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Twelfth Air Force
U.S. Southern Command Air Forces [SOUTHAF]

The commander of Twelfth Air Force, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base AZ, also serves as commander of U.S. Southern Command Air Forces, and Air Force component commander, US Strategic Command. The command comprises seven active-duty wings in the western and midwestern United States with 396 aircraft and more than 32,600 active-duty military and civilian personnel. He ensures the operational readiness of 12th Air Force-gained units of the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard, featuring an additional 17,700 people and more than 214 aircraft. He also oversees Air Force assets provided to US Southern Command in Central and South America as commander of the air component to that unified command and serves as the Air Force commander of Component Task Force 224, the battle management arm of US Strategic Command.

The origins of Twelfth Air Force can be traced back to a series of meetings conducted in mid-1942 when Allied planners were developing a strategy for the invasion of North Africa, to be called "Operation TORCH". Because this extensive operation would require a new organization to provide enough manpower and equipment, plans for the activation of Twelfth Air Force were prepared simultaneously with the invasion strategy.

On August 20, 1942, Twelfth Air Force activated at Bolling Field. On September 23, 1942, General Jimmy Doolittle formally assumed command of Twelfth Air Force with Colonel Hoyt S. Vandenberg as chief of staff. Barely four months after it was conceived, Twelfth Air Force made its first contributions to World War II. When D-Day arrived for the invasion of North Africa on November 8, 1942, Twelfth Air Force was ready to meet its assigned missions.

Later, Twelfth Air Force saw action in Sicily, Italy, and Southern France. By VE-Day, Twelfth Air Force had flown 430,681 sorties, dropped 217,156 tons of bombs, claimed destruction of 2,857 enemy aircraft, and lost 2,667 of its own aircraft.

When hostilities ended, Twelfth Air Force was inactivated at Florence, Italy, on August 31, 1945. Twelfth Air Force was reactivated at March Field, CA, on May 17, 1946, and assigned as a training command under the Tactical Air Command. Following several assignments and inactivations in the late 1940s, Twelfth Air Force reactivated on January 21, 1951 at Wiesbaden, Germany, assigned to United States Air Forces in Europe. Twelfth Air Force became the first USAFE unit to be committed to NATO. Along with French and Canadian air units, Twelfth Air Force was part of the 4th Allied Tactical Air Forces charged with conducting the aerial mission of NATO's Allied Air Forces Central Europe.

On January 1, 1958, Twelfth Air Force relocated to Waco, TX, and was assigned to the Tactical Air Command. During 10 years at Waco its mission began to focus on training tactical air crews to a state of combat readiness capable of conducting joint air operations. In Sept. 1968, Twelfth Air Force moved to Bergstrom AFB in Austin, Texas. During the war in Vietnam, the Twelfth was a primary source for tactical fighter, reconnaissance, and airlift forces in that theater.

Twelfth Air Force provides the Air Force component to U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), the Unified Command responsible for Central and South America. In this role, Twelfth Air Force is referred to as U.S. Southern Command Air Forces, or SOUTHAF. Here, its mission is to plan for the employment of and to conduct, control, and coordinate the operation of all air forces provided to USSOUTHCOM. This responsibility includes significant involvement in battling illegal narcotics trafficking, a mission for which SOUTHAF is the single lead agency for detection and monitoring of illegal narcotics by air. It also exercises staff oversight, coordination, and supervision of all U.S. Air Force assets engaged in the counternarcotics mission in the USSOUTHCOM area of responsibility.

In 1987, the Twelfth Air Force commander took on the added responsibility of commander, United States Air Forces in Southern Command. As such, he manages all Air Force personnel and assets in the United States Southern Command area of responsibility-Central and South America. During Operation JUST CAUSE, for example, Twelfth Air Force and other Air Force units deployed in support of U.S. forces, returning democracy to Panama in 1989. Later, Twelfth Air Force managed and ochestrated the air operation of Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY, the mission to restore democracy to Haiti in 1994. Not limited to Central and South American operations. However, during Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM Twelfth Air Force provided fighter and reconnaissance aircraft and support to U.S. Central Command Air Forces.

On July 13, 1993, HQ Twelfth Air Force officially moved from Bergstrom to Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ. Today, Twelfth Air Force oversees the activities of 10 active-duty wings and 21 Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units.



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