News>Stand-up of training group marks international homecoming
To activate the 363rd Training Group in an official ceremony March 26, U.S. Central Command Air Forces Commander Lt. Gen. Gary North unfurls the unit colors as Col. Michael Cosby, right, stands ready to assume command. The 363rd TG was stood-up on an air base in the Persian Gulf region to facilitate the training of airmen from various nations. (U.S. Air Force photo)
President John F. Kennedy places a streamer on the colors of the 363rd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing to present the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award in recognition of the unit's actions associated with the Cuban Missile Crisis. The 363rd, activated once again March 26 as a training group on an air base in the Persian Gulf region, follows in the historic footsteps of the 363rd TRW. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Port Casilda, Cuba, is captured by an RF-101 pilot with the 363rd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing on Nov. 6, 1962, while the aircraft itself casts a shadow over the port. The 363rd, activated once again March 26 as a training group on an air base in the Persian Gulf region, has a long and notable history, to include the 363rd TRW, which performed actions in association with the Cuban Missile Crisis. (U.S. Air Force photo)
by Col. Tom Deall
U.S. Central Command Air Forces Public Affairs
3/27/2007 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNEWS) -- With an international audience standing watch, Col. Michael Cosby accepted the flag of command for the reactivated 363rd Training Group at an air base in the Persian Gulf region March 26.
Though officially listed as an activation, officiating officer, Lt. Gen. Gary North, U.S. Central Command Air Forces and 9th Air Force commander, said it was more of a reactivation as the group celebrated a homecoming, continuing its rich history while adding to the Air Force's heritage.
"Reactivating the 363rd is a unique occasion," said General North. "It not only focuses on the bright future of this organization, but also reminds us of the history we all share as members of the United States Air Force."
To appreciate the richness of this reactivation all one has to do was take a glimpse into the past and, most notably, at former 363rd Training Group commanders, to include then-Col. Mark Walsh and then-Col. Ralph Eberhart, who respectively commanded in 1972 and from 1988 to 1990.
Along with prominent commanders who rose to Air Force greatness, the 363rd also engaged in some of history's most notable events, to include actions associated with the Cuban Missile Crisis. The 363rd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing deployed to Homestead Air Force Base, Fla., from Shaw AFB, S.C., in support of reconnaissance operations over Cuba. Pilots conducted their first RF-101 sorties over the island on Oct. 23, 1962. For this action, the 363rd was presented the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award by then-President John F. Kennedy.
In his recognition of the 363rd and the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, a U-2 unit, President Kennedy said, "...the work of these two units has contributed as much to the security of the United States as any units in our history, and any group of men in our history."
It is upon this very notable history that General North explained the group can build toward many bright tomorrows.
"The squadron's first motto was 'Voir C'est savoir' which means 'to see is to know,'" said General North. "This rich history is an impressive image that speaks of the past that I'm sure under Colonel Cosby's leadership will stretch well into the future."
Along with historical significance, it was also a personal homecoming for the general himself. From 1982 to 1986, then-Captain North served as the group's weapons officer. Four years later, then-Lieutenant Colonel North served as wing weapons officer, chief of wing safety and then squadron commander.
Personified through General North, the 363rd knows only success. Again, relying on history to tell the story, after deactivating in 1993 following the Gulf War, the flag of command was raised again in the Middle East.
In 1998, the 363rd Expeditionary Operations Group was activated at Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, to enforce the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. Formerly known as Southern Watch, it continued its long history of combat operations through Operation Iraqi Freedom until its deactivation in 2003.
Seventeen years later Lt. Gen. Gary North returned "home" and, as officiating officer, passed the flag of command to Colonel Cosby to continue the rich history of the 363rd. But more importantly, he did so while underscoring the importance as it relates to international partnerships.
"That's a long history for an Air Force unit," said General North. "But it's a proud history that we now share with host nations. We're here to work side-by-side with our many international partners as we train, fly and build friendships. There is no better way to capitalize on the 363rd's history than here at the Air Warfare Center."
Having reactivated the unit, General North closed with a reflection on how and why we celebrate our rich history and heritage through the use and re-use of groups and wings.
"What is most amazing is how the unit is really not activating today, but coming back home to the Middle East," said General North. "It's the fulfillment of a vision to execute training operations side-by-side with our international partners with the next generation of young Airmen. It is our great collective fortune to combine many backgrounds in the group's role to facilitate and help in the training of airmen from many units and nations."
Taking a personal moment while looking out over the crowd of more than 100 guests, General North said, "You just have to smile at the great opportunities to train in such a great environment. I know the glide path will be smooth, the vector sharp and results predictable."
Having accepted the flag of command, Colonel Cosby closed the ceremony saying, "Seventeen years ago, I first served in the Middle East and fell in love with the desert, and I'm honored to be back in this key supporting training role. The entire Air Warfare Center is possible only through a tremendous cooperative, international effort. I'm honored and thrilled to call this place home."