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506th Air Expeditionary Group

In 2011, the US formally turned over control of Kirkuk Airport and associated facilities to the government of Iraq. The 506th Air Expeditionary Group had begun transferring responsibility for operations at the facilities to the Iraqi military and to the US Army beginning in 2006 and was inactivated either leading up to or after the transfer of the facility.

The mission of the 506th Air Expeditionary Group was to facilitate the reconstruction, operation, and maintenance of Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and later Operation New Dan, and other US Central Command (CENTCOM) contingency plans. Kirkuk was a key element in the coalition effort of the reconstruction of Iraq. Kirkuk Regional Air Base also served as a logistical hub for US Army and special operation forces. In addition, the 506 Air Expeditionary Group provided ground-based military air warning and control, and civil air traffic control services for all of northern Iraq until 2009.

General Order 1A prohibited 506 Air Expeditionary Group members from:

  • Possession, manufacture, importation, distribution or consumption of alcohol.
  • Introduction, purchase, possession, use, sale, transfer, manufacture or consumption of any controlled substances or drug paraphernalia. Prescription drugs must be accompanied by the original prescription label of the prescribing medical facility or authority/
  • Introduction, possession, transfer, sale, creation or display of any pornography or sexually explicit material. This includes but is not limited to photos, videotapes, movies, drawings, cartoons, books and magazines. "Sexually explicit" means depiction or description of nudity, including sexual or excretory activities or organs, in a lascivious or lustful way. The exceptions are magazines and videotapes lawfully obtained by AAFES, AFRTS, and the MWR center.
  • Purchase, possession, use or sale of privately owned firearms, explosives, or ammunition.
  • Gambling of any kind including sports pools, lotteries and raffles.
  • Entrance into a mosque or other site of Islamic religious significance unless directed by military authorities as part of a military necessity or official tour.
  • Removing, possessing, selling, defacing or destroying archaeological artifacts, or national treasures.
  • Selling, bartering or exchanging any currency at other than official exchange rate.
  • Adopting mascots caring for or feeding any type of domestic or wild animals.
  • Proselytizing (preaching) or attempting to win converts to any religion, faith, or practice.
  • Taking war trophies as souvenirs (there were exceptions, which could be obtained from the 506th Air Expeditionary Group's JAG section).
  • Attending disciplinary ceremonies of any kind, such as public executions.

Violations of General Order 1A were punishable under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Kirkuk Air Base was also a salute area for US Air Force and Army personnel and personnel were advised not to forget customs and courtesies. Duty uniform was the Desert Camouflage Uniform (DCU) or the Desert Flight Suit Uniform (FSU). Airmen were authorized to wear the DCU cap or floppy hat. The floppy hat had to be worn with the brim down - not "cowboy" or "Aussie" style. Within the residential areas, if one wes wearing a uniform, they had to wear a complete uniform. Body armor and helmet had to be kept within 5 minutes of an individual at all times. Appropriate physical training gear could be worn directly to/from the gyms and pool, in the cantonment area, and while running on the running track only. The floppy hat, helmet, and standard DCU hat were not to be written on.

All 506th Air Expeditionary Group military personnel and all civilian personnel, to include contractor, AAFES, TCN and LN personnel, on Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq, were ordered to wear military identification or escort badge cards openly on the upper left arm or around the neck at all times when in civilian clothes on the installation. The entire card had to be visible at all times. Exceptions to this policy could be granted on a case by case basis.

The 506th Air Expeditionary Group traced its history back to the 506th Fighter Group, Single Engine, which was established on 5 October 1944 and activated on 21 October 1944, at Lakeland Army Air Field, Florida. Flying the P-51 Mustang, the group trained in fighter formation flying, long range navigation, and gunnery prior to deploying to Guam in March 1945. The Group consisted of 3 squadrons: the 457th, 458th, and the 459th Fighter Squadrons.

The 506th Fighter Group served in the Western Pacific from March 1945 to December 1945. The Group was stationed at North Field, Iwo Jima from 25 April 1945 to 3 December 1945. From 23 March 1945 to 11 May 1945, the Group's air echelon operated from West Field, Tinian. From Tinian the air echelon flew combat patrol missions under the control of Air Defense Command, Saipan from 28 March 1945 to 28 April 1945. The air echelon joined the ground echelon at Iwo Jima in May 1945. From Iwo Jima, the 506th Fighter Group's squadrons attacked airfields, antiaircraft emplacements, shipping, barracks, radio and radar stations, railway cars, and other targets in the Bonin Islands and Japan. The Group also provided air defense of Iwo Jima and escorted B-29s bombers in raids against Japan. In December 1945 the Group moved to Camp Anza, California and was inactivated on 16 December 1945.

The unit was reestablished as the 506th Strategic Fighter Wing on 20 November 1952 and was activated on 20 January 1953 at Dow Air Force Base, Maine. It was redesignated 3 times between 1957 and 1959, first to the 506th Fighter-Day Wing, then to the 506th Fighter-Bomber Wing, and again to the 506th Tactical Fighter Wing.

As a fighter wing, the 506th provided air defense from Dow Air Force Base between 1953 and 1955 and from Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, starting in March 1955. The Wing flew the F-84 Thunderjet from 1953 to 1957. From August to November 1953, the Wing provided air defense of northern Japan while deployed to Misawa Air Base, Japan. The Wing started flying the F-100 Supersaber in 1957. From 1957 to 1958, the Wing participated in tactical exercises and rotated squadrons to Europe. The 506th Tactical Fighter Wing was inactivated on 1 April 1959.

The unit was redesignated the 506th Tactical Fighter Group on 4 May 1972 and activated in the Air Force Reserve on 8 July 1972 at Carswell Air Force Base, Texas. During that time, the Group trained in F-105 Thunderchief fighter operations. The group was inactivated on 25 March 1973.

The unit was redesignated as the 506th Air Expeditionary Group and converted to provisional status on 22 April 2003, and assigned to Kirkuk, Air Base in Iraq. The Group was assigned to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing and operated in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. At that time, the Group flew A-10 Thunderbolts, which flew close air support and focused intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. The last A-10 departed the base in the Spring of 2004.

On 28 July 2004, in a typically hot and sunny Iraqi mid-morning, Colonel Phillip Murdock took command of the 506th Air Expeditionary Group during a change of command ceremony. Colonel Murdock assumed command from Colonel William "Bulldog" Brandt, who served as 506th Air Expeditionary Group commander and, previous to that, vice commander of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing. The 332nd Air Expeditionary Group commander, Brigadier General Blair Hansen, presided over the change in command. Colonel Murdock, an F-16 pilot, hailed from Essex Junction, Vermont, and commanded the 158th Fighter Wing of the Vermont Air National Guard. A Change of Command ceremony was the public recognition of a commander's acceptance of the authority and responsibility that bound their duty to achieve the mission, with their responsibility to care for the warriors that served under them. The symbol of the acceptance of command was a guidon, or flag, that represented the command they would lead. Flags played a large role in military lineage and honors and, at Kirkuk, they flew in honor of a new commander, a proud command, and a country worthy of both.

Laying fiber and copper, installing NiprNet and telephones, digging trenches, laying conduit. and pulling wires day after day does not sound much like a dog's life. Good thing the "Cable Dawgs" were on the job. Staff Sergeant Joel "Dill Dawg" Bickle of the 506th Expeditionary Communications Squadron, a computer networking switching systems cytological journeyman, pulled cable down inside a man hole. Sergeant Bickle was deployed from the Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, and hails from Copperas Cove, Texas. Within the 506th Expeditionary Communications Squadron the Cable Dawgs were a 5-man team whose sole responsibility was to give communications support to every organization on base.

The 506th Expeditionary Civil Engineers Squadron, with the help of Services, PERSCO, and EMEDS dedicated 9 June 2004 to tearing down excess tents in an effort to reduce the overall footprint from 72 to 28 tents.

Long before travelers touched down on Kirkuk's flight line, members of the 506th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron were already in action. The first and last agency people dealt with on arrival to Kirkuk is the 506th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron. The Squadron provided the critical services needed to move people and pallets in and out of Krabtown. A traveler's first contact with the 506th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron occurred with the Kirkuk Center Radar Approach Control and Control Tower air traffic controllers who safely guided hundreds of aircraft through Kirkuk's airspace weekly, many landing at Kirkuk Air Base.

Angry warriors were watching the skies over Iraq while most of Krabtown thought they were the local cable company. Detachment 1 of the 332nd Expeditionary Air Control Squadron, deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and attached to the 506th Air Expeditionary Group, played a vital role in monitoring the air picture north of Kirkuk. The Angry Warriors served theatre commanders as a mobile air asset providing command and control and air surveillance. The mission was to provide continuous airspace coverage and command and control at the forward edge of the battle area. They interacted with other radar arrays in Iraq to give a simultaneous "big picture" of the airspace. The Precision Approach Radar used by the 332nd Expeditionary Air Control Squadron was a good example of the unit's ingenuity. An Environmental Control Unit designed to cool an entire 2,000 cubic foot tent sits on the shelter's roof. Ducts jutted out from the ECU's sides, one for the inside of the building, and the second sending cold air to the antenna boom. This reduced the temperatures not only from the heat of the sun, but from the radar's internally generated heat as well. Besides the physical changes, the 332nd Expeditionary Air Control Squadron had developed flexible staffing and manning procedures to keep the ATCALS up and running.

As of August 2006, Kirkuk Air Base remained home to the 506th Air Expeditionary Group. Approximately 900 active-duty Air Force, Guard and Reserve members were assigned to the 506th Air Expeditionary Group during any given Air Expeditionary Force rotation. These personnel were assigned to to 7 squadrons in the Group: 506th Expeditionary Medical Squadron, 506th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, 506th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron, 506th Expeditionary Logistic Readiness Squadron, 506th Expeditionary Communications Squadron, 506th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron and the 506th Expeditionary Services Squadron. The base also supported the 727th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron, Detachment 1 (which had replaced the 332nd Expeditionary Air Control Squadron, Detachment 1), the 870th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron, and the 52nd Expeditionary Flying Training Squadron. The base also hosted the Army's 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, deployed to the Army's Forward Operating Base Warrior. About 3,000 soldiers were assigned to FOB Warrior.

As the drawdown of US Forces in Iraq approached at Kirkuk Regional Air Base, the Air Force shifted much of its responsibility to the Government of Iraq and the US Army. As early as May 2006, the 506th Air Expeditionary Group looked to transfer security responsibility to the Iraqi army, Iraqi police, and a local security infrastructure battalion. The need for the 506th Expeditionary Security Force Squadron persisted, however. On 28 May 2010, the Group transferred security responsibility to the US Army, inactivating the 506th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron. This was the first US Air Force unit to fully withdraw from the base.




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