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380th Air Expeditionary Wing

The 380th Air Expeditionary Wing's mission is to perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and aerial refueling operations in support of regional contingencies out of Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates.

The 380th Air Expeditionary Wing traces its history to the 380th Bomb Group (Heavy), which was activated at Davis-Monthan Field, Arizona on 3 November 1942, during World War II. The Group quickly moved to Biggs Field, Texas in December 1942, where it underwent intensive B-24 Liberator combat training. During March-April 1943, the unit received additional combat training at Lowry Field, Colorado, all in preparation for their deployment to the Southwest Pacific area.

The 380th Bombardment Group received deployment orders on 14 April 1943. The first group of 38 aircraft left the following day enroute to Amberley Airfield west of Brisbane, Australia. In May 1943, the air echelon arrived in Australia, followed by the ground echelon in June 1943. The Group headquarters and 2 squadrons operated from Fenton Field, while the other 2 squadrons were located 100 miles away at Long Strip, both in northern Australia. Assigned to the Fifth Air Force and attached to the Royal Australian Air Force, the 380th Bombardment Group assisted in securing Australia's Darwin area in the Northern Territory against the threatened Japanese invasion by flying armed reconnaissance patrols, which began in May 1943.

The Group earned a Distinguished Unit Citation for a series of long-range attacks on oil refineries, shipping, and dock facilities in Balikpapan, Borneo, in August 1943. Group bombers repeatedly bombed enemy airfields in Western New Guinea during April and May 1944 in support of the American landing in the Hollandia area, for which it received its second Distinguished Unit Citation. In August 1944, the Group moved back to Darwin and then to Mindoro, Philippines, between February and March 1945, where it launched air strikes against ground forces in Luzon, industries in Formosa, oil refineries in Borneo, railways and shipping in French Indochina, and ground installations on the China coast. The 380th Bombardment Group also had the distinction of remaining under control of an ally longer than any other Army Air Forces unit.

Following cessation of hostilities, the Group moved to Yontan Airfield, Okinawa, Japan, in August 1945 and flew armed reconnaissance patrols over Japanese islands and ferried former prisoners of war from Japan to Manila. The Group was reassigned to the Seventh Air Force in October 1945 and participated in the Sunset Project, the return of B-24s and their crews to the United States. The Group was then reduced to a paper unit in November 1945 and moved to Manila and placed under the Far East Air Force until its formal inactivation on 20 February 1946.

In June 1947, the Group was reactivated in the Reserve at MacDill Field, Florida, where it remained until it was briefly ordered to active duty on 1 May 1951. It was again inactivated on 16 May 1951. The 380th Bombardment Group consolidated with the 380th Bombardment Wing on 23 March 1953. The Wing did not, however, activate until 11 July 1955 at Plattsburgh Air Force Base, New York. At the same time, 3 squadrons, the 528th, 529th, and 530th Bombardment Squadrons (known as the 'The Flying Circus' due to the cartoon nature of their official squadron emblems) were activated.

Personnel arrived at Plattsburgh Air Force Base in July and August of 1955. In December 1955, the first B-47 Stratojet was assigned to the Wing. Aircrew members, however, trained in strategic bombardment and conducted combat training through a wing detachment at Pinecastle Air Force Base, Florida, from January through June 1956, while facilities at Plattsburgh Air Force Base underwent construction for the B-47 aircraft. The first permanently assigned B-47E arrived at Plattsburgh Air Force Base on 21 March 1956, and was christened "City of Plattsburgh." The Wing also received KC-97 Stratofreighter aircraft in September 1956, which conducted the first aerial refueling mission for the Wing, and conducted worldwide air refueling missions, from September 1956 through April 1961 and again following receipt of the KC-135 Stratotanker in September 1964.

The Wing was also redesignated the 380th Strategic Aerospace Wing on 15 September 1964 and briefly controlled Atlas Intercontinental Ballistic Missile operations from December 1962 through April 1965. The 556th Strategic Missile Squadron, formerly assigned to Dow Air Force Base, Maine, was transferred to Plattsburgh Air Force Base on 1 October 1961, and became operational on 20 December 1962 assigned to the 380th Strategic Aerospace Wing. Twelve Atlas F missile sites were constructed within a 50-mile radius of Plattsburgh Air Force Base. This was the last Atlas squadron to be accepted and the only ICBM base east of the Mississippi River.

The Wing began global strategic bombardment training with the B-52 Stratofortress in June 1966. The first B-52 to arrive at Plattsburgh Air Force Base was christened "Champlain Lady" on 19 June 1966. The Vietnam conflict concerned the members of the Wing in a manner of temporary duty assignments in the Pacific theater. The B-52s were destined to be short lived in the history of the Wing with the introduction of the Air Force's newest strategic aircraft, the FB-111A Aardvark in October 1970. During 1971, the Wing converted to FB-111s, serving as Strategic Air Command's single FB-111 combat crew training organization. As a result, the Wing was redesignated as the 380th Bombardment Wing, Medium, on 1 July 1972.

The wing deployed KC-135A/Q aircraft and personnel to provide tanker and airlift support during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm from August 1990 through March 1991. On 1 July 1991, the Wing was redesignated as the 380th Air Refueling Wing. The Wing inactivated on 30 September 1995, as Plattsburgh Air Force Base closed.

Following the events of 11 September 2001, the Air Force reactivated the unit on 25 January 2002, as the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates. There the Wing supported Operation Enduring Freedom, providing both intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and aerial refueling in support. The wing flew KC-10s, U-2s, and RQ-4 Global Hawk umanned aerial vehicle. Image analysts from the Air Intelligence Agency at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, viewed imagery taken by a U-2 on light tables. The Mobile Intelligence Processing Element, deployed to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, was a one-of-a kind wet-film processing mobile facility used by analysts.

The 380th Air Expeditionary Wing supported Operation Iraqi Freedom after it began in 2003, and continued its support of US forces in Iraq after the operation transitioned to Operation New Dawn. In addition, the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing was tasked to provide support to the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa. By August 2010, the Wing consisted of 5 groups and 18 squadrons. Its mission partners included a US Army air defense battalion, an Air Force training group, and a US Navy aerial maritime surveillance detachment.

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Page last modified: 03-08-2012 17:00:24 ZULU