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332nd Expeditionary Operations Group
332nd Air Expeditionary Group

The 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing was inactivated at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, possibly Al Jaber Air Base in Kuwait, on 8 May 2012. As a result, the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group was also inactivated.

The 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group was responsible for total-force expeditionary flying operations for 8 squadrons at the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Joint Base Balad, Iraq and then at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia after the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing vacated Joint Base Balad in 2011. The group oversaw combat operations providing close-air support, airbase defense, combat search and rescue, medical evacuation, tactical air control, unmanned systems launch and recovery, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities in support of combined forces air component commander taskings and ground-force operations. The 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group executed senior airfield-authority duties for joint missions at the busiest single-airfield operation in the Department of Defense by providing airfield management, air traffic control, intelligence, weather, and aeromedical evacuation services.

The 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group was the direct descendant of the 332nd Fighter Group, tracing its legacy to the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II fame. From a small airfield in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1941, with men who knew challenges and deprivation most will never comprehend, they eventually rose to write a legacy of excellence and dedication. These Tuskegee graduates went on to form the core of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, which entered World War II in June 1943 with Lieutenant Davis in command. Their achievement included sinking a German destroyer in the Gulf of Venice, with machine gun fire, a rare feat. As fighter escort patrols the "Red Tails" never lost a bomber to attacking enemy aircraft.

On 7 March 1942, the first black military pilots in our nation's history received their wings at Tuskegee Army Air Field, Alabama. For many, this event marked 25 years of determined effort to include blacks in military aviation. As early as 1917, Walter White, Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, had called for the inclusion of blacks in the US Army Air Corps only to be told that "no colored squadrons were being formed at the present time." It did not happen until 21 March 1941, when the US Army Air Corps activated the 99th Pursuit Squadron at Tuskegee, Alabama.

Graduating from West Point in 1936, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. became one of only 2 black line officers in the US Army at the time, the other being his father. Initially assigned to the infantry in July 1941, he joined 12 cadets in the first flying training program for blacks at Tuskegee, Alabama. He received his wings in March 1942, after becoming the first black officer to solo an Army Air Corps aircraft. These Tuskegee graduates went on to form the core of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, which entered World War II in June 1943 with Lieutenant Colonel Davis in command.

After 4 months of flying P-40s in the Mediterranean Theater, he returned to the States, took command of the 332nd Fighter Group, and deployed with this unit to Italy in January 1944. By summer 1944, the group had transitioned to P-47s and began scoring their first kills. On 9 June 1944, Colonel Davis led 39 Thunderbolts escorting B-24s to targets at Munich, Germany. Near the target the 332nd Fighter Group took on more than 100 German fighters, destroying 5 Me-109s, and damaging another. For his leadership and bravery on this mission, Davis was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Later, flying the distinctive 332nd "Red Tail" P-51 Mustangs, Davis led the first Italy-based fighter group to escort bombers to Berlin, a distance of 1,600 miles. Approaching Berlin, they were attacked by 25 Me-262 jets, but the 332nd downed 3 of the enemy fighters. Under Davis' command, the group flew more than 15,000 sorties against the Luftwaffe, shot down 111 enemy aircraft, and destroyed another 150 on the ground, while losing only 66 of their own aircraft to all causes. Most noteworthy, not one friendly bomber was lost to enemy aircraft during the Group's 200 escort missions. The unique success of this all-black outfit highlighted Colonel Davis' leadership, along with the courage and discipline of his airmen.

Following the European War, Davis returned to the States to command the 477th Composite Group and the 332nd Fighter Wing. In 1953, he again saw combat when he assumed command of the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing and flew the F-86 in Korea. With his promotion to brigadier general, Davis became the first black to earn a star in the US Air Force. He retired as a lieutenant general in 1970, and served under President Nixon as Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Environment, Safety, and Consumer Affairs.

The unit itself was reactivated in July 1947 as the 332nd Fighter Wing, part of Tactical Air Command. The 332 Fighter Wing trained with P-47 Thunderbolts (later designated F-47s), ferried aircraft, and took part in Tactical Air Command exercises. The Wing inactivated on 1 July 1949.

The unit was redesignated as the 332nd Air Expeditionary Group and reactivated at Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait on 19 November 1998, replacing the 4406th Operations Group (Provisional), at first only in name. The Group's mission subsequently evolved and grew to reflect the Expeditionary Air Force (EAF) concept of a consolidated force in a forward location. The package included F-15E's or Block 40 F-16s, the A-10s and the F-16CJs. That mix of aircraft, including HH-60G rescue helicopters, gave the 332nd Air Expeditionary Group the ability to conduct any Operation Southern Watch mission, its primary responsibility. The Air Expeditionary Group's population turns over almost completely every 120 days, and the fighter squadrons changed every 45 days. With a population of 1,400 people constantly rotating, there was a need for continuity to guide the base and mission. The US compound at Al Jaber was a sandy "fortress" less than a mile in circumference. Most people lived in dorms, 12-monthers got their own rooms, and the base had far more comforts than expected of a deployed location.

Following the events of 11 September 2001, the 332nd Air Expeditionary Group participated in Operation Enduring Freedom, playing a critical role in the defeat of the Taliban regime and later providing key air support for Afghanistan's provisional government.

With the surge of forces into the region in late 2002 in preparation for Operation Iraqi Freedom, a full Air Expeditionary Wing was established at Al Jaber Air Base to coordinate operations. The 332nd Air Expeditionary Group was assigned to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing and operated in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, moving first with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing to Tallil Air Base in Iraq, and then on to Balad Air Base in 2004. In 2005, the Group was redesignated as the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group as part of the transition of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing to the US Air Force's new combat-wing organization structure. The 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group managed the day to day operations of flight squadrons assigned to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing and departed with the Wing from what had become Joint Base Balad in 2011 as part of the US drawdown. It subsequently relocated with the Wing to an undisclosed location, possibly Al Jaber Air Base in Kuwait.

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Page last modified: 25-09-2012 18:17:14 ZULU