Moody Field began as an Army Air Corps pilot training base during World War II. The concept of an Army Air Field in Valdosta originated with Valdosta and Lowndes County citizens in 1940. Local leaders faced the probability of a coming war and looked for a way they could join the national defense efforts. Valdosta Mayor J. D. Ashley appointed six members to a city planning board in June 1940 to develop a plan of action.
In October 1940, Emory Bass, who was then serving as the president of the Chamber of Commerce, wrote Georgia Senators Walter George and Richard Russell to request their assistance in obtaining a defense project. Senator George agreed to a meeting several days later in Vienna, Georgia. The senator referred them to Brig. Gen. Walter R. Weaver, commander of the Southeast Air Corps Training Center, headquartered at Maxwell AFB, Ala. Weaver was a personal friend of the senator.
The original plan was to obtain an Army Air Corps flying school at the Valdosta Regional Airport, but this plan fell through when Weaver noticed a marsh in aerial photos of the airport. Their backup plan, the 9,300-acre site that had been the Lakeland Flatwoods Project, became the focus. This area was located approximately 10 miles northeast of Valdosta and had been the site of the T. J. Davis Plantation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture had been leasing the acreage since 1938 to do experiments in forest grazing.
The Department of War granted the final approval for construction on June 2, 1941 and construction began July 28, 1941. Just a few months earlier, on May 5, U.S. Army Maj. George Putnam Moody, a 1929 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, was killed in Wichita, Kansas. Maj. Moody had been involved in the aircraft trials for the Beech AT-10 “Wichita” that was to become the new trainer at the base being constructed in Valdosta. In June Maj. Gen. Weaver recommended that Maj. Moody’s name be added to the list of potential sources for the name of the Valdosta airfield. When word of his possible selection reached the citizens of Valdosta they immediately began referring to their airfield, now fully under construction, as “Moody Field.” This was reflected in the fact that shuttle busses carrying construction workers to the airfield from Valdosta and surrounding communities were labeled with “Moody Field” as their destination. As one observer put it, “the proposed ’Moody Field’ was to be the name as far as the local citizenry were concerned.” In September when Gen. Weaver asked Moody’s first commander Lt. Col. Fred Nelson for additional names, Nelson had to decline his boss’ request by pointing out the extent to which Valdosta had adopted Maj. Moody. “Things having gone thus far,” he explained, “the city fathers are not desirous of changing the name of the field and want no part in recommending the name of an alternate for Maj. George P. Moody until definitely advised that the use of his name has been finally disapproved.” In honor of Maj. Moody's sacrifice, and because Valdostans had made their choice, the acquiesced and announced on December 6, 1941 that the Valdosta airfield would be named Moody Field.
By September 1941, the number of personnel employed on the construction of Moody Field grew to approximately 4,500. The Army Air Corps constructed a total of 349 buildings, which consisted of: 72 barracks, 21 operations rooms, 17 day rooms, 16 administrative buildings, 16 supply rooms, eight officers' quarters, seven mess halls, six warehouses, six maintenance shops, three link trainer buildings, two school buildings, three radio unit buildings, two officers' day rooms, two recreation buildings, two post exchanges, two gasoline storage units, a utility shop, a commissary, an incinerator, a bomb trainer building, a fire station, a motor repair shop, a telephone and telegraph unit, a theater, a bomb sight storage building, a parachute packing building, a 170-bed hospital, an officers' club, a chapel, a guard house and four runways.
These facilities were home to nine school squadrons and three base squadrons that supported a maximum capacity of about 4,100 personnel. The initial group of 140 military personnel arrived at Moody on November 25, 1941. Although the $11.5 million construction of Moody Field would not be officially completed until June 1942, the first class of 50 U.S. Army Air Corps Aviation Cadets arrived Feb. 19, 1942. By the spring of 1942 the personnel at Moody numbered 3,000 enlisted, 350 officers, 450 flying cadets, and 20 nurses.
Moody Field had a detachment of Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC), which later evolved into the Women’s Air Corps (WAC). Originally planned to have three officers and 155 enlisted women, the 804th WAAC was activated at Moody Field on 14 June 1943. Their official designation changed to 804th WAC in September 1943. By February 1944, enlisted women were working in practically all organizations on the post including Post Headquarters, Cadet Headquarters, Special Services, Public Relations, base photo, Post Operations, weather Detachment, production line Maintenance, training grounds, stations hospital, quartermaster activities, Pass Department, and post engineers. Some of the jobs women held at Moody were 1st Sergeant, airplane and engine mechanic, baker, link training instructor, truck driver, mess sergeant, baker, clerk, typist, control tower operator, librarian, weather observer, technical instructor, supply sergeant, and photographer.
For the next three years, through April 1945, cadet training continued at Moody and would eventually graduate a total of 7,212 pilots. At Moody Field, Army Air Corps cadets received a total of seven months of training that consisted of Preliminary Flight Training, Basic Training, and Advanced Flight Training. The final phase lasted nine to 10 weeks and earned the graduating cadets their wings as well as a commission as a second lieutenant. After graduation, the pilots were qualified to fly multiengine aircraft like the B-17 "Flying Fortress," the B-24 "Liberator," and the B-25 "Mitchell."
The number of aircraft assigned to Moody Field varied during these three years from approximately 150 to as many as 325. In 1944, the Air Corps constructed four additional runways to accommodate the large numbers of aircraft at Moody. The new runways paralleled the original four, creating two runways for each of the four compass headings.
On April 15, 1945, the last class of aviation cadets received their wings, and Moody's mission changed to training combat crews in the Douglas A-26 "Invader." With this mission change, and more significantly the surrender of Germany May 7, 1945, the Air Force's requirements changed. This changed Moody's mission in terms of the number of personnel required to accomplish it. Military personnel figures dropped to approximately 1,600 by June 1945. After Japan's surrender on Aug. 14, 1945, officials further reduced training and personnel. In February 1946 all training ceased at Moody Field.
Moody Field remained on inactive status for four and a half years. Only a small caretaker unit of civil engineers and firefighting personnel (one officer and 12 civilians) remained on base. On Sept. 18, 1947, the Air Force became an independent service, and Moody Field became Moody Air Force Base. When the Korean War broke out in June 1950, the Air Force's pilot training goal began escalating from 3,000 per year in 1950 to 7,200 per year by mid-1953. This caused Moody Air Force base to be reopened in May 1951.
Rehabilitation of the base took the California Air National Guard's 146th Air Base Group four months to complete. On Sept. 1, 1951, the Air Training Command accepted the base and activated the 3550th Flying Training Wing (Interceptor Aircrew) as the host wing. The 3550th would oversee three schools initially: the Instrument Pilot Instructor School, The Advanced Flying School Phase One, and the Jet Transition School. Training began in December 1951 with a reported military strength of 3,500 personnel.
In 1952, the personnel strength at Moody reached 4,000, which had been the level previously maintained during World War II. By 1953 that number had risen to 4,500 personnel. The Jet Transition School was phased out in the spring of 1953 and the Advanced Flying School Phase Two was added several months later in July. With this new course came the F-94C "Starfire," a two-seat, single-engine, jet fighter manufactured by Lockheed. In October 1953 the F-89D "Scorpion," a two-seat, twin-engine, interceptor joined it.
In January 1955 Moody acquired an important secondary mission with the arrival of the 4756th Air Defense Group. They were assigned as a tenant unit to train and evaluate Air Defense Command's tactical units and train air controllers. This additional mission raised the number of military personnel assigned at Moody AFB to approximately 5,000. The 4756th operated successfully until it transferred to Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., early in 1957.
The F-86 "Sabre," a single-seat, swept-wing, jet fighter arrived at Moody in the summer of 1957. It replaced older aircraft and updated the Advanced Flying School's training of interceptor pilots. After six years of operation at Moody, the Instrument Pilot Instructor School relocated to James Connally AFB, Texas on April 1, 1958. With the loss of both the 4756th and the Instrument Pilot Instructor School the number of military population at Moody AFB dropped to around 3,500. In 1961 the Air Force adopted a Consolidated Pilot Training Program which combined pre-flight, primary, and basic flying training at each of Air Training Command's seven pilot training bases. This change resulted in a 55-week training course rather than the old program's six-month course. With this conversion came three new aircraft. The T-28A "Trojan," a two-seat, propeller-driven trainer replaced the AT-6 "Texan." The T-33A "Shooting Star," a two-seat, single-engine, jet trainer, and the T-37B "Tweet," a two-seat, two-engine, turbojet, replaced the other Moody aircraft.
In November 1960, under the Military Assistance Program, allied students began arriving at Moody to enroll in the pilot training programs. The Military Assistance Program remained under the 3550th for nearly two years before it transferred to Randolph AFB, Texas, in August 1963. During its stint at Moody, more than 200 officers and cadets representing 12 Allied nations were trained here.
In September of 1963, the Northrop T-38 “Talon,” a two-seat, twin-engine, turbojet trainer arrived at Moody to replace the T-33 "Shooting Star." In 1965, the T-41A “Mescalero,” the military version of the Cessna 172 which was a four-seat, propeller-driven training aircraft, arrived at Moody to replace the T-28. Students received about 30 hours of flight training in the T-41 before advancing to the T-37 primary jet trainer. The T-41 also operated at Valdosta Municipal Airport until June 1973 when all T-41 training was consolidated at Hondo Municipal Airport, Hondo, Texas.
On December 1, 1973, after 22 years as the host wing at Moody, the 3550th Pilot Training Wing was inactivated and the 38th Flying Training Wing was activated in its place. This caused no changes in personnel, mission, or aircraft.
Almost two years later, on the Sept. 30, 1975, the 347th Tactical Fighter Wing was activated at Moody after being relocated from Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. For the next three months the 38th and the 347th coexisted at Moody. When Air Training Command handed the base to Tactical Air Command in December it was the 38th Flying Training Wing that was inactivated. On Dec. 1, 1975 the 347th Tactical Fighter Wing assumed oversight of all base functions as the host wing.
Between Dec. 1975 and Apr. 1977, the 347th trained its personnel and upgraded facilities to achieve full mission ready status on Apr. 1, 1977. During this time they converted from the F-4 "Phantom II" to the F-16 "Fighting Falcon" a single-seat, multirole fighter. In 1992, after the 307th and 308th Fighter squadrons were reassigned to the 347th in the wake of Hurricane Andrew, the 347th would hold the distinction of being the largest F-16 wing in the U.S. Air Force. This ended several years later when the 307th and the 308th were inactivated.
On April 1, 1997, the 41st Rescue Squadron and the 71st Rescue Squadron joined the 347th and brought with them the HC-130, "Combat King" and the HH-60G "Pave Hawk." On the same day, the 23d Wing located at Pope AFB, N.C., was redesignated as the 23d Fighter Group and realigned under the 347th as a Geographically Separated Unit. The 23d Operations Group was inactivated. This was a significant day in Moody history because it brought together the 347th and the 23d for the first time. Despite a change in host wings at Moody and numerous comings and goings among Moody squadrons, the aircraft of these three organizations remain a part of the Moody arsenal through today.
In August 1999, Detachment 1, of the 820th Security Forces Group arrived at Moody AFB to prepare for the eventual arrival of a Security Forces Group and three Security Forces Squadrons to Moody. By Mar. 14, 2001, the 820th Security Forces Group was in place at Moody AFB with three subordinate squadrons: the 822nd Security Forces Squadron, 823rd Security Forces Squadron, and the 824th Security Forces Squadron.
On July 31, 2000 another tenant unit joined Moody when the 479th Flying Training Group, an Air Education and Training Command unit, was activated at Moody to conduct the Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals course and the Joint Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training course flying the AT-38B "Talon" aircraft and the T-6, "Texan." By October 2001, the 479th Flying Training Group consisted of the 49th Flying Training Squadron, the 3rd Flying Training Squadron, the 39th Flying Training Squadron, and the 435th Flying Training Squadron.
The last two remaining fighter squadrons of the 347th Fighter Wing, the 69th Fighter Squadron and the 68th Fighter Squadron were both inactivated by Apr. 2001. The 347th retained both the 41st and 71st Rescue Squadrons and on May 1, 2001 the Air Combat Command (ACC) activated the 38th Rescue Squadron to bring pararescue Guardian Angel personnel to the Moody arsenal. They were assigned to the 347th and with this assignment came a redesignation for the 347th. It went from 347th Wing to the 347th Rescue Wing which made the 347th the only combat search and rescue wing in the active duty Air Force. On Oct. 1, 2003, the Air Force realigned the search and rescue under the Air Force Special Operations Command and with it, the 347th was also reassigned to Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Fla. On the same day the wing took command of the 563rd Rescue Group which was a Geographically Separated Unit located at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. which had three squadrons operating at Nellis AFB, Nev. as Geographically Separated Units.
In February 2006, the Air Force determined that combat search and rescue assets should once again be assigned to Air Combat Command so the 347th was once again reassigned to Air Combat Command.
On Oct. 1, 2006, the 23d Wing was reactivated at Moody AFB and the newly redesignated 23d Fighter Group was assigned as a subordinate unit. At the same time, the 347th Rescue Wing was inactivated and the 347th Operations Group was redesignated as the 347th Rescue Group and assigned to the 23d Wing. With the inactivation of the 347th Rescue Wing, the 23d Wing became the host wing at Moody.
In addition, the wing absorbed the 820th Security Forces Group that had previously been a tenant unit. This arrangement would only last until Jan. 2008 when the 93d Air Ground Operations Wing was activated at Moody and assumed control of the 820th.
In 2012, the 79th Rescue Squadron at Davis-Monthan AFB began receiving the new HC-130J “Combat King II.” This aircraft replaced the aging HC-130P models and provided enhanced cargo management capability and extended range. In 2013, the 71st Rescue Squadron at Moody AFB received their first HC-130Js and by 2016 the last of nine aircraft had been delivered.
In September 2015 the 598th Range Squadron was reactivated at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. The 598th RANS was activated the first time in 1943 at MacDill Field, Fla. as the 598th Bombardment Squadron, but they were moved to the Avon Park Bombing Range several months later. After the end of World War II the 598th was inactivated. They are currently responsible for overseeing and managing 106,074 acres, approximately 78,000 of which are open to the public.