2021 Year in Review Published Jan. 1, 2022 By Staff Sgt. Blake Gonzales Ninth Air Force (Air Forces Central) Public Affairs SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- In 2021, Ninth Air Force (Air Forces Central) continued to provide air operations for U.S. Central Command’s 21-nation area of responsibility. As the air component of a four million square mile AOR, 9th AF (AFCENT) continued training with coalition partners, developing contingency operations in support of national objectives and supplying air combat forces to joint and combined military and humanitarian missions. With a posture to deter and, if necessary, defeat any regional aggressors or their proxies, AFCENT did its part to forge resolute partnerships, embrace equality, and fight to win today. Though 2021 has been challenging, AFCENT remains committed to its mission, its partners, and its people. Whatever the next year holds, the Airmen of AFCENT will continue to deliver dominant coalition air power anytime, anywhere the need arises. Here’s a look at just a few of the ways AFCENT accomplished the mission in 2021. January Following U.S. Central Command’s tiered distribution plan, multiple air expeditionary wing’s within the Ninth Air Force (U.S. Air Forces Central) area of responsibility received the first delivery of COVID-19 vaccines. Upon arrival, mass immunizations quickly became available to deployed Airmen. February The 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron became the first in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility to receive a virtual reality emergency response and shooting simulator. By providing realistic training scenarios, the simulator further enhanced the training capabilities within the squadron and opened up new training possibilities for all security forces within 9th AF (AFCENT). March Ninth Air Force (U.S. Air Forces Central) conducted a multi-day, Agile Combat Employment capstone event. The event enhanced 9th AF (AFCENT)’s combat competencies and integration with joint and regional partners while also validating operational capabilities along with command and control. April The 727th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron, or “Kingpin”, repositioned from Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, to Shaw AFB, South Carolina. This capability enhanced 9th AF (AFCENT)’s operational resilience and demonstrated advancements in the Air Force’s ability to distribute operations globally. May Several wings from 9th AF (AFCENT) participated in Desert Mirage III -- the third iteration of a bilateral event designed to enhance the interoperability and air defense capabilities between partner nation forces. The exercise verified and improved defensive capabilities for both 9th AF (AFCENT) and coalition forces. June Staff Sgt. John Atlas, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron electrical power production day-shift lead, prepares a mobile aircraft arresting system (MAAS) for a certification test at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, June 16, 2021. The MAAS is a system designed to help stop aircraft when the landing distance is insufficient, or there is a malfunction of the brake system or directional control system. July Ninth Air Force (U.S. Air Forces Central) and partner nations began a series of integration missions in order to combat unmanned aerial system attacks against U.S. forces and allies. These events were one of many efforts to ensure the security and stability of regional airspace. August Members from around Ninth Air Force (U.S. Air Forces Central) aided in the safe evacuation of over 124,000 American citizens, Afghan special immigrant visa applicants and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan in support of Operation Allies Refuge. September Six B-52H Stratofortress aircraft and approximately 300 personnel assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, flew over 3,100 combat-flight hours over the course of 240 combat sorties while attached to the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing. The crews were sent to support U.S. Central Command mission requirements, and played an integral part in Operation Allies Refuge operations. October U.S. Air Force joint terminal attack controllers, U.S. Army joint fires observers, and Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare) Task Group Typhoon, trained on close air support capabilities at Udairi Range, Kuwait. The training enhanced communication proficiency between coalition partners in order to advance decisive combat dominance within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. November U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancers flew a presence patrol mission in the 9 AF (AFCENT) area of responsibility that included several coalition and partner nation air forces. The bomber task force mission represented the U.S. led coalition’s commitment to promoting regional stability through partnership. December The 378th Air Expeditionary Wing integrated with Royal Saudi Air Forces to execute a combined training exercise. The exercise allowed both nations to further cultivate strong relationships and better integrate capabilities to deter regional aggressors.