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U.S. Air Force Logo
164th Airlift Wing
Memphis Belle and Crew
The 164th Airlift Wing began in 1946 when the secretary of war authorized the adjutant general of Tennessee to organize an air unit of the National Guard in Memphis. After months of planning and negotiating with local, state, and federal governments, the 155th Fighter Squadron obtained federal recognition on 23 December 1946 along with the following support units: the Utility Flight of the 155 FS, Detachment B, 218th Air Service Group, and the 155th Weather Station. Read full history below.
History of the 164th AW
The history of the 164th Airlift Wing began in 1946 when the Secretary of War authorized the Adjutant of General of Tennessee to organize an Air Unit of the National Guard in Memphis, Tennessee. On 23 December 1946 the 155th Fighter Squadron obtained federal recognition along with the following support units: the Utility Flight of the 155 FS, Detachment B, 218th Air Service Group, and the 155th Weather Station. Total personnel authorized to these four units was 50 officers and 303 enlisted.
The famed P-51 Mustang was the first aircraft assigned to the 155th Fighter Squadron. In 1948, the "P" for pursuit designation was changed to "F" for fighter. In January 1951 the 155th was called to federal service to prepare for missions in support of the Korean Conflict and tasked to modify its fleet of F-51 aircraft with photo recon equipment. On 1 April 1951, with all assigned aircraft now RF-51s, the 155th was re-designated a Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (TRS) and deployed to Shaw AFB, South Carolina.
The 155th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron returned to state-control on 1 January 1953 and began night photo recon operations from the Memphis ANGB with newly assigned RB-26 aircraft. The 155th continued to fly the RB-26 for the next three years.
On 1April1956 the 155th converted to the RF-84 aircraft. RF-84s were brand new jet aircraft right off the assembly line. Their mission remained tactical reconnaissance for another five years.
1 April 1961 was truly a major milestone in the unit's history as it marks the beginning of the 164th's era of military airlift. It was on this date the 164th Air Transportation Group (Heavy) was activated as the parent unit and the155th was re-designated an Air Transportation Squadron (Heavy). The unit received the Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter, a heavy military transport based on the B-29. This mission change was an exciting time for the Airmen of the 164th and the glamour of worldwide missions resulted in high morale among the Airmen.
In May 1966 the 164th set many records for its airmanship: 10 round trips to Southeast Asia, more than 1700 flying hours, and tremendous transport of cargo and passengers--all accomplished by part-time personnel.
May 1967 brought the Grand Lady of the air, the C-124 (Old Shaky), as the 164 MAG converted aircraft once again. The 164th continued to fly strategic military airlift missions in Old Shaky until May 1974.
In September 1974 the 164 MAG converted to the C-130A. The mission remained military airlift but was tactical in nature. The unit performed its first aerial delivery mission on 8 February 1975. The 164th Military Aircraft Group was re-designated the 164th Tactical Airlift Group.
In the 1990s Desert Storm brought the activation of several units of the 164th Tactical Airlift Group. One unit noted for its service was the 164th Mobile Aerial Port Squadron. This unit was the first Air National Guard aerial port unit activated for Desert Storm and served a six-month tour in the desert with distinction.
After nearly a one-year delay due to Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, the 164 TAG began a conversion back to strategic military airlift when the first of nine C-141B Starlifters arrived on 2 January 1992. For several months the unit flew both C-130As and C-141Bs. The 164th transferred its last C-130A in April 1992 and was re-designated the 164th Airlift Group.
In October 1995, the 164 AG was re-designated the 164th Airlift Wing and performed notably across a wide range of strategic airlift mission sets. The wing was one of the last to operate the updated C141C.
In late September 2001 the 164th volunteered on short notice to take over the Air Mobility Command's (AMC) European Strategic Intra-theatre Deployment (E-SID) mission based at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The unit deployed and flew its first E-SID mission within 40 hours of initial notification. Although some Airmen deployed for longer periods of time, most supported this mission on a 30-day rotational basis until December 2002.
In April 2002 the USAF made public its plan to assign C-5 Galaxy aircraft to the 164th Airlift Wing in fiscal year 2005 (1 October 2004). The wing wasted no time and retired the first of its nine C-141s in November 2003. The final aircraft, tail number 70157, was retired following a brief ceremony at the ANG Base on 2 May 2004.
In late September 2004 the 164th Airlift Wing received two C-5 Galaxy aircraft from the USAF in preparation for its official conversion on 1 October 2004 (FY 05). The conversion was marked with a mission change ceremony on 1 October 2004 in conjunction with the unit training assembly (drill). Additional C-5s were transferred to the 164th over the next three fiscal years, resulting in a fleet of 10 C-5 aircraft.
In September 2008, the 164AW moved into its new, state-of-the-art facility. It is the only base in the USAF inventory built to the Post 9/11 anti-terrorism/force protection standards.
During the unprecedented physical transition, the wing continued to support the war effort by deploying to McGuire AFB, forming the first C-5 air expeditionary group in the history of the USAF. Boasting unprecedented mission capability rates, this deployment had the coincidental effect of validating the expeditionary concept of C-5 operations.
Throughout the wing's recent history involving mission changes and relocation, its primary focus has clearly been supporting national objectives and the warfighter on the front lines. In total, 164th Airmen have flown more than 18,000 hours in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn and Enduring Freedom on six continents.
The wing has maintained a responsive and ready presence for our state mission as well, answering the call for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita along with Haiti relief and domestic disaster exercises. In direct support of Hurricane Katrina relief, the 164th flew missions 24/7 for a solid week; airlifting relief personnel, water purification devices, vehicles and construction equipment to New Orleans.
Not to be outdone by the aircrew, 164AW ground personnel have deployed everywhere from Iraq to Puerto Rico, Afghanistan to Japan, Germany to the United Arab Emirates and many places in between.
In 2012, the 164AW learned it would once again enter aircraft conversion; this time receiving C-17. The first C-17 arrived at Memphis in November 2012. As of January 2013, the wing is programmed for a fleet of eight C-17 aircraft. The conversion from the C-5 Galaxy to the C-17 Globemaster marks the ninth airplane since 1946 to serve the Tennessee Air National Guard and the United States Air Force.
History of the ANG
Ang: A Short Story
The Air National Guard as we know it today -- a separate reserve component of the United States Air Force -- was a product of the politics of postwar planning and interservice rivalry during World War II. The men who planned and maneuvered for an independent postwar Air Force during World War II didn't place much faith in the reserves, especially the state-dominated National Guard.
Other History Sites
United States Army Center of Military History
National Museum of the United States Air Force
Air Force Historical Research Agency
Society for Military History
Naval History and Heritage Command
United States Army Heritage and Education Center
United States Marine Corps History Division
Air Force Historical Foundation