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321st Air Expeditionary Wing
321st Air Expeditionary Wing.png
321st Air Expeditionary Wing
Active 1942–22 December 2011
Country United States
Branch United States Army Air Forces (1942–1946)
United States Air Force (1953–1995), (2001–?)
Type Air Expeditionary
Role Combat Support
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon.svg Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary ribbon.svg
  • World War II
European Campaign (1942–1945)
  • Global War on Terrorism
Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-2010)
Operation New Dawn (2010-present)
Lance W. Lord

Coordinates: 47°57′40″N 097°24′04″W / 47.96111°N 97.40111°W / 47.96111; -97.40111 (Grand Forks AFB)

The 321st Air Expeditionary Wing (321 AEW) was a United States Air Force unit assigned United States Air Forces Central (USAFCENT), the USAF component command of United States Central Command (USCENTCOM). The unit was reestablished on 1 November 2008 and was a nexus of all Coalition Air Force Training Teams and the Iraqi Air Force.


In 2001, the wing was converted to provisional status and allocated to Air Combat Command. It was believed to be active between 2001 and 2004, and deployed to Masirah Island Air Base, Oman. Its operational component was believed to be the 355th Air Expeditionary Group.

However, the task of developing a comprehensive listing of AEW units present in Southwest Asia (SWA) and other combat areas is particularly difficult as the events of 11 September 2001 and the Global War on Terrorism has made such an effort significantly difficult. The USAF seeks to improve operations security (OPSEC) and be sensitive to host nation politics, ergo information regarding the locations and missions of many air expeditionary wings and groups in SWA has been made deliberately vague.

What is know is that in its latest iteration, the 321st Air Expeditionary Wing trained, advised, and assisted the Iraqi Air Force to develop as a professional and credible regional airpower partner, with the foundational and enduring capabilities to maintain internal security and defend against external threats; provide aerial port, airfield operations, base and medical support, and command and control in support of United States Forces - Iraq (USF-I). On order, it transitioned designated missions, organizations and functions to other US Government agencies no later than 31 December 2011.


See the 321st Air Expeditionary Group for additional history and lineage and World War II history

Bombardment Wing

Emblem of the 321st Bombardment Wing

On 15 December 1953, the 321st Bombardment Wing (Medium) was activated at Pinecastle Air Force Base, Florida, absorbing the B-47 Stratojets and KC-97 tankers of the discontinued 4240th Flying Training Wing in late May 1944. Two weeks later, on 1 January 1954, the wing was assigned to Strategic Air Command (SAC) as the B-47 combat crew training mission was transferred to SAC. Colonel Michael N.W. McCoy was appointed commander of the 321st Bombardment Wing on 24 May 1954. He previously commanded the 306th Bombardment Wing at MacDill AFB, Florida, and was considered the "dean" of Strategic Air Command’s B-47 Stratojet operational wing commanders.

Known squadrons of the 321st Bomb Wing were:

  • 445th, 446th, 447th, 448th Bombardment Squadron (1 June 1954 – 24 October 1961)
  • 307th Air Refueling Squadron (28 September – 8 November 1954)
Redesignated: 321st Air Refueling Squadron (8 November 1954 – 16 September 1956)

In November 1957, the 321st and Pinecastle AFB were host to the medium bombers participating in the annual Strategic Air Command Bombing Navigation and Reconnaissance Competition. During the competition, a B-47 aircraft mishap north of downtown Orlando took the lives of Colonel McCoy, Group Captain John Woodroffe of the Royal Air Force, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Joyce and Major Vernon Stuff during preparations for the event. Despite this tragedy, the 321st Bomb Wing, under the direction of its new commander, Colonel Robert W. Strong, Jr., won the top honors of the meet, including the coveted Fairchild and McCoy trophies, distinguishing the 321st as the top B-47 Wing in SAC.

On 7 May 1958 Pinecastle AFB was renamed McCoy Air Force Base in memory of the late Colonel Michael N. W. McCoy. Formal dedication ceremonies were held on 21 May 1958 in conjunction with a mammoth open house, during which an estimated 30,000 Central Floridians attended.

In the summer of 1961, a complete reorganization of McCoy AFB began as a program commenced to convert the base from B-47 Stratojet operations to B-52 "Stratofortress" heavy bombers. The 321st Bomb Wing began phasing out its operations in June 1961 and was inactivated in October 1961. Its operations at McCoy AFB were temporarily assumed by the 4047th Strategic Wing until replaced by the 306th Bombardment Wing when the latter organization relocated from MacDill AFB, Florida in 1963.

Strategic Missile Wing

Emblem of the 321st Missile Wing

On 1 November 1963, 321st Strategic Missile Wing was organized as the first Strategic Air Command (SAC) LGM-30 Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic missile wing, at Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota.

During 1965, the wing’s three missile squadrons were activated and crew training and certification began at Vandenberg AFB, California. In August 1965, the base received its first Minuteman II missile, shipped by train from Assembly Plant 77 at Hill AFB, Utah. During the following March, the base received the first Minuteman II to be shipped via aircraft, an Air Force first.

On 25 April 1966, the 447th Strategic Missile Squadron and its 50 Minuteman II missiles were declared operational. Additional flights came on line throughout 1966. On 7 December 1966, the wing, with its component 446th, 447th, and 448th Strategic Missile Squadrons, became fully operational with a complement of 150 Minuteman missiles.

As the first base to deploy Minuteman II missiles, Grand Forks AFB hosted “Project Long Life II,” a unique reliability test in which modified Minuteman missiles were fueled to travel a few hundred yards. The first launch from a Grand Forks silo occurred on 19 October 1966 and was declared unsuccessful. Nine days later, a second attempt also failed. A third attempt under “Project Giant Boost” occurred in August 1968 and again proved unsuccessful.

Crews from the 321 SMW competed in SAC’s first Missile Combat Competition held at Vandenberg AFB from 2 through 7 April 1967. Later that month, members from the wing launched its first Minuteman II from Vandenberg. Despite the wing’s relative youth, it quickly established a reputation for excellence by winning numerous honors during its first few years. For example, in 1969, the unit received numerous significant honors, including the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, and SAC Outstanding Missile Wing Award. Throughout the next two decades, the unit would score additional triumphs at Olympic Arena missile competitions and receive numerous “best” accolades.

From December 1971 to March 1973, the wing converted to Minuteman III missiles. These missiles represented a significant technological advancement, having multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs). Coordinating the missile changeover required complex planning and execution. In 1972 alone, 250 separate nuclear weapon convoys motored over the roads of North Dakota.

Modifications continued that enhanced readiness and improved survivability. For instance, about mid-August 1975, “Wing Six Integrated Program” (WSIP) was implemented. WSIP included a silo upgrade that improved the missile suspension system to withstand greater blast-shock and provided the 321st with a remote targeting capability.

The wing underwent continual readiness inspections and participated in numerous training exercises on base and at Vandenberg. Training improved with the expansion of on-base simulator facilities. For example, in 1970, wing crews conducted tests using “Modified Operational Missiles” which enabled them to exercise all aspects of a missile launch except igniting the engine.

Mother Nature often threatened wing readiness. The organizational history referred to “the Great Blizzard of ‘66,” “ the storm of ‘75 that caused $10,000 in damages,” and “one of the harshest winters 119771 which ‘hampered maintenance efforts’ and had ‘ice storms snapping power lines’.” When the heavy snows melted, floods occasionally resulted. A quick thaw in April 1979 created one of the most devastating floods within the Red River valley basin during this century. In addition to protecting the silos from flood waters, wing personnel volunteered to join the mostly successful 2-week struggle to keep Grand Forks and East Grand Forks dry. This effort was repeated in April 1989.

With the restructuring of the Air Force and the disestablishment of Strategic Air Command (SAC) in the early 1990s the wing first came under Air Combat Command (ACC) in 1992 and then under Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) in 1993.

In March 1995, the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission selected the 321st Strategic Missile Wing for inactivation. The wing was downgraded to group status, and the 321st Missile Group was given a dual mission: To operate, maintain and secure combat-ready ICBM forces for the National Command Authority and to safely and securely transfer its alert responsibilities to the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana.

When the decision was made to reduce the ICBM force, all of Grand Forks AFB was placed on the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list. While the base and its aerial refueling wing under the newly established Air Mobility Command (AMC) survived, the missile field and 321st did not. The 321st Missile Group inactivated on 30 September 1998.

321st Air Expeditionary Wing

Tech. Sgt. Rich Loyek, 321st Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron crew chief, emerges from a C-130 Hercules after conducting a pre-flight inspection.

Senior Airman Taneka Jackson and Airman 1st Class Jesse Patrick, 321st Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, patrol the flight line at a deployed location.

The Air Force activated the 321st in August 2002 as the 321st Air Expeditionary Wing, assigned to AFCENT. The wing inactivated in 2004, but was activated again in 2008 to assume the mission of Iraq Training and Advisory Mission (ITAM)-Air Force. On the evening of 31 August 2010, a C-130 crew completed the last mission of a U.S. aircraft in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) as they departed from Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, for Sather Air Base, Baghdad International Airport, Iraq. That same aircrew flew back to Kuwait, refueled, and then returned to Sather AB on 1 September to complete the first sortie of an American aircraft in support of Operation New Dawn (OND).[1] With the dawn of a new day and a new operation, the relationship between the U.S. and Iraq reached a new level. Under Operation New Dawn, American combat forces redeployed from the country, and the focus for the remaining U.S. Forces-Iraq (ISF-I) shifted to train, mentor, advise and assist the armed forces of Iraq in preparation for the anticipated exodus of U.S. military forces from Iraq by December 2011. While Operation New Dawn brought a shift in mission for many of the remaining forces in Iraq, the 321st AEW and ITAM-Air Force were poised to continue their mission to train, mentor, advise and assist the Iraqi air force (IqAF) to develop into a professional and credible regional airpower partner. When the Iraqi Ministry of Defense (IqMOD) made the decision to split fixed-wing and rotary-wing operations in late 2010, the Iraqi Army Aviation Command (IqAAC) was created. Because U.S. Airmen continued to advise for both IqAF and IqAAC, the name was changed from ITAM-Air Force to ITAM-Air and addressed the fully comprehensive scope of training.

The wing and ITAM-Air encouraged the development of Iraqi airpower with the foundational and enduring capabilities to maintain internal security and defend against external threats. At the same time, the 321st AEW provided aerial port, airfield operations, base and medical support, in addition to command and control capabilities to support USF-I. The wing and ITAM-Air also prepared to transition designated missions and functions to other U.S. government agencies and the IqAF no later than December 2011.

The 321st AEW consists of four groups, geographically separated from wing headquarters; the 321st Air Expeditionary Advisory Group (321 AEAG) headquartered at Kirkuk AB, the 321st Expeditionary Mission Support Advisory Group (321 EMSAG) with headquarters at Tikrit, the 407th Air Expeditionary Group (407 AEG) at Ali Base and the 447th Air Expeditionary Group (447 AEG) at Sather AB.

At the beginning of October 2010, the commanding general of USF-I issued his operational guidance for the entire command following the completion under the first month of Operation New Dawn. The general stressed that “we will demonstrate our commitment through a continued partnership with the Iraqis. We will help the Iraqis develop their capability to provide for their own national defense."[2]

In April 2010, the 407th AEG at Ali Air Base and the 447th AEG at Sather Air Base realigned for drawdown operations leading up to Operation New Dawn.

On 6 January 2011, General Anthony Rock, who most recently served as Air Command and Staff College commandant and Spaatz Center for Officer Education vice commander, assumed command of the 321 AEW and ITAM-Air. The general urged those under his command to finish strong as the 31 December 2011, deadline established under the 2008 U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement quickly approaches.

An Iraqi Gazelle helicopter is dwarfed by the largest maintenance hangar in Iraq and the largest clear-span building in the entire Middle East. The hangar was built by a local Iraqi company and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with 321st Air Expeditionary Wing advisors monitoring the project, advocating requirements on behalf of Iraqis.

The IqAAC held a ribbon cutting ceremony in Taji 17 January to formally begin operations in their newest maintenance facility. The massive aircraft hangar is a $9.8 million project that began in 2009. The collaboration between the IqAAC and the United States provided a maintenance hangar large enough for current and growing future aviation mission requirements. At more than 240 feet long and 50 feet tall, the hangar is the largest maintenance hangar in Iraq and the largest clear-span building in the entire Middle East. The hangar bay is large enough to support multiple airframes and activities that have a logical work flow relationship simultaneously. It is also part of a larger complex that includes numerous offices and maintenance shops.[3]

The wing was inactivated on 22 December 2011 following the withdraw of US forces from Iraq and the cessation of Operation New Dawn.[4]

Postcard from Pinecastle AFB, Florida in the mid-1950s, showing Boeing B-47E-90-BW Stratojet AF Serial No. 52-0477 of the 321st Bomb Wing on the ramp. This aircraft was sent to AMARC in November 1964.


  • Established as 321st Bombardment Wing, Medium, on 23 March 1953
Activated on 15 December 1953
Discontinued, and inactivated, on 25 October 1961
  • Redesignated 321st Strategic Missile Wing, and activated, on 14 August 1964
Organized on 1 November 1964
Redesignated: 321st Missile Wing, 1 September 1991
Redesignated: 321st Missile Group, 1 July 1994
Inactivated on 30 September 1998
  • Converted to provisional status and allocated to Air Combat Command to activate or inactivate any time after 1 October 2001.
  • Redesignated as 321st Air Expeditionary Wing on 1 October 2001
Inactivated on 22 December 2011


Attached to Air Division Provisional, 813th, 11 June – 14 July 1954
Attached to 7th Air Division, 9 December 1954 – 5 March 1955
Attached to 5th Air Division, 9 April – 3 July 1956
Probably attached to Air Forces Central



  • 355th Air Expeditionary Group (2001–2004) (Dates Unconfirmed)
  • 321st Air Expeditionary Advisory Group [5]



Aircraft and missiles

LGM-30 Minuteman III Missile Alert Facilities

LGM-30 Minuteman III Missile Alert Facilities (MAF) (each controlling 10 missiles) are located as follows:

446th Missile Squadron
A-00 6.7 mi SE of Wales ND, 48°49′17″N 098°30′48″W / 48.82139°N 98.51333°W / 48.82139; -98.51333 (A-00)
B-00 6.8 mi NxNW of Osnabrock ND, 48°45′49″N 098°11′36″W / 48.76361°N 98.19333°W / 48.76361; -98.19333 (B-00)
C-00 5.7 mi NW of Edinburg ND, 48°32′43″N 097°57′50″W / 48.54528°N 97.96389°W / 48.54528; -97.96389 (C-00)
D-00 1.7 mi SxSW of Nekoma ND, 48°33′14″N 098°22′50″W / 48.55389°N 98.38056°W / 48.55389; -98.38056 (D-00)
E-00 4.3 mi SxSW of Hampden ND, 48°29′01″N 098°41′46″W / 48.48361°N 98.69611°W / 48.48361; -98.69611 (E-00)
447th Missile Squadron
F-00 6.3 mi E of Lawton ND, 48°17′27″N 098°13′52″W / 48.29083°N 98.23111°W / 48.29083; -98.23111 (F-00)
G-00 5.3 mi SW of Fordville ND, 48°09′14″N 097°52′06″W / 48.15389°N 97.86833°W / 48.15389; -97.86833 (G-00)
H-00 5.1 mi N of Michigan ND, 48°05′46″N 098°06′56″W / 48.09611°N 98.11556°W / 48.09611; -98.11556 (H-00)
I-00 6.6 mi ExNE of Tolna ND, 47°50′54″N 098°17′53″W / 47.84833°N 98.29806°W / 47.84833; -98.29806 (I-00)
J-00 6.0 mi SW of Brocket ND, 48°09′14″N 098°27′03″W / 48.15389°N 98.45083°W / 48.15389; -98.45083 (J-00)
448th Missile Squadron
K-00 9.6 mi NE of Finley ND, 47°37′01″N 097°42′14″W / 47.61694°N 97.70389°W / 47.61694; -97.70389 (K-00)
L-00 10.5 mi W of Hope ND, 47°20′03″N 097°56′24″W / 47.33417°N 97.94°W / 47.33417; -97.94 (L-00)
M-00 3.8 mi SxSE of Hope ND, 47°16′17″N 097°41′19″W / 47.27139°N 97.68861°W / 47.27139; -97.68861 (M-00)
N-00 6.1 mi S of Hannaford ND, 47°13′24″N 098°11′30″W / 47.22333°N 98.19167°W / 47.22333; -98.19167 (N-00)
O-00 3.6 mi N of Cooperstown ND, 47°29′51″N 098°07′37″W / 47.4975°N 98.12694°W / 47.4975; -98.12694 (O-00)

See also


  1. ashmccall. "Operation New Dawn". U.S. Army. Archived from the original on 7 April 2011. Retrieved 11 April 2011. 
  2. Dey, Roger M.. "Austin leads USF-I into New Dawn". U.S. Army. Retrieved 11 April 2011. 
  3. Redman, Randy. "Largest hangar in the region completed in Taji url=". 321 Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs. 
  4. Jackson, Kerry (22 December 2011). "Air expeditionary units inactivate after last Airmen leave Iraq". 321st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs. Retrieved 23 December 2011. 
  5. 321st Air Expeditionary Advisory Group holds change of command ceremony
  6. Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4. 
  7. 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. 
  8. US Forces Order of Battle

External links

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