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The End of an Era

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kristine Legate
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing

The 9th Air Expeditionary Task Force-Levant officially inactivated April 1, 2021, during a ceremony at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait.

“For the past six years, the 9 AETF-L has led U.S. Air Forces Central’s support to [Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve] and the fight against Daesh,” said Maj. Gen. Michael G. Koscheski, U.S. Air Forces Central Deputy Commander and Deputy Combined Forces Air Component Commander. “They have done a phenomenal job ensuring air power’s daily contribution to this effort, and though we are honoring the inactivation of this organization today, AFCENT remains fully committed to continuing to support our OIR partners.”

Each of the 9 AETF-L commanders, ranging from the first, USAF Maj. Gen. Peter Gersten, to the last, USAF Maj. Gen. Kenneth P. Ekman, ensured Air Force assets and Airmen fully supported the CJTF-OIR campaign. They set the standard for an AETF, contributing to a highly kinetic air campaign enabling the liberation of designated areas of Iraq and Syria working by, with and through partner forces.

“We build organizations and capabilities where needed and then as responsible leaders, we must take them down or modify as the environment evolves,” said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. James E Fitch II, 9 AETF-L command chief.

Despite the 9 AETF-L inactivation, U.S. Air Forces Central will continue to provide operational support to CJTF-OIR as it works with its Syrian and Iraqi partners in ensuring the enduring defeat of Daesh in the region. Portions of Air Force support to CJTF-OIR that previously reported to 9 AETF-L will now realign under to the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing.

“The success of this campaign, along with the growing requirement to focus U.S. Air Forces Central units on regional threats, promoted this change in command and control of U.S. Air Force forces in the U.S Central Command area of responsibility,” said Maj. Gen. Kenneth P. Ekman, 9 AETF-L commander and deputy commander for Operations, CJTF-OIR.

Despite its brief history, 9 AETF-L has distinguished itself in support to coalition ground forces and partner nations, enabling the liberation of 8 million people and 110,000 square kilometers of territory. For these contributions, the task force has garnered the Meritorious Unit Award three times, attesting to the positive lasting impact of the 9 AETF-L Airmen.

“While we close this organization and transfer duties… it may seem sad, but in reality, this is what winning looks like,” said Fitch. “We would not be here today without the amazing effort of thousands of Airmen over the past six years!”