By Tech. Sgt. Lindsey Maurice, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 17, 2010
SOUTHWEST ASIA -- From Iraqi detainee transportation security, outside the wire patrols, detainee visitation and unmanned aerial vehicle operations at Camp Bucca, Iraq, to line haul convoy operations and various support functions, the men and women of the 586th Air Expeditionary Group have made a substantial impact on Operation Iraqi Freedom since first standing up in September 2005 as the 586th Expeditionary Mission Support Group.
Now, almost five years later, these accomplishments have become bittersweet as the unit officially ended operations June 17, 2010 during an inactivation ceremony here, at an undisclosed air base. In conjunction with the inactivation of the group, the 586th Expeditionary Support Squadron's mission will be picked up by the 387th ESPTS and the 586th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron will be realigned under the 387th Air Expeditionary Group on June 18. While under new unit designators, the missions will remain the same.
"To the men and women of the 586th AEG, let's be clear, today's inactivation ceremony doesn't change the important role you will continue to play supporting the Army's combat support mission," said Col. Jorge Acevedo, former 586th AEG commander. "It's a simple change of command realignment. [As your outgoing group commander] I will say to each and every one of you that it was truly an honor and a privilege serving with you these last six months. ... As I close my Air Force career later this year, I can honestly say that commanding this awesome group has certainly been a big highlight."
During the ceremony, Col. John R. Gordy II, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing commander, touched on the importance of the inactivation of the 586th AEG and the realignment of its mission under the 387th AEG.
"Most of you know that we have two Air Expeditionary Groups assigned to our wing," he said. "By combining these two missions, we will be able to provide sustained continuity and reallocate some much needed manpower positions throughout the [U.S. Central Command area of responsibility]. Men and women of the 586th AEG, your mission will not change, you'll have new leadership, but I expect you to execute the mission and to continue to produce amazing results."
From its debut in late 2005, the 586th AEG has encompassed five squadrons with more than 1,500 Airmen assigned at the height of the group's existence spanning various Air Force specialties from security forces, vehicle operators, vehicle maintainers and civil engineers to chaplains, personnelists, postal workers, intelligence analysts and communications experts.
"From the very beginning, 586th AEG Airmen were totally involved supporting the diverse set of missions that were given to them," said Colonel Acevedo. "We had civil engineers conducting real property surveys at U.S. installations throughout the CENTCOM AOR, movement control teams monitoring third country national operations within [the host nation here], convoy logistics patrols running line haul operations into Iraq and security forces providing outside and inside the wire security at one of the largest theater internment facilities."
Three of the 586th AEG's former squadrons, the 886th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, 586th ESFS and 887th ESFS, all located at Camp Bucca, Iraq, the former site of a large detainee facility that housed more than 20,000 detainees at its height, deactivated in May 2008, December 2008 and December 2009 respectively.
"Airmen of the 586th AEG were critical to the success of this mission," said Colonel Acevedo. "The 886th ESFS was responsible for the detainee's visitation operation, the 586th ESFS was responsible for the camp's integrated defense and the 887th ESFS conducted area security patrols and outside the wire detainee escorts. Now you can imagine that Camp Bucca was a pretty big deal, which at one point had over 1,000 [Joint Expeditionary Tasked] Airmen assigned to it.
"These security forces professionals were attributed with conducting over 900 Iraqi counterinsurgency operations, 6,400 area security patrols and engaging with over 130,000 detainee family members visiting on an annual basis. We even had a team of security forces enlisted troops that flew 2,100 hours of Scan Eagle and Raven B [unmanned aerial vehicles], missions to counter enemy [improvised explosive devices] and indirect fire."
The colonel went on to talk about the group's present-day squadrons, the 586th ESPTS, which stood up in January 2010 and the 586th ELRS, which stood up in October 2005.
"The 586th ESPTS has played an important role in its short existence, helping integrate JET Airmen with their Army combat service support and functional counterparts throughout [Southwest Asia]," he said. "They oversaw religious support teams who met the spiritual needs of over 300,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen transiting through the theater gateway, military working dog handlers who regularly conduct force protection sweeps at the largest Army camp [here in the host nation], a civil military liaison officer who coordinates with non-government organizations to secure all sorts of humanitarian aid valued in the millions of dollars, that enables the combatant commander to win the hearts and minds of the population of the war-torn areas, postal team members who ensure the continuous flow of U.S. mail and various personnel teams assisting in casualty reports and processing combat warriors as they come in and out of the area of operation."
"The 586th ELRS, or as we affectionately call them, combat truckers, the Air Force's only long haul convoy unit; who on the average conduct over 350 convoys , move 600 tons of cargo and travel millions of miles annually," the colonel said.
Over the years, 586th ELRS Airmen have sustained more than 325 attacks from small arms, improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. But despite these threats, they delivered more than 3 million short tons of cargo while contributing to the Joint Logistics Task Force's 70 million traveled miles, and maintaining a 97 percent vehicle in-commission rate.
"While I can tell you that we are tremendously proud of what our Airmen have done and continue to do, I would also be remise if I didn't pause for a second and tell you that it hasn't been without a cost," said Colonel Acevedo. "Four of our Airmen have made the ultimate sacrifice and 19 others bare wounds that will remind them and us that freedom is not free. Airman like Airman 1st Class Elizabeth N. Jacobson, who was wounded on Sept. 28, 2005 and later became the first female Airman and the first security forces member killed in action in Iraq when her vehicle was struck by an IED while providing security to a supply convoy near Camp Bucca."
Other fallen 586th AEG Airmen include Staff Sgt. Brian S. McElroy and Tech. Sgt. Jason L. Norton who were killed in action Jan. 22, 2006 in Taji, Iraq, and Airman 1st Class Eric M. Barnes who was killed in action June 10, 2007 at Forward Operating Base Scania, Iraq.
Colonel Gordy went on to acknowledge the hard work and sacrifice 586th AEG Airmen have put forth over the unit's almost five-year existence.
"They have met every challenge head on and routinely showed our sister services that Airmen can succeed at any mission," he said. "To date, 586th AEG Airmen have received over 400 Bronze Star and Meritorious Service Medals and over 1,000 Army Commendation and Achievement Medals. Thirteen Airmen have been awarded the Purple Heart and four Airmen have paid the ultimate sacrifice in support of the mission and our nation.
"Jorge, I want to personally congratulate and thank you along with the entire 586th AEG for a job well-done. You came to this job uniquely qualified and prepared for this leadership position. Your extensive logistics background prepared you well for the challenges you faced leading these Airmen and successfully executing one of our most dangerous missions."
"He worked tirelessly for these Airmen to ensure they had the resources to do their mission and most importantly he worked tirelessly to ensure that the JET Airmen assigned to the 586th AEG would have a seamless transition to the 387th AEG," Colonel Gordy told the audience. "But what has impressed me most is the undeniable loyalty he has shown for his Airmen and the mission. Jorge your Airmen produced amazing results, but it was your vision and your leadership that guided them to these successes. No one did a better job caring for his Airmen and ensuring they were prepared to execute the mission."
Colonel Acevedo was presented the Bronze Star during the inactivation ceremony, which also included the tradition of casing the group's flag.