Brig. Gen. Kurt Neubauer, the final commander of Joint Base Balad, Iraq, relinquished command of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. The Dec. 4 ceremony culminated a 14-month process that saw Neubauer oversee the US military transfer of Balad, the second largest US base in Iraq, back to Iraqi government control. That transfer of authority occurred last month. “I’m very proud of what our wing accomplished and the experience of command in [US Central Command] has been profound, both professionally and personally,” said Neubauer. Closing down a base the size of Charlottesville, Va., doesn’t come without its share of challenges, he said. The biggest one was continuing to defend the base and “provide top cover for US Forces-Iraq,” while assisting the Iraqis and simultaneously drawing down forces, he said. “That was a real test and I couldn’t be more proud of the leadership, stamina, strength, and agility of our Red Tail group and squadron commanders,” said Neubauer. (332nd AEW report by SrA. Amber R. Kelly-Herard)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.