332nd Air Expeditionary Wing
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. Nearly 100,000 Airmen had rotated through the Wing since 2002, enabling the unit to deliver almost 600,000 hours of persistent airpower throughout the US Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility.
The 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing was the most forward deployed US Air Force wing operating in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and then Operation New Dawn. In support of Operation New Dawn the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing acted as a deployed combat wing supporting the United States Forces-Iraq (USF-I) transition from combat to stability operations, and helping strengthen the capabilities of a sovereign, secure and self-reliant Iraq. The 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing employed the full spectrum of airpower capability throughout the Iraqi theater of operations in support of ground forces and Iraqi capacity-building, including: close-air support, airlift, combat search and rescue, aeromedical evacuation, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The Wing operated F-16, C-130, MQ-1B, MC-12W, and HH-60G aircraft.
Between August and December 2002, the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing was established to take control of all US Air Force operations in support of the upcoming Operation Iraqi Freedom. As part of the standing up of the unit, the new wing also took on the new Air Force combat-wing organizational structure, which included a maintenance group. Simultaneously, the new 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing saw its Operation Southern Watch tasking increase in intensity and duration, while it hosted base operational support for US Marine Corps planning and US Navy Seabee construction projects. The existing 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing took control of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Group.
These operations gave a fairly broad span of control at Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait for the newly transitioned Air Expeditionary Wing commander, who oversaw 13 squadrons with little group-level supervision or assistance until late December 2003. The Air Force reorganization from logistics groups to maintenance groups also created several leadership gaps in the newly formed squadrons. Al Jaber Air Base had 24 permanent-party personnel while other personnel rotated in for the standard 90-day air expeditionary force cycle that further complicated the reorganization and hurt continuity.
From Al Jaber Air Base in Kuwait, the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing moved to Tallil Air Base in Iraq after the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and then moved to Balad Air Base (later Joint Base Balad), also in Iraq in 2004. Colonel Tom Jones commanded the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing in Kuwait at Operation Iraqi Freedom's high point between March and April 2003. During the initial phase of operations, an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot deployed with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing safely landed her aircraft at a forward operating base after it sustained significant damage from enemy fire during a close air support mission over Baghdad on 7 April 2003.
The 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing flag was furled before being flown to its new home at Balad Air Base, 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. Although the Wing's time at Tallil Air Base was short, the accomplishments of its airmen were significant. For instance, the thousands of Air Force members living and working at Tallil Air Base as of late 2003 could live and work safely thanks to the efforts of the Wing's Security Forces members. Remnants from the first Gulf War still resided on Tallil Air Base as well, and the 332nd Civil Engineer Explosive Ordnance Disposal team ensured those remnants were not able to put Tallians in harm's way. Using render-safe procedures, the EOD team worked to remove ordnance found in the vicinity of the runway that was doing just that; putting people and resources in harm's way. On the ground and in the air, airmen in this part of the world can rest assured that medical care is always close by. If a person was injured, medical personnel on the ground would stabilize and treat the injured individual. If that person needed to be transported by air for specialized care, a team of medical professionals from the 379th Aeromedical Squadron were just a short flight away. On any given day, they might haul patients from any airfield in the area of responsibility to collection points, where they then might be airlifted to Europe or America, depending on the needs of the patient. The 74th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron supported the Wing's A-10s. The US Army also supported operations, with the 38th Ordnance Group provided ammunition storage for units on Tallil Air Base. The men and women of the Wing had been at the tip of the expeditionary airpower spear. The 332nd had been operating out of Tallil for 6 months before moving to Balad Air Base.
CENTAF also did not completely vacate the base in southern Iraq, with the the 407th Air Expeditionary Group, commanded by Colonel Kevin E. Williams, remaining at Tallil Air Base. The 407th Air Expeditionary Group was under the control of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing. The Wing also came to command Air Expeditionary Groups that remained at Baghdad International Air Port and Kirkuk Air Base.
The 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing became one of the largest units in the Persian Gulf region to support Operation Iraqi Freedom and later Operation New Dawn. The 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing was the lead Air Force organization in Iraq. In 2005, as part of the continuing transition to the US Air Force's new combat-wing organization structure, the 332nd Air Expeditionary Group became the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group. In addition to the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group and the 332nd Expeditionary Maintenance Group, the Wing also established the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group, the 332nd Expeditionary Mission Support Group, and finally on 24 July 2008, the 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Group.
During the height of operations, the Wing contained 9 groups, including 4 geographically separated at Ali, Sather, Al Asad, and Kirkuk Air Bases, as well as numerous detachments and operating locations scattered throughout Iraq. The Wing had as many as 4 fighter squadrons, an airlift squadron, a helicopter combat search and rescue squadron, 2 aerial reconnaissance squadrons, and an air control squadron.
As of 2010, the 332d Air Expeditionary Group was headquartered at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, approximately 65 kilometers north of Baghdad. The 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing was based jointly with the US Army's 103th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), which was responsible for operation of Army logistics operations in Iraq.
During the drawdown of forces from Iraq, the 332nd AEW provided intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, combat search and rescue, armed over watch and close air support to one of the largest logistics movements since World War II. In support of the re-posture of US forces, the Wing continued to support US Forces-Iraq (USF-I) after forward deploying in November 2011 to an undisclosed air base in Southwest Asia so Joint Base Balad could be returned to the government of Iraq. And as the last US convoy left Iraq on 18 December 2011, it was the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing's F-16 Fighting Falcons and MQ-1Bs in the skies providing overhead watch.
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