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Ceremony brings historic 23rd Wing to Moody

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AFPN) -- The 347th Rescue Wing was officially re-designated as the 23rd Wing during a ceremony at 8:23 a.m. here Sept. 29.

The ceremony culminated several recent changes to Moody's wing, including the assimilation of the 23rd Fighter Group at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., and Moody's 820th Security Forces Group.

"Winning the global war on terrorism is imperative, which means we have to adjust our capabilities to meet newly evolving threats," said Brig. Gen. Blair Hansen, 9th Air Force vice commander. "This is one way we are able to adjust, and we expect lessons from this synergy at Moody to expand throughout the whole Air Force."

With the changes, Moody's mission adds close-air support and security forces to its combat search and rescue, or CSAR, assets. The wing now consists of seven groups, more than 100 aircraft and more than 6,200 Airmen.

"The addition of the 23rd Fighter Group makes Moody home to the largest wing in 9th Air Force," said Col. Joe Callahan, 23rd Wing commander. "The 9th Air Force is known as the warfighting component and leads the way in Iraq and Afghanistan. Stepping into this role says a lot for Moody."

The 23rd Wing's newest capabilities include the Air Force's largest group of A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, designed for close-air support against ground targets like armored vehicles and tanks.

These aircraft help the CSAR mission by providing protection to HH-60 Pave Hawks and pararescuemen performing their mission on the ground, said Colonel Callahan.

"The combination of CAS and CSAR missions under one wing is vital as we move forward in today's expeditionary environment," he added. "The A-10 can escort helicopters due to its ability to fly at low speeds and altitudes. It protects helicopters that fly deep behind enemy lines to assist in the extraction of survivors."

In addition to the 23rd Wing designation, Moody is responsible for upholding the storied heritage of the "Flying Tigers." The distinguished fighter pilots of the American Volunteer Group assisted the Chinese and Burmese forces against Japanese invaders in 1941 and were first-responders after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Due to their combat success and the shark teeth painted on their Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighter planes, the Chinese named the group "Fei Hu." They would soon be known as the "Flying Tigers" by the American media.

In July 1942, several members of the Flying Tigers joined the U.S. Army Air Force's 23rd Fighter Group. Since then, the group has seen many inactivations and reactivations at several bases, but pride for their valiant efforts has not diminished, Colonel Callahan said.

"The wing is honored to accept the responsibility of carrying on the Flying Tiger's heritage," he said. "Since the earliest days of World War II, the Flying Tigers represented the best qualities of the military, and Moody is proud to uphold that tradition."

Members from the 23rd Fighter Group are scheduled to begin arriving this winter to prepare for the eventual bed-down of more than 50 A-10s, which will occur in fall 2007.
While these changes take time to occur, they are designed to eventually create a well-prepared wing, capable of responding to a wide variety of missions to support and defend freedom throughout the world, Colonel Callahan said.

"While Moody has enjoyed a storied history in training America's finest pilots, this new chapter will continue to establish the base as a vital asset to today's warfighter," he said. "The combinations of these assets allow the 23rd Wing to provide top-notch wartime support and remain a leader in humanitarian missions when called upon."

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