated in August - October 1998 as Operation Joint Forge, where the Wing was the lead unit.