War on Terrorism

Friday, August 07, 2009

Commander Highlights Wing's Combat Operations Support

By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg and Air Force Capt. Martha Petersante-Gioia
Special to American Forces Press Service

Aug. 7, 2009 - The commander of one of the largest and most diverse wings in the Air Force highlighted the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing's contributions to operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom during a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable Aug. 5. "On any given day, we will provide about 85 percent of all the air-refueling support for Iraq; we will probably provide about 30 percent of the air-refueling support for Afghanistan," Air Force Brig. Gen. Stephen W. Wilson said.

Our [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] platforms are equally likely to be flying in Iraq or Afghanistan, probably at the same time," he added.

The wing and its associate units, which are assigned to Air Combat Command, operate more than 100 aircraft, making it a large hub for humanitarian airlift activity while providing mission-essential combat power, medical evacuation and intelligence support for multiple theaters of operations, officials said.

The 379th flies about one-third of the air tasking order missions daily, Wilson said. "We have aircraft taking off or landing every 10 minutes, 24/7, 365 days of the year."

Known today as the "Grand Slam" wing, the 379th has earned its reputation for combat excellence, Wilson said. "We had the best bombing results, the greatest tonnage of bombs dropped, the largest number of aircraft attacking and the lowest abort rate," he explained, "and I would say that same level of combat continues today."

The wing first stood up in 1942, and is now positioned at the tip of the spear, supporting both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Wilson said. "We gas it, we move it, we find it and fix it, and, if need be, we finish it," he said.

Wilson said the wing is looking at ways to combine and integrate airpower to produce more effects for the joint forces commander. Whether it's using unmanned aerial vehicles in conjunction with Joint STARS – the joint surveillance target attack radar system -- and Rivet Joint aircraft or ISR platforms, wthe wing's airmen work with ground forces to provide the effect they need across the theater, he said.

The general explained how the 379th always seeks innovative ways to do business, which starts from the youngest enlisted airman to the most senior Air Force officer. "It doesn't matter where the good idea comes from," he said. "If there is a good idea or a better way of doing it, we will do it."

As the wing's mission has evolved, Wilson said, its airmen have stepped up to every challenge.

"I think we have become a lot smarter on how we do business," he said. "Today, we are airlifting supplies into places so we don't have to drive convoys and put people at risk. [Our folks] are operating in some real extreme conditions, a harsh environment, miles from home, and they rise above the distractions and focus on the difficult task at hand: to provide 24/7 airpower, whether it be in Iraq or Afghanistan, to meet those mission needs."

(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg serves in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate, and Air Force Capt. Martha Petersante-Gioia serves with the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing public affairs office.)

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