Military


447th Air Expeditionary Group

The 447th Air Expeditionary Group was inactivated in 2011 as part of the drawdown of US Forces in Iraq.

The 447th Air Expeditionary Group provided aerial port, command and control of the military runway, aerial control, base operating support, combat Airmen and combat medical support. The group also supported US and coalition forces with airlift, supplies, and delivery of these forces and materials within the Baghdad area. The 447th operated a true joint environment, with Air Force aerial port Airmen working next to US Army Soldiers. The airfield was a joint civilian-military airport, with a military ramp on the west side and a civilian runway and terminal on the other that is used for international civilian flight operations.

The 447th Air Expeditionary Group was located at Baghdad International Airport, at a site known also as Sather Air Base, on the west side of the airport. This facility had been established in April 2003. It was a component of the Victory Base Complex, a series of US Army camps, Iraqi Special Forces, and Police training areas, all surrounding Baghdad International Airport. The 447th Air Expeditionary Group was a self-sufficient and geographically-separated unit assigned to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing based at Balad Air Base.

The 447th Air Expeditionary Group traced its lineage back to the 447th Bombardment Group, Heavy, which was established on 6 April 1943, and activated on 1 May 1943 at Ephrata Army Air Base, Washington. The group consisted of 4 squadrons: the 708th, 709th, 710th, and 711th Bombardment Squadrons. The mission of the 447th Bombardment Group was to form a heavy bombardment group and begin training in the B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft. After 6 months of training, first at Rapid City Army Air Base in South Dakota in June 1943 and then at Harvard Army Air Field in Nebraska in August 1943, the first 42 of the Group's B-17s began its move from the United States to the European theater of operations, beginning in November 1943. The Group was based at Rattlesden, England, from 25 November 1943 to 1 August 1945. The Group flew its first combat mission on 24 December 1943 against a V-1 missile site in Northern France. Between its first mission and it last on 21 April 1945, the 447th Bombardment Group engaged chiefly in strategic bombardment. The group flew 257 combat missions over Europe, comprising 7,605 sorties. Only 15 percent of the aircraft launched on combat missions failed to reach their target.

From December 1943 to May 1944, the 447th Bombardment Group helped prepare for the invasion of the European continent by attacking submarine pens, naval installations, and cities in Germany; missile sites and ports in France; and airfields and marshaling yards in France, Belgium and Germany. The Group conducted heavy bombardment missions against German aircraft industry during the so-called "Big Week" of 20-25 February 1944.

The Group also supported the invasion of Normandy in June 1944 by bombing airfields and other targets, and the group aided in the breakthrough at St. Lo, France, and the effort to take Brest, France, from July to September 1944. They bombed strategic targets from October to December 1944 and assaulted marshalling yards, railroad bridges, and communication centers during the Battle of the Bulge from December 1944 and January 1945. In March 1945, the Group bombed an airfield in support of an airborne assault across the Rhine.

One group member received the Medal of Honor: 2nd Lieutenant Robert E. Femoyer, who was navigator assigned the 711th Bombing Squadron. During a mission over Merseburg, Germany, on 2 November 1944, the 2nd Lieutenant Femoyer's bomber was struck by 3 enemy antiaircraft shells. The plane suffered serious damage and Lieutenant Femoyer was severely wounded in the side and back by shell fragments. In spite of extreme pain and loss of blood, he refused an offered injection of morphine. He was determined to keep his mental faculties clear so he could direct his plane out of danger and save his comrades. Unable to get up from the floor, he was propped up on the floor with his charts and instruments. He successfully directed the navigation of his lone bomber for 2 and a half hours, avoiding enemy flak and returning to the field without further damage. Only when the plane had arrived in the safe area over the English Channel did the lieutenant permit an injection of a sedative. He died shortly after being removed from the plane.

The 447th Bombardment Group returned home to United States in August 1945 where it was stationed at Drew Field, Florida. The unit was inactivated on 7 November 1945. Two years later, on 25 July 1947, the unit was redesignated the 447th Bombardment Group, Very Heavy. It was then activated in the Air Force Reserve on 12 August 1947, at Bergstrom Field, Texas, and equipped with B-29 Superfortress, which the group flew until 1949. The group was then redesignated the 447th Bombardment Group, Medium on 27 June 1949, at Castle Air Force Base, California. The 447th Bombardment Group was briefly ordered to active service in May 1951 before being inactivated on 16 June 1951.

The unit was redesignated the 447th Air Expeditionary Group and converted to provisional status on 28 January 2003 during the build up in preparation for Operation Iraqi Freedom. It was activated in April 2003 at the start of the operation.

A critically injured American soldier was spirited from danger on 16 December 2003 by a US Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter crew near Ar Ramadi, Iraq. The soldier, wounded in the midst of an enemy-occupied area known for its high threat for surface-to-air missiles and small arms fire, was flown to a major trauma center in central Baghdad. The job fell to the 447th Air Expeditionary Group, and element of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing stationed at Baghdad Air Base, Iraq.

When UN employees were treated after the bombing of the UN headquarters in downtown Baghdad on 19 August 2003, the military working dogs were the first line of defense. The animals played a critical role in ensuring the safety and security of 447th Air Expeditionary Group airmen.

Airmen worked for 2 days rebuilding and improving the communications infrastructure at Baghdad International Airport. A team of 447th Air Expeditionary Group cable maintenance shop and telephone systems Airmen started a job 3 April 2004. The contractor responsible for bringing the entire airport up to international commercial standards had run short on some supplies and tools. Through a meeting with the Air Force group's leaders, officials determined the communications squadron had the right materials to assist.

Technical Sergeant Kenneth D. Johnson, Services Flight, 177th Fighter Wing, was one of 19 individuals worldwide to receive the coveted Air Reserve Component Non-Commissioned Officer, Air Force Services Award on 29 June 2004. Technical Sergeant Johnson was activated to support Operation Iraqi Freedom, from 22 February to 15 November 2003. Upon arrival in the combat theatre, he assisted with the build up of 2 bases, the first being at a classified location 34 miles from the Iraqi border where he served as part of the 688-member 447th Air Expeditionary Group and played a vital role in the conversion of a small commercial airport to fully operational forward staging base in just 18 days.

Comedian Drew Carey posed for a group photo with 447th Air Expeditionary Group members upon his arrival at Baghdad International Airport. Carey entertained troops on 27 September 2004 as part of his USO tour.

As of 2008, Sather Air Base was one of the busiest airfields in Iraq, averaging 329 transient aircraft activities each week. The passenger terminal was the busiest in the country, averaging more than 6,200 travelers weekly. The base was also the second largest mover of cargo in Iraq, averaging more than 1,700 tons weekly. During each Air and Space Expeditionary Force rotation, about 750 active-duty, Reserve, Guard and civilian personnel were assigned to the 447th Air Expeditionary Group assigned to manage these operations. The 447th Air Expeditionary Group's forces were organized under 7 squadrons: civil engineer, communications, logistics readiness, medical, operations support, security forces and services. Several staff agencies also supported the 447th Air Expeditionary Group including: Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection, Chaplain, Command Post, Finance, PERSCO, Protocol, Public Affairs and Safety. The 447th Air Expeditionary Group commander oversaw all 7 squadrons, was the Sather Air Base commander, and the Senior Airfield Authority for the west side of BIAP.

Additionally, the group provided support to about 550 service members assigned to base tenant units. Sather Air Base itself was a joint and coalition effort to include: Air Force Office of Special Investigations Expeditionary Detachment, US Army Movement Control Team, also known as the Arrival, Departure Air Field Control Group (ADACG); Coalition Air Forces Training Team, also known as the 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron at the adjacent Iraqi New Al-Muthana Air Base; 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group, United Kingdom Puma Air Bridge helicopter detachment, UK Mobility Air Movement Squadron; US Army Mortuary Affairs activity; and 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, Detachment 3.




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