News>332nd AEW inactivates, becomes part of Air Force, Tuskegee Airmen legacy
Col. William Walker, 332nd Expeditionary Maintenance Group commander, leads the wing formation during the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing inactivation ceremony here, May 8, 2012. The 40 person flight represented units from throughout the wing. Walker is deployed from Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua J. Garcia)
Maj. Gen. James Jones, deputy commander, U. S. Air Forces Central, recieves the guidon as Col. Paul Beineke, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander, relinquishes command during the 332nd AEW inactivation ceremony here, May 8, 2012. The ceremony marked the second time the 332nd AEW has been inactivated. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua J. Garcia)
by Maj. Jillian Torango
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
5/9/2012 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- The 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing inactivated in a ceremony May 8, 2012, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.
Maj. Gen. James Jones, deputy commander, U. S. Air Forces Central, presided over the ceremony which brought this storied era of 332nd history to a close. In attendance were the Hon. Matthew H. Tueller, U. S. Ambassador to the State of Kuwait and Gen. Phil Breedlove, Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force.
"As the largest combat wing in the Air Force for most of its time frame, this wing served with distinction," said Jones. "In the nearly ten years since the wing flag was reinstated the Red Tails have been the very backbone of AFCENT forces engaged in Operation Southern Watch, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn."
Nearly 100,000 Airmen rotated through the wing since 2002 enabling the unit to deliver almost 600,000 hours of persistent airpower throughout the U. S. Central Command area of responsibility.
"It's fitting that as we end our mission here we look back and consider how much of an impact the 332nd has had across our Total Air Force," said Col. Paul Beineke, 332nd AEW commander.
In 1998, the 332nd Air Expeditionary Group activated at Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait where they employed A-10s, F-16s, HH-60 rescue helicopters, and HC-130 aircraft in support of Operation Southern Watch.
Beginning in 2001, the group also participated in Operation Enduring Freedom playing a critical role in the defeat of the Taliban regime and later providing key air support for Afghanistan's provisional government.
Later, the unit was re-designated as a wing and moved to Tallil Air Base, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom before ending up at Balad Air Base in 2004.
During the height of operations, the wing contained nine groups - including four geographically separated at Ali, Sather, Al Asad, and Kirkuk Air Bases - as well as numerous detachments and operating locations scattered throughout Iraq. The wing had as many as four fighter squadrons, an airlift squadron, a helicopter combat search and rescue squadron, two aerial reconnaissance squadrons, and an air control squadron.
During the drawdown of forces from Iraq, the 332nd AEW provided intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, combat search and rescue, armed over watch and close air support to one of the largest logistics movements since WWII.
In support of the re-posture of U.S. forces, the wing continued to support U.S. Forces-Iraq after forward deploying in November 2011 to an undisclosed air base in Southwest Asia so Joint Base Balad could be returned to the government of Iraq.
And as the last U.S. convoy left Iraq on December 18, 2011, it was the 332nd's F-16 Fighting Falcons and MQ-1Bs in the skies providing overhead watch.
"As you can see, The 332nd AEW has an amazing story of character, pride, and perseverance," said Beineke. "But understanding today's Tuskegee Airmen requires an understanding of who those original Tuskegee Airmen were and the incredible commitment, pride and character that defined their contribution to America."
The 332nd AEW's lineage reaches back to the famous 332nd Fighter Group made up of the famed Tuskegee Airmen.
The title Tuskegee Airmen refers to all who trained in the groundbreaking Army Air Corps pilot training program in Tuskegee, Ala., and includes pilots, naviga¬tors, bombardiers, maintenance and support staff, instructors, and all the person¬nel who kept the planes in the air.
Even though the Tuskegee Airmen proved their worth as military pilots, they were forced to operate in segregated units and did not fight alongside their white countrymen.
Their aircraft were instantly recognizable due to the distinctive red tails and propellers, and the Red Tails earned a reputation as the fighter unit bomber pilots wanted as their escorts.
By the end of WW II, 992 men had graduated from pilot training at Tuskeg¬ee. Four hundred fifty were sent overseas for combat and during the same period, about 150 lost their lives. These African-American men ran more than 200 bomber escort missions and managed to destroy or damage more than 409 German airplanes, 950 ground units, and a destroyer.
"We are proud to have continued their legacy in the current era," said Beineke. "We stood up as a new wing devoted to the mission of the Iraqi Campaign and each day, aware of the great heritage we're heirs of, American Airmen tackled the mission with tenacity and amazing effort."
For four consecutive years the 332nd AEW was awarded the Mohler Trophy as the most outstanding wing in Air Combat Command. It received seven Meritorious Unit citations and over the decade of operations in Iraq the wing provided more than 575,000 hours of armed over watch, close air support, surveillance, personnel recovery and rescue and logistic support to our forces on the ground.
Members of the wing were decorated with more than 47,000 individual medals to include one Silver Star, eight Distinguished Flying Crosses, 63 Bronze Star Medals with Valor and 190 Purple Hearts.
Twenty five Red Tails paid the ultimate price in combat with our enemy.
"This unit is one of the Air Force's most revered organizations and it is an organization with a heritage of heroic contributions to the defense of freedom. After nearly a decade in combat, the Red Tails will once again stand inactive awaiting their next call to defend freedom," said Jones. "Members of this wing, you've contributed beyond measure to the mission in keeping with the finest traditions of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen and in doing so you've secured your place in that unique legacy."