9th Air Expeditionary Group
In 2002, the 9th Air Expeditionary Group was inactivated and replaced at Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait by the 386th Air Expeditionary Group. The new group continued supporting Operation Southern Watch and regional contingencies out of Ali Al Salem Air Base.
The 9th Air Expeditionary Group had the mission of providing 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.
For several years following the Persian Gulf War, Al Salem was just a sleepy radar site, manned by just a handful of Air Force personnel monitoring air traffic in the southern no-fly zone. The 74th Air Control Squadron deployed there from August to November 1995 to set up and operate a radar site at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, the only source of a 24-hour air picture in-theater, as part of Vigilant Sentinel. Exactly one year later, 74th Air Control Squadron personnel deployed once again to Southwest Asia, this time for 120 days in support of Southern Watch and Operation Desert Strike.
After tensions in the region flared in late 1997, coalition forces started massing at the base. When the buildup renewed in November 1998, prior to Operation Desert Fox, the base doubled in size to a population of 1,500.
The 9th Air Expeditionary Group was subsequently activated to provide air surveillance and control through that same radar site, while a fleet of C-130 Hercules provided theater airlift and, if necessary, combat search and rescue and aeromedical evacuation for Operation Southern Watch forces. The 9th Air Expeditionary Group brought all these functions under one umbrella. Life on "The Rock," as Ali Al Salem Air Base was also referred to, was austere, even by the standards of Southwest Asia's deployed locations. Many Air Force people at other Southern Watch bases lived and worked in permanent buildings. The Rock was almost entirely a tent city, with very few actual buildings. Most "buildings" were quonset-shaped, foldable general purpose structures. The environment made The Rock a butt of some Southern Watch humor. Many people deployed to nearby Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base, a base with amenities like an in-ground pool, paved roads, and permanent dormitories, call a trip to The Rock "Jaber Appreciation Day."
In December 1998, as part of the inactivation of the 4404th Wing (Provisional) and activations of new units in its place, the 4 provisional squadrons assigned to the 9th Air Expeditionary Group were similarly inactivated and 4 new units were activated. The 4414th Air Control Squadron (Provisional) became the 9th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron, the 4414th Support Flight (Provisional) became the 9th Expeditionary Support Squadron, the 4411th Rescue Squadron (Provisional) became the 9th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, and the 4419th Airlift Squadron became the 9th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron.
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