386TH AIR EXPEDITIONARY WING
The 386th Air Expeditionary Wing is composed of more than 2,500 Airmen from the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and active duty Air Force. The 386 AEW has a diverse mission which canvases the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. The 386th AEW is the primary aerial hub for Operation Iraqi Freedom and provides airlift support for Operation Enduring Freedom and the Horn of Africa. The wing is comprised of the 386th Expeditionary Maintenance, Mission Support, Medical and Operations Groups and the 387th and 586th Air Expeditionary Groups.
Many Airmen serve outside the wire in Iraq with the 586th AEG. They provide area security at the largest theater internment facility in U.S. Central Command and command combat line-haul convoys supporting strategic logistics throughout the Iraqi theater of operations.
The wing is also home to one of two contingency aeromedical staging facilities in the theater. The CASF serves as a gateway for patients airlifted to Germany or the United States for further medical treatment. The CASF averages more than 150 patients a month with patient stays averaging between 12 and 36 hours.
History of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing
The 386th Air Expeditionary Wing was activated in 2001 and can trace its roots to the 386th Bombardment Group. The 386th Bombardment Group was activated Dec. 1, 1942, and flew its first combat mission in July of 1943. The B-26s remained the primary airframe for the unit until its conversion to A-26s shortly after the Ardennes campaign in 1945. The unit was redesignated as the 386th Bombardment Group (Light) in June of 1945 and was inactivated Nov. 7, 1945. In 1998, in preparation for Operation Desert Fox, the 9th Air Expeditionary Group stood up here and in 2001 was redesignated as the 386th Air Expeditionary Group. Later that year, the 386th AEW stood up and remains in place today.
The history of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing dates back to the early days of World War II. On 1 December 1942, the Army Air Forces activated the 386th Bombardment Group (Medium) at MacDill Field, Florida.
Although in existence only a few days less than three years, the men of the 386th 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 while maintaining the highest bombing accuracy score.
More than three thousand men saw service with the 386th during these three years of World War II, flying four hundred nine missions. One hundred ninety-three men made the supreme sacrifice.
In 2001, the 9th Air Expeditionary Group was redesignated the 386th Air Expeditionary Group. The 386th Air Expeditionary Group's mission at "The Rock" 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.
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 here served as the sole mechanism for monitoring Iraqi airspace when the AWACS aircraft were not out patrolling the skies.
This unit was literally at the forefront of Operation Southern Watch. For several years following the Persian Gulf War, the base was a sleepy radar site, manned by just a handful of Air Force people monitoring air traffic in the southern no-fly zone. The 74th Air Control Squadron deployed from August to November 1995 to set up and operate a radar site here -- the only source of a 24-hour air picture in-theater - as part of Vigilant Sentinel. Exactly one year later, 74th ACS personnel deployed once again to SWA, 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 provided air surveillance and control through that same radar site, while a fleet of C-130 Hercules provide theater airlift and, if necessary, combat search and rescue and aeromedical evacuation for Operation Southern Watch forces. The 9th AEG brought all those functions under one umbrella. Life on The Rock 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 but The Rock was almost entirely a tent city, with very few actual buildings. Most "buildings" were Quonset-shaped, foldable general purpose structures.
During the summer of 2001, Airmen from all over the world were called to participate in Operation Southern Watch's AEF-6, also called the 386th Air Expeditionary Group. From the late spring to early fall, the active duty Airmen were joined by members of the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. Although from different divisions of the same service, they personified the "seamless air force" concept.
Air Expeditionary Force Eight came to a hot start under the desert sun when members of the 729th Air Control Squadron from Hill AFB, Utah, arrived in August 2001. There was a two-thirds changeover of base personnel due to AEF Eight rotations. Approximately one-third of the members assigned to the 729th ACS deployed to here assuming duties as the 386th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron for the next 90 days.
The 386th EACS began focused preparations for the deployment about six months earlier. Their wartime mission was to deploy to potentially austere environments, so the base here was not much of a departure. The 386th EACS also conducted field training in the desert environment of Western Utah to practice chemical warfare, security and other combat skills.
In 2000, the first hardened structures were built here. Hardened structures continue to be built on The Rock.
In December 2004, the Army began operating a new air passenger terminal, here with the goal of transporting hundreds of service members daily to destinations within the Operation Iraqi Freedom theater. The terminal is composed of several tents that serve as passenger holding areas, and a parking lot with a turn-around area for buses dropping off and picking up passengers.