158th Airlift Squadron [158th AS]
The 158th Airlift Squadron was federally recognized on 13 October 1946; however, it dates its beginning to the organization of the 351st Fighter Squadron on 1 October 1942. Activated at Mitchell Field, New York, the 351st Fighter Squadron distinguished itself in the service of our country until its deactivation on 18 October 1945. The unit was later reactivated, assigned to the State of Georgia, and redesigned the 158th Fighter Squadron.
Since its original inception, the unit has functioned as a Fighter Squadron, Fighter-Bomber Squadron, Military Airlift Squadron, Tactical Airlift Squadron, and an Airlift Squadron. It has flown over eleven different types of aircraft to include the P-47, L-5, B-26, T-6, F-80, F-84, F-51, F-86, C-97, C-124, and C-130.
The unit has been renamed six times through a succession of six different aircraft and four major commands. The personnel of the 158th have flown in support of U.S. Forces involved in the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War, The Gulf War, numerous Humanitarian Relief missions, and during deployments to nearly every part of the world.
In 1973 the 158th Airlift Squadron acquired C-130E aircraft from the Air Force to replace the aging C-124. Many of the original C-130 aircraft in the unit inventory were Vietnam veterans, some sporting battle damage as a result of participation in that conflict. In 1980 the unit was the first Air National Guard Airlift Squadron deployed to Pope Air Force Base for a major command Operational Readiness Inspection. In 1987 the unit deployed to Korea in support of Team Spirit 87. In 1989 the 158th Airlift Squadron deployed with the 185th Airlift Squadron, 137th Airlift Wing, for a first ever major command combined Operational Readiness Inspection at Pope Air Force Base. This exercise demonstrated that two National Guard units could deploy and operate together in a combat environment. Additionally, the squadron flew Special Forces elements to Thailand in support of Operation Badge Torch in October 1989.
During the squadron's 1990 Alpina deployment, Iraq invaded Kuwait. The 158th Airlift Squadron volunteered aircrews as the vanguard of an Air National Guard Airlift Wing stationed in the United Arab Emirates in support of Operation Desert Shield. Additionally, the squadron flew more than 198 Desert Shield and Desert Storm sorties in support of the Gulf War.
During September 1992 the unit flew missions supporting humanitarian airlift to Homestead Air Force Base after the devastating Hurricane Andrew struck south Florida. Additionally, the unit supported other humanitarian missions to St. Croix, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, Guinea, Ethiopia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Djibouti, and Senegal.
In 1993 the unit was called upon to fly important humanitarian airlift missions into war torn Bosnia-Herzegovina in support of Operation Provide Promise. With the onset of winter, the squadron delivered food, clothing, and heating oil to Sarajevo Airport. Additionally, the unit provided airdrops to Bosnians suffering from starvation and exposure. The airlift and airdrop missions were constantly hampered by the threat of hostile fire and poor weather. Because of the units Self Contained Navigational System, 158th Airlift Squadron aircraft were allowed to airdrop without AWADS aircraft support resulting in keeping innocent civilians alive during the harsh winter months.
The humanitarian airlift extended to the unit's own backyard with operational support to the victims of the 1994 floods in Southwest Georgia. The unit provided airlift of personnel and relief supplies during Operation Crested River, earning members of the 158th Airlift Squadron the Humanitarian Service Medal.
In September of 1994, the squadron deployed to Uganda in support of Operation Support Hope. The unit was stationed at the famous Entebbe Airport and flew humanitarian airlift support to Rwanda and Zaire. This effort directly contributed to halting the massive numbers of refugee deaths due to starvation and disease. Additionally, in September 1994, 158th Airlift Squadron aircrews supported airlift missions to Haiti in support of Operation Uphold Democracy resulting in the restoration of democracy in Haiti.
During 1996 the unit supported three major operations. In January 1996 elements of the unit deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Southern Watch. In May 1996 the Squadron deployed to Germany in support of Operation Joint Endeavor. The unit flew important airlift support missions to NATO Forces located at Tasar in Hungary, and Tuzla and Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Finally, from July to August 1996 the unit supported the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. Task Force 165 provided Security and Intelligence support to the 1996 Olympic Yachting Venue held in Savannah Georgia.
The 158th is currently a member of the Rapid Deployment Forces. Its mission is to provide tactical support to Army Field Units. This support might take the form of airdrop of men and equipment, or utilization of short field takeoff and landing capabilities of the C-130 from unimproved dirt fields. The unit has nine Lockheed C-130H aircraft and more than 120 aircrew members. The unit flies 4,500 hours per year and has flown over 130,000 accident free flying hours in contingencies, exercises, special air missions, and continuing proficiency training. As a result of this remarkable flying record, and dedication by members of the 158th Airlift Squadron, the unit earned an Outstanding rating during the 1995 Operational Readiness Inspection from 8th Air Force.
In order to maintain its high degree of combat readiness, the 158th Airlift Squadron volunteered as the test unit for the Self-Contained Navigation System (SCNS). The unit flew three months of extensive SCNS testing in New Mexico, California, and the local area. Additionally, the unit provided initial SCNS training to numerous Air National Guard C-130 units. The 158th recently participated in important counterdrug operations flying intercept missions in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Florida. In a related role, the unit has flown numerous Coronet Oak missions in Central and South America in support of counterdrug operations. The unit has participated in large scale exercises, such as Bright Star, Volant Rodeo, Brave Shield, Quick Thrust, Red Flag, Maple Flag, Reforger, and Wintex, to name a few.
In May 1998 the 158th Airlift Squadron was instrumental in moving Operation Coronet Oak from Panama to Muniz ANG Base, Puerto Rico. The squadron deployed in October 1998 to Ramstein Air Base Germany as the lead unit for Operation Joint Forge. This important mission was tasked to support Stabilization Forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The 158th successfully managed more than 1,080 sorties, moving more than 10,500 personnel, and transporting over 3,550 tons of cargo, resulting in a reliability rate of 97%. Again in February 2000, as a member of the Air Expeditionary Force (AEF-6), the unit returned to Germany in support of Operation Joint Forge. Additionally, the unit deployed to Curacaco in support of Operation Senior Scout.
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