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386th AEW celebrates 75 years of history

During its 21 months of combat operations, the group launched 396 combat missions.  It delivered 16,280 tons of bombs onto enemy targets. Nearly 100 of the group's aircraft were either shot down or damaged beyond repair, over 300 airmen were killed or reported missing in action and another 217 were wounded. (Courtesy photo)

The 386th Bombardment Group earned a Distinguished Unit Citation for operations between 30 Jul 1943 and 30 Jul 1944 because it had the most outstanding record of all B-26 groups in the European Theater of Operations for that time period. During its 21 months of combat operations, the group launched 396 combat missions.  It delivered 16,280 tons of bombs onto enemy targets. Nearly 100 of the group's aircraft were either shot down or damaged beyond repair, over 300 airmen were killed or reported missing in action and another 217 were wounded. (Courtesy photo)

During its 21 months of combat operations, the group launched 396 combat missions.  It delivered 16,280 tons of bombs onto enemy targets. Nearly 100 of the group's aircraft were either shot down or damaged beyond repair, over 300 airmen were killed or reported missing in action and another 217 were wounded. (Courtesy photo)

The 386th Bombardment Group earned a Distinguished Unit Citation for operations between 30 Jul 1943 and 30 Jul 1944 because it had the most outstanding record of all B-26 groups in the European Theater of Operations for that time period. During its 21 months of combat operations, the group launched 396 combat missions.  It delivered 16,280 tons of bombs onto enemy targets. Nearly 100 of the group's aircraft were either shot down or damaged beyond repair, over 300 airmen were killed or reported missing in action and another 217 were wounded. (Courtesy photo)

Initially training with F-86 Sabre and then to the F100 Super Sabre to become proficient in all tactical air operations. (Courtesy Photo)

The 386th Fighter-Bomber Group was activated on 8 April 1956 at Bunker Hill AFB as part of the 323d Fighter-Bomber Wing. Assigned to the Tactical Air Command, the group had three squadrons, 552d, 553d and 554th. Initially training with F-86 Sabre and then to the F100 Super Sabre to become proficient in all tactical air operations. (Courtesy Photo)

The crew, deployed from the 43rd Airlift Wing,Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina, transported 151 Marines and the equipment in and out of Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa. (Courtesy photo)

Capt. Carol Mitchell (left), Staff Sgt. Josie Harshe,1st Lieutenant Siobhan Couturier, Tech. Sgt. Sigrid Carrero-Perez, Capt. Anita Mack and Senior Airman Ci Ci Alaonzo, from the 737th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron pose for a photo after completing the first all female crewed combat mission Sept. 26, 2005. The crew, deployed from the 43rd Airlift Wing,Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina, transported 151 Marines and the equipment in and out of Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa. (Courtesy photo)

Members of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing monitor the offload of a M1 Abrams tank from a C-17 Globemaster III here, Sept. 26, 2013.  The M1 tank offload took little time because of the communication and cooperation of the flight crew, 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron personnel, airfield management and the tank driver. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Christopher A. Campbell)

Members of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing monitor the offload of a M1 Abrams tank from a C-17 Globemaster III here, Sept. 26, 2013. The M1 tank offload took little time because of the communication and cooperation of the flight crew, 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron personnel, airfield management and the tank driver. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Christopher A. Campbell)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- “Scarcely a man who began that run expected to come out alive,” wrote Donald Mackenzie in an article originally published by the Daily News on June 7, 1944. “Although the crews were briefed to bomb the target from 10,800 to 10,000 feet, they were told just before they took off in the dark that they must come down to 5,000 or even 1,000 feet to get under a lowering cloud curtain, and they realized that their assignment was a suicide parade.”

At 6:30 a.m. on June 6, 1944, Allied amphibious troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, France. Five minutes prior, the 386th Bombardment Group released its armaments, becoming the last unit to drop bombs prior to the troop landings on D-Day, during World War II.
“At anything under 10,000 feet, the Marauder has a tough time with flak,” Mackenzie wrote. “At 5,000 feet, it theoretically has not even a 50-50 chance. But at 2,000 feet carbines and machine guns can stop it, let alone 88 mm. anti-aircraft shells.”

It’s not hard to imagine that Mackenzie’s words, though not specific to the 386th BG, apply to a unit of B-26 Marauders specifically chosen for its D-Day assignment by Army Gen. Omar Bradley, U.S 1st Army commander during WW II.

This example is just one of many stories which highlight the weight and scope of accomplishments throughout the 75 years of unit history.

On Dec. 1, the 386th BG, now the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, celebrates its 75th birthday; a journey that started at MacDill Air Field, Tampa, Florida, in 1942 and continues to this day at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.

“When you look at the 386th AEW, its heritage and its current contributions to the global war on terrorism, you can’t help but be proud,” said Col. Stephen Hodge, 386th AEW, commander. “We are talking about a unit that has participated in countless historic operations including; D-Day, Battle of the Bulge, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and currently Operation Inherent Resolve.”

After WW II, the 386th was inactivated with only a brief activation during the 1950’s to support the Cold War. The unit was officially re-designated the 386th Air Expeditionary Group in July of 2000 and permanently reactivated to replace the 9th Air Expeditionary Group in August 2002.

By March of 2003, the 386th AEG had been redesignated the 386th AEW and transformed from a steady-state base to the largest air base in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

This transformation was in preparation and build-up to support Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 2003 invasion and liberation of Iraq from the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Over the next decade, the 386th AEW would become the busiest aerial port in the AOR, moving hundreds of thousands of tons of cargo and thousands of personal throughout Southwest Asia, Iraq and Afghanistan. This time also marked a historical milestone; in 2005, a C-130 crew assigned to the 737th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, and deployed from 43rd Airlift Wing, Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina, became the first all-female crew to fly a mission in a combat zone.

By 2014, the 386th AEW began to play an active role in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria supporting airlift, intelligence surveillance, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare missions.

Currently, the 386th AEW is composed of more than 4,500 deployed Airmen from active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve with approximately 500 additional Airmen serving at remote or geographically separate locations in the region.

“For 75 years, this unit’s Airmen have continued to provide boldness, courage, and self-sacrifice while delivering decisive airpower in support of our nation’s defense,” Hodge said. “I am constantly inspired by the accomplishments that have defined, and continue to define, the 386th AEW.”