|506th Air Expeditionary Group|
Emblem of the 506th Air Expeditionary Group
|Active||1944–1945; 1952–1959; 1972–1973; 2003–present|
|Branch||United States Air Force|
|Garrison/HQ||United States Central Command Air Forces|
The 506th Air Expeditionary Group (506 AEG) is a provisional United States Air Force unit. The group is assigned to the United States Air Forces Central 332d Air Expeditionary Wing, stationed at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
The 506 AEG secures the base, conducts safe flight operations and supports the nation builders in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and other US Air Forces Central and US Central Command contingency plans. As a provisional unit, the 506 AEG may be activated or inactivated at any time.
The group's lineage begins in 1944 as the 301st Fighter Group which flew P-51 Mustangs as part of Twentieth Air Force in the Western Pacific. During the Cold War, the unit was a Strategic Air Command fighter-escort unit and later active with Tactical Air Command and the Air Force Reserve as a tactical fighter unit.
The 506 AEG is composed of:
- 506th Expeditionary Medical Services Squadron
- 506th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron
- 506th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron
- 506th Expeditionary Logistic Readiness Squadron
- 506th Expeditionary Communications Squadron
- 506th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, inactivated 28 May 2010
- 506th Expeditionary Services Squadron
- Kirkuk Provincial Reconstruction Team, or PRT.
Approximately 1,000 active-duty, Reserve, and Air National Guard Airmen were assigned to the 506 AEG during any given Air and Space Expeditionary Force rotation. Additionally, approximately 5,000 Soldiers were assigned to Forward-Operating Base Warrior.
Among the base agencies the 506 AEG actively supported are:
- 52d Expeditionary Flying Training Squadron
- 521st Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron, advised Iraqi Air Forces' 1st and 3rd Sqdns, inactivated 10 January 2010
- 521st Base Support Unit
- 727th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron, Detachment 1
World War II
The 506th AEG traces its history back to the 506th Fighter Group, Single Engine, which was established on 5 October 1944 and activated on 21 October 1944, at Lakeland Army Air Field/Drane Field, Florida. The group consisted of three squadrons: 457th, 458th and the 459th Fighter Squadrons. From its activation, the planned mission of the 506th was very long range (VLR) escort missions of B-29 Superfortress bombers in the Pacific Theater.
Flying almost all models P-51 Mustang which could be sent to Lakeland for training, the group's training regiment centered on learning cruise control techniques that would produce maximum range from the Mustangs. It also included practice scrambles, assembly and landing procedures, escort formations, aerial gunnery and bombing practice, and an occasional dogfight. A month after the 506th started flying, the USAAF produced document 50–100, which was the training directive for Very Long Range operations. Fortunately, the group had already met many of the requirements by then, two glaring exceptions being instrument flying and rocket firing. The final weeks of training were concentrated on mastering those tasks.
On 19 February 1945 the air echelon of the 506th FG aboard a train bound for California, where the aircraft carrier USS Kalinin Bay was waiting to carry them across the Pacific. The ship delivered the 506th to Guam on 17 March, and a week later the pilots flew their new P-51D-20s to Tinian. There they would stay for seven weeks, flying combat air patrols and practice missions while the field engineers on Iwo Jima prepared North Field for them at the northern end of the island. The group was assigned to Twentieth Air Force, which, in turn, attached the unit to VII Fighter Command 301st Fighter Wing. From Tinian the air echelon flew combat patrol missions under the control of Air Defense Command, Saipan, from 28 March to 28 April 1945.
The air echelon joined the ground echelon at Iwo Jima in May 1945. From Iwo Jima, the 506th's squadrons attacked airfields, antiaircraft emplacements, shipping, barracks, radio and radar stations, railway cars, and other targets in the Bonin Islands and Japan. The group also provided air defense of Iwo Jima and escorted B-29s bombers in raids against Japan.
In December 1945 the group moved to Camp Anza, California, and was inactivated 16 December 1945.
The 506th was established as a Strategic Air Command Strategic Fighter Wing on 20 November 1952 and was assigned to SAC's Eighth Air Force. Activated on 20 January 1953, at Dow Air Force Base, Maine, the wing composed of the 457th, 458th and 462s Strategic Fighter Squadrons and was equipped with F-84G Thunderjets.
SAC was founded by men who had flown bomb raids against Germany during World War II. They usually encountered swarms of enemy fighters and knew the importance of having fighter escorts, so they had fighter wings placed under their own operational control. Although assigned to SAC, the group was associated with Air Defense Command and assisted in providing air defense of Maine.
The wing was deployed to Misawa Air Base, Japan between 13 August and 7 November 1953 to support SAC's rotational deployment of fighter units to northern Japan to perform air defense duties, relieving the 12th Strategic Fighter Wing. Under the self-supporting concept, the 506th SFW gained the KB-29P Superfortress 506th Air Refueling Squadron on 23 September 1953. The 506th ARS remained with the wing until 1 March 1955. Upon the wing's return to the United States, the 508th was re-equipped with new F-84F Thunderstreaks, in January 1954 becoming the first SAC fighter wing to be equipped with the swept-wing model.
The wing remained at Dow for just over a year until being reassigned to Second Air Force and was transferred to Tinker AFB, Oklahoma on 20 March 1955. At Tinker, the wing performed fighter-escort duty training to various SAC B-36 Peacemaker heavy and B-50 medium bomber wings as part of the peacetime readiness training mission of SAC. However, as the new B-47 Stratojet and B-52 Stratofortress bombers came into service, the mission of the fighter-escort wings of SAC became obsolete. The Thunderstreaks simply couldn't keep up with the speed and fly as high as the jet bombers.
In 1956 SAC got out of the fighter business and the 506th was reassigned to Tactical Air Command on 1 July 1957. Under TAC, the wing was redesignated as the 506th Fighter-Day Wing and was re-equipped with new F-100D Super Sabres. From 1957 to 1958 the 506th participated in tactical exercises and rotated squadrons to Europe.
The wing was redesignated as the 506th Tactical Fighter Wing on 1 July 1958 as part of an Air Force-Wide redesignation of units. It was inactivated on 1 April 1959 due to budget constraints.
The 506th was reactivated and redesignated the 506th Tactical Fighter Group on 4 May 1972 and activated in the Air Force Reserve on 8 July 1972 at Carswell Air Force Base, Texas. The group was equipped with F-105 Thunderchiefs, being returned from Vietnam War duty with the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing at Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. The Thuds assigned were largely war-weary and the model was being phased out of the inventory. The group was inactivated after just about a year of duty on 25 March 1973 as part of the drawdown after the end of United States involvement in Vietnam.
Global War On Terrorism
The 506th was redesignated the 506th Air Expeditionary Group and converted to provisional status on 22 April 2003, and assigned to Kirkuk AB. The group has been supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom ever since.
The 506th Air Expeditionary Group was assigned to Kirkuk Regional Air Base on 23 April 2003, nearly one month after Operation Iraqi Freedom started. At that time, the group flew A-10 Thunderbolts, which flew close air support and focused intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. The last A-10 departed the base in the Spring of 2004.
- Constituted as 506th Fighter Group on 5 October 1944
- Activated on 21 October 1944
- Inactivated on 16 December 1945
- Established as 506th Strategic Fighter Wing on 20 November 1952
- Activated on 20 January 1953 by redesignation of 4004th Air Base Squadron
- Redesignated: 506th Fighter-Day Wing on 1 July 1957
- Redesignated: 506th Fighter-Bomber Wing on 1 January 1958
- Redesignated: 506th Tactical Fighter Wing on 1 July 1958
- Inactivated on 1 April 1959
- Redesignated as 506th Tactical Fighter Group on 4 May 1972
- Activated in the reserve on 8 July 1972
- Inactivated on 25 March 1973
- Redesignated 506th Air Expeditionary Group and converted to provisional status on 22 April 2003
- 457th Fighter (later Strategic Fighter; Fighter-Day; Fighter-Bomber) Squadron, 21 October 1944 – 16 December 1945; 20 January 1953 – 1 April 1959 (detached 20 March–c. 19 August 1958)
- 458th Fighter (later Strategic Fighter; Fighter-Day; Fighter-Bomber) Squadron, 21 October 1944 – 16 December 1945; 20 January 1953 – 1 April 1959 (detached c. 13 August 1958–c. 18 February 1959)
- 462d Fighter (later Strategic Fighter; Fighter-Day; Fighter-Bomber) Squadron, 21 October 1944 – 16 December 1945; 20 January 1953 – 1 April 1959.
- 470th Fighter-Day (later Fighter-Bomber) Squadron, 25 September 1957 – 1 April 1959
- 506th Air Refueling Squadron: 25 September 1953 – 1 March 1955
- Lakeland Army Airfield, Florida, 21 October 1944 – 16 February 1945
- North Field, Iwo Jima, 24 April – 3 December 1945
- Camp Anza, California, 15–16 December 1945
- Dow AFB, Maine, 20 January 1953
- Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, 20 March 1955 – 1 April 1959
- Carswell AFB, Texas, 8 July 1972 – 25 March 1973
- Kirkuk Air Base (later Joint Base Balad), Iraq, since 22 April 2003
- P-51 Mustang, 1944–1945
- F-84 Thunderjet, 1953–1957
- KB-29 Superfortress (Tanker), 1954–1955
- F-100 Super Sabre, 1957–1958
- F-105 Thunderchief, 1972–1973
- Senior Airman Mindy Bloem, Comm squadron teaches Iraqi counterparts networking skills, 2 Feb 2010, 506th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs
- Air Force security transfers authority to Army, 31 May 2010
- US Air Advisory Squadron inactivates, Iraqi Air Force Squadron stands up, 13 January 2010
- Endicott, Judy G. (1999) Active Air Force wings as of 1 October 1995; USAF active flying, space, and missile squadrons as of 1 October 1995. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. CD-ROM.
- Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
- Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
- 506th Air Expeditionary Group at globalsecurity.org
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