455th Air Expeditionary Wing
The 455 Air Expeditionary Wing's primary mission is to project effective airpower in support of combat operations in the theater of operation combating the war on terrorism in Afghanistan, primarily in the Regional Command - East (RC-E) area of responsibility. The Wing also supports airfield operations at Bagram Air Base, where it is collocated with the US-led Combined Joint Task Force overseeing operations in RC-E. The 455th Air Expeditonary Wing commander reports to the US Air Forces Central Command (USAFCENT) Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) forward deployed to Southwest Asia. The commander is supported by a wing staff and oversees 5 Air Force groups located at Bagram Air Base.
The 455th Air Expeditionary Wing traces its roots back to World War II when the unit was first established and served in North Africa and Europe. It was again activated following the events of 11 September 2001 to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
On 30 November 2004, the Wing, more than 600 people strong, gained an expeditionary mission support group, which included senior leaders focused on living conditions and mission support for deployed Airmen. The new group also freed operations leaders to concentrate solely on providing the best possible support to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines on the ground.
The Air Expeditionary Force rotation 1/2 'turned on final,' as approximately 700 Airmen assigned to Air Expeditionary Force 3/4 hit the ground at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan in January 2005. This new team of Airmen was tasked with carrying on the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing's mission for 120 days, between January through May 2005. The Airmen came from all over. They had various specialties, which had to transfer to the battle rhythm of Operation Enduring Freedom. The goal for Air Expeditionary Force 3/4 was a successful deployment, both personal and operational. As for the mission, the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing continued to provide aerial support and protection for the coalition effort on the ground, specifically in support of the upcoming regional and provincial elections in Spring 2005.
In 2005, the Wing increased in size as the Air Force consolidated operations in this area of the world to just a few bases to save personnel and resources. This had started in 2004. Airmen at one forward-deployed location in the region pulled up stakes. The base that once provided an operationally strategic advantage in the fight against terrorism closed 19 November 2004. Deployments were cut short for some of those Airmen, sending them back home in time for the holidays. About 65 of them moved on to bolster manpower at other locations including Kandahar, Afghanistan, and to bases in Iraq. A select 35 Airmen moved to Bagram to support new missions and fill increased manning requirements. Rather than deploy new people from home bases to fill those billets, the Air Force decided to move some of them to Bagram to balance requirements.
The growth of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing was also to match the organizational structure more common to other Air Force wings. The restructuring marked the move from a temporary presence to an enduring presence for the unit whose primary mission was to provide aerial cover for US and coalition ground troops in Afghanistan. It was expected that the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing would probably remain at Bagram for some time, possibly even after the situation in Afghanistan had stabilized.
In 2009, the 466th Air Expeditionary Group was activated and assigned to the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing. The 466th Air Expeditionary Group was detailed to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and provided Provincial Reconstruction Teams, Embedded Training Teams, and Brigade Support Teams with a variety of support functions. The Group was activated as part of the decision to expand this support mission from one squadron to 4 squadrons.
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