386th Air Expeditionary Wing
386th Air Expeditionary Group
The 386th Air Expeditionary Wing is the primary tactical airlift hub for re-supply missions and provides combat service support to land component forces throughout the Persian Gulf Region. The 386th Air Expeditionary Wing supports a diverse mission that spans the entire US Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility. The Wing is also home to one of 2 Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facilities (CASF) in the theater of operations. The CASF serves as a gateway for patients being airlifted to Germany or the United States for further medical treatment.
The 386th Air Expeditionary Wing traces its history to 1 December 1942, when the Army Air Forces activated the 386th Bombardment Group (Medium) at MacDill Field, Florida. Although in existence only a few days before the US entry into the Second World War, in less than 3 years the men of the 386th Bombardment Group attained the most outstanding record of all B-26 Groups in the European Theater of Operations in terms of number of successful sorties flown, tonnage of bombs dispatched, and enemy aircraft destroyed, all while maintaining the highest bombing accuracy score. More than 3,000 men saw service with the 386th Bombardment Group during these 3 years of service during World War II, flying 409 missions. One hundred ninety-three men made the supreme sacrifice. After the war, the 386th Bombardment Group was inactivated.
The unit was redesignated as the 386th Fighter-Bomber Group on 31 October 1955, and activated on 8 April 1956 at Bunker Hill Air Force Base, Indiana. Between April 1956 and July 1957, the Group trained to maintain readiness for fighter-bomber armed strikes wherever needed. The F-86 was the primary airframe for the unit until its conversion to the F-100 in 1957. The Group was inactivated on 8 July 1957. It was redesignated the 386th Tactical Fighter Group on 31 July 1985, but remained inactive.
The unit was redesignated as the 386th Air Expeditionary Group and converted to provisional status on 25 July 2000. The 386th Air Expeditionary Group was formally activated in September 2000. During the summer of 2001, Airmen from all over the world were called to participate in Operation Southern Watch. From the late spring to early fall, the active duty Airmen were joined by members of the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, all becoming part of the Air Expeditionary Force 6 (AEF-6) rotation, grouped under the 386th Air Expeditionary Group. Although from different divisions of the same service, they personified the seamless "total force" Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) concept. The deployment put them 39 kilometers from the border of Iraq, the closest Air Force base to that country.
Air Expeditionary Force 8 (AEF 8) came to a hot start under the desert sun when members of the 729th Air Control Squadron from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, arrived in Ali Al Salem Air Base on 28 August 2001. There was a two-thirds changeover of base personnel last week due to AEF 8 rotations. Members of the PERSCO team met every busload, sometimes more than 100 people, arriving once or twice a day. Approximately one-third of the members assigned to the 729th Air Control Squadron deployed to Kuwait assuming duties as the 386th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron for the next 90 days. The 386th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron had begun focused preparations for the deployment about 6 months earlier. The wartime mission was to deploy to potentially austere environments, so Ali Al Salem was not much of a departure. The 386th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron also conducted field training in the desert environment of Western Utah to practice chemical warfare, security, and other combat skills. The location at Hill Air Force Base allowed weapons directors to train daily with F-16 pilots assigned to the 388th Fighter Wing. Hill managed the Utah Test and Training Range, one of the largest air-to-air and air-to-ground training ranges in the United States. The operations crews prepared with simulations and other training aids which focused solely on Operation Southern Watch.
In 2002, the 386th Air Expeditionary Group formally replaced the 9th Air Expeditionary Group at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait. The 386th Air Expeditionary Group's mission was to provide combat rescue, theater airlift, aeromedical evacuation, air surveillance and control, theater ballistic missile defense, as well as force protection, combat support and the ability to survive and operate for coalition air, ground and other operations. The Group was assigned to the 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing.
Airmen assigned to the 386th Air Expeditionary Group worked toward a common goal: surveillance. Technicians monitored the air traffic in southern Iraq and were keenly aware of the important role they played in preparing coalition forces for any eventuality. The radar site served as the sole mechanism for monitoring Iraqi airspace when the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft were not out patrolling the skies. This unit was literally at the forefront of Operation Southern Watch.
Effective as of 12 August 2002, just a few months prior to the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 386th Air Expeditionary Group was relieved from assignment to the 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing, redesignated the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, and realigned under the 9th Air Expeditionary Task Force. The 386th Air Expeditionary Wing subsequently provided support to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Active-duty, Guard and Reserve operated C-130 Hercules aircraft at the Wing's forward-deployed location, flying to locations such as Kuwait International Airport, Kuwait and Baghdad International Airport and Balad Air Base, Iraq. The Wing was responsible for tactical airlift into not only Iraq and surrounding areas, but also into the Horn of Africa. Regular missions included moving Soldiers during their rest and relaxation rotations, transporting Iraqi police cadets and resupplying forward-deployed troops.
As of March 2012, the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing consisted of the 386th Expeditionary Operations Group, 386th Expeditionary Maintenance Group, 386th Expeditionary Mission Support Group, 386th Expeditionary Medical Group, and 387th Air Expeditionary Group. These units included active duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve airmen. Many of the Wing's airmen were filling Joint Expeditionary Taskings (JET) and served in the 387th Air Expeditionary Group. These JET Airmen filled US Army combat support and combat service support requirements at bases in Southwest Asia, conducting Combat Logistics Convoys, Personnel Support Operations, Explosive Detection and Chapel Ministry. Additional 387th AEG Airmen were tasked with providing and maintaining continuous combat support, security, communications, contracting and base support services for all forces assigned to and transiting the local international airport.
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