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Wing supports mission at 'critical time'

Senior Airman Robert Gattison communicates with the pilot of this F-16 Fighting Falcon Jan. 29 during a pre-flight check at Balad Air Base, Iraq, before the aircraft takes off on a combat mission.  Airman Gattison is a crew chief with the 14th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.  (U. S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

Senior Airman Robert Gattison communicates with the pilot of this F-16 Fighting Falcon Jan. 29 during a pre-flight check at Balad Air Base, Iraq, before the aircraft takes off on a combat mission. Airman Gattison is a crew chief with the 14th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. (U. S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AFNEWS) -- The 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing is the most forward-deployed Air Force wing in Iraq. The wing has pioneered modern warfare tactics using advanced weapons systems such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon, A-10 II Thunderbolt and the MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle for close-air support and traditional and non-traditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

The base is also host to a C-130 Hercules squadron that provides intra- and inter-theater airlift, delivering passengers and cargo to bases around the country. The wing also operates a contingent of HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters that provides combat search and rescue capability for the entire Iraqi theater.

On a monthly basis, Balad logistics readiness experts process 750 cargo aircraft, 9,500 tons of cargo and 19,000 passengers, making it the busiest aerial port operation in the AOR, and second only to Dover Air Force Base, Del., in the Department of Defense. In terms of aircraft movements, Balad is one of the busiest single runway operations in DOD and second in the world only to London's Heathrow airport.

The 332nd AEW is the only Air Force wing in Iraq and comprises nine distinct groups, five of which are located at Balad:

332nd Expeditionary Operations Group: The operations group is responsible for all of the expeditionary flying operations squadrons at the 332nd except the geographically separate A-10 II squadron that operates out of Al Asad Air Base with the 438th Air Expeditionary Group. The group oversees the day to day operations of three F-16 fighter squadrons (two active and one Guard or Reserve), a Predator UAV squadron, a C-130 squadron and a combat search and rescue squadron (HH-60s). In addition, the operations group oversees a range of support functions such as airfield management, air traffic control, intelligence, weather and an expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation flight.

332nd Expeditionary Maintenance Group: The maintenance group provides combat-ready aircraft and munitions to the air component commander in support of coalition forces throughout Iraq. The group is comprised of two squadrons responsible for on- and off-aircraft maintenance and sortie generation in support of F-16CG/C+/CJ, C-130H, HH-60G Pave Hawk, and MQ-1 Predator aircraft, as well as launch, recovery and servicing support for military and commercial transient aircraft. The group also has administrative control over an Air Mobility Command detachment, responsible for direct maintenance support for Air Force airlift assets.

332nd Expeditionary Mission Support Group: The mission support group provides a wide range of expeditionary combat support capabilities necessary to protect, enable and sustain combat operations for the 332d Air Expeditionary Wing and its tenant units. These functions are spread among seven different squadrons responsible for communications, services, contracting, civil engineering, force protection, personnel accountability and logistics readiness operations.

332nd Expeditionary Medical Group: The medical group provides a wide range of medical services to Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines throughout the Iraqi theater of operations. The group operates the Air Force Theater Hospital, the equivalent of a Level 1 trauma center, and sees more than 1,200 patients per month of which more than 650 are trauma cases. It also operates the Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility, often described as a way station for strategic patient movement, which is responsible for prepping patients for aeromedical evacuation out of theater. The medical group also runs the Air Force clinic, which is responsible for handling routine medical appointments for the Airmen assigned to Balad.

732nd Expeditionary Mission Support Group: The 732nd EMSG provides oversight and advocacy for more than 1,800 Air Force personnel spread across six squadrons who are operationally assigned to U.S. Army and Marine units throughout Iraq. These Airmen include security forces, civil engineers, lawyers, interrogators, military working dog teams, intelligence specialists, and airfield managers. These Airmen are under tactical, or day to day, control of Army and Marine units, while administratively and operationally controlled by the 732nd EMSG.

Geographically separated groups: In addition to overseeing the five groups at Balad, the wing is responsible for the 407th, 506th and 447th Air Expeditionary Groups, located at Ali Base, Al Asad Air Base, Kirkuk AB and Sather AB (at Baghdad International Airport), respectively.

Approximately 3,800 Airmen are assigned to Balad while another 4,000 are assigned to the four geographically separated groups and at more than 50 forward operating bases around the country performing a variety of diverse missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Balad AB is co-located with the U.S. Army's 3rd Corps Support Command, which is responsible for the operation of Logistical Support Area Anaconda, the largest Army supply center in Iraq.

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