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‘Red Tail Express’ delivers in Iraq

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4/29/2003 - WASHINGTON -- Taking a page from the annals of Air Force history, members of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing are doing whatever it takes to get the job done.

Faced with the problem of getting much-needed supplies to airmen at remote locations supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, and no apparent way to get it there, transporters of the wing unveiled their “Red Tail Express.”

Col. Duane A. Jones, chief of logistics for the Combined Forces Air Component Command, said the call for transportation services within Iraq has been significant.

“We opened up some temporary airfields in Iraq, and those sites needed to have a lot of stuff taken to them,” Jones said via telephone from his deployed location. “There was such a huge demand for transportation that there was more stuff to move than could be moved.”

When the Air Force found itself lower on the cargo shipment priority list than they wanted to be, airmen of the 332nd decided to take matters into their own hands, Jones said.

“There were some specific Air Force-kinds of things we needed at one of these sites,” he said. “Some of our innovative thinkers asked, ‘What if we leased some vehicles from the host nation, put our own drivers in them and delivered them ourselves?’”

The result was a fleet of long-haul trucks dubbed the “Red Tail Express” in honor of their wing’s Tuskegee Airmen heritage. Despite the U.S. Army escorts, Jones said, it was a case of Air Force transporters at their best.

“We weren’t about to go out and do this by ourselves, cowboy-style,” Jones said. “We’re still in convoys protected by the Army, but we were able to get this critical equipment out to the sites.”

The 332nd AEW traces its lineage back to the Tuskegee Airmen’s 332nd Fighter Group of World War II, whose P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustang aircraft were emblazoned with distinctive red tails. The 332nd FG is the only bomber-escort unit to never lose a bomber to enemy aircraft.

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