Military


407th Air Expeditionary Group
407th Expeditionary Operations Group

In 2011, the US formally turned over control of Ali Air Base (also known as Tallil Air Base) and associated facilities to the government of Iraq. The 407th Air Expeditionary Group was inactivated as part of the turnover of the facility and the overall drawdown of US forces in Iraq.

The 407th Air Expeditionary Group provided precise weapons and sensors employment, aerial port operations, area airspace control, senior airfield authority, and combat support at Tallil Air Base (also known as Ali Air Base) in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and then Operation New Dawn. Located approximately 7 miles southwest of the city of An Nasiriyah in south central Iraq, Ali Air Base has played a crucial role in military operations throughout Iraq.

The 407th Air Expeditionary Group traced its history back to the 407th Bombardment Group (Dive), which was established on 23 March 1943, at Drew Field, Florida. Its subordinate squadrons at that time included the 632nd, 633rd, 634th, and 635th Bombardment (Dive) Squadrons. The air echelon was attached to Eleventh Air Force in Amchitka, Alaska, from 19 July to 15 August 1943, where it performed combat operations against the Japanese in the Aleutian Islands.

The unit was redesignated the 407th Fighter-Bomber Group on 15 August 1943. At that time, the 632d, 633rd and 634th Bombardment (Dive) Squadrons were redesignated the 515th, 516th, and 517th Fighter-Bomber Squadrons, respectively, and the 635th Bombardment (Dive) Squadron was disbanded. In 1943, the 407th flew the Douglas A-24 dive bomber, North American A-36 Invader dive bomber, and P-51 Mustang, and then flew the P-47 Thunderbolt from the end of 1943 to 1944. In October 1943, the Group had moved the Lakeland Army Air Field, Florida, and then to Galveston Army Air Field, Texas in November 1943, where it trained for combat, and functioned as a replacement unit until 1 April 1944. At that time it was disestablished.

The unit was reestablished as the 407th Strategic Fighter Wing on 23 March 1953, and was activated on 18 December 1953, at Great Falls Air Force Base, Montana (The base was eventually renamed as Malmstrom Air Force Base). Its subordinate squadrons at that time were the 407th Air Refueling Squadron, and the 515th, 516th, and 517th Strategic Fighter Squadrons flying the F-84 Thunderstreak. From December 1954 to July 1955, the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron was also attached to the 407th Strategic Fighter Wing.

From August to November 1954, the 407th Strategic Fighter Wing deployed to Misawa Air Base, Japan, where it provided air defense of northern Japan. From November 1954 to June 1957, the Wing provided long-range fighter support and refueling for bombers from its home base in Montana. The Wing was inactivated in July 1957.

The 407th was redesignated the 407th Air Expeditionary Group and later activated at Tallil Air Base (also known as Ali Air Base) in April 2003. The airfield was built in the 1970s and was the busiest military airfield during the country's war with Iran in the 1980s. Ali Air Base was known as Tallil Air Base from the start of the first Gulf War until January 2005, when the Air Force began to use the Iraqi name for the base: Ali Air Base. The origin of the Tallil name was unknown.

The airfield was heavily bombed and virtually destroyed during the first Gulf War. Ultimately, the base became off limits to Iraqi forces while US and British patrols enforced the no-fly zone over southern Iraq, including Ali Air Base. On 24 March 2003, 5 days after Operation Iraqi Freedom kicked off, a 25-man team of Airmen from Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait, were sent to Ali Air Base with 3 R-11 refueling trucks. After several delays, the group reached the captured Iraqi base and began to set up a "gas-and-go" operation designed to give A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft increased capability to provide the Army better close-air support. On 29 March 2003, the first A-10s landed at Ali, refueled, and took off for another mission.

During the first few weeks of the war, Airmen lived in abandoned Iraqi structures as civil engineers prepared to build tent city. Working in concert with British Royal Engineers, Airmen moved thousands of cubic meters of dirt to build the foundation for tent city. Initial plans called for Ali to go operational within 2 weeks, but coalition personnel had it operational in 2 days. Ali Air Base became its own detachment on 2 April 2003.

High temperatures, lots of sun and frequent dust storms were in the Tallil Air Base forecast for months after the unit's deployment. It did not take a genius to figure that out, but when officials needed more precise weather advice, they turned to the Airmen of the 407th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight for up-to-the-hour details. Manned around the clock, they provided 24-hour meteorological services to US Army and coalition aircrews and any transient air-crews who passed through. They also provided temperature, weather and cloud forecasts, and they sent out warnings and advisories for high winds, lightning and severe weather.

On April 13, 2003, the Air Force redesignated the 407th Air Expeditionary Group at Tallil Air Base as a subordinate to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, which was stationed at Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait. As a result the unit was briefly designated a the 407th Expeditionary Operations Group. Throughout the summer of 2003, the mission at Tallil AB expanded. The flightline became home to A-10s, C-130s, and MQ-1 Predators. The 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing then transferred from Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait, to Tallil Air Base on 5 August 2003.

On 27 May 2003, the "medical torch" passed from the Army to the Air Force at Tallil Air Base in southern Iraq with the grand opening of the Expeditionary Medical Support Hospital. After nearly 6 years of development, the Expeditionary Medical Support hospital was the latest in expeditionary medical care. The Army's 86th Combat Support Hospital was scheduled to close because the base no longer needed its 80-bed capacity, according to base officials. The replacement Expeditionary Medical Support hospital unit was a 10-bed hospital.

During the 2003 period, the Wing's A-10s destroyed more than 1,100 targets during major combat operations of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Tallil Air Base was also where US Special Forces staged and planned the rescue of Army Private 1st Class Jessica Lynch, and where the private was flown out of Iraq. In addition, the Group made use of the capabilities of the MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle. It hunted alone, flying quietly for more than 20 hours at a time, carefully scouring the earth for the most minute evidence of ground activity and discretely relaying intelligence information to analysts half a world away. On a moment's notice, the 64th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron's MQ-1 Predators could transform itself from a forward aerial-observer to an attack-craft capable of delivering a missile with pin-point accuracy. The Predator was a complete system, not just an airframe by itself. A fully operational system consisted of 4 aircraft with sensors, a ground-control station, a satellite link and about 55 people to support continuous 24-hour operations. To the airmen who flew them with the 64th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, deployed circa August 2003, the system was more than just an expensive video game. Inside the Predator's brain, there was room for a crew of 2. The ground-control station, a box-like container which resembles the end section of a tractor-trailer, controls almost every move of the 27-foot craft.

The famed "Red Tails" were on the move when they relocated from a base in southern Iraq to just north of Baghdad. The 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing flag was furled before being flown to its new home at Balad Air Base, Iraq, where the Wing was reactivated on 30 January 2004. The move was part of the Central Command Air Forces (CENTAF) effort to consolidate forces from Tallil, Baghdad International Airport, and Kirkuk Air Base into one location. CENTAF did not completely vacate the base in southern Iraq, with the 407th Air Expeditionary Group, commanded by Colonel Kevin E. Williams, remaining at Tallil.

The 43 43rd Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron, operating the EC-130H Compass Call aircraft, arrived in theater at Tallil Air Base on 3 March 2004, and was assigned to the 407th Expeditionary Operations Group. The first combat sortie was flown on 18 March 2004. On 23 June 2004, the unit departed Tallil and was reassigned to the 386th Expeditionary Operations Group, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait.

By December 2007, more than 700 active-duty Air Force, Guard, Reserve and civilian members were assigned to the 407th Air Expeditionary Group during any given Air and Space Expeditionary Force rotation. The Group's forces at that time were organized under 8 squadrons: 407th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron, 407th Expeditionary Communications Squadron, 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, 407th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, 407th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, 407th Expeditionary Services Squadron, the 361st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron (which had replaced the 64th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron), and the 192nd Expeditionary Airlift Squadron.




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