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Warhawks mark historic milestone

Operation Enduring Freedom Rivet Joint air refueling

55th Wing Airmen, including Col. Mike Manion, 55th Wing commander (front row, right), commemorate the unit's 10,000th day of forward-deployment to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Dec. 24, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

AL UDEID AIRBASE, Qatar -- On Aug 2. 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait with a series of bombings in the country’s capital, Kuwait City.

Four days later, Operation Desert Shield kicked off and on Aug. 9, the first RC-135 Rivet Joint mission of the 55th Wing flew over the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. This mission officially began the 763rd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, known as the 4077th Reconnaissance Squadron until 1998.

After Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the unit continued to support theater and national-level consumers with real-time, on-scene intelligence collection, analysis and dissemination capabilities to U.S. and coalition forces. The unit stayed in the Middle East and supported Operation Southern Watch from Aug. 1992 to March 2003, and both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom for the majority of the 2000s. In Aug. 2003, the RJs transitioned from Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, to here at Al Udeid. It was then that the 763rd ERS was born into the full squadron it is today.

“The reason the 763rd has been in CENTCOM for so long is because of the unparalleled capabilities our aircraft brings in helping fight and win our nation's wars,” said Lt. Col. Aaron Gray, 763rd ERS commander.

Currently, the 763rd ERS consists entirely of Airmen and aircraft from the 55th Wing from Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. This Christmas Eve, on the 10,000 day of being in the AOR, Col. Michael Manion, 55th Wing commander, flew over from the United States to visit his deployed unit here at AUAB.

“It is an absolute honor to serve as commander of the Fightin’ Fifty-Fifth and to be here with our deployed warriors for this historic occasion,” Manion said. “This milestone not only shows the Warhawks’ dedication to the mission, but also proves we have the resolve to stay until the job is done.”

Twenty-seven years have passed since the 763rd began and the unit continues to support Operations Inherent Resolve and Freedom’s Sentinel in the AOR, standing ready for any future operations that may come to the theater.

“It is exciting to know that we are part of a long lineage of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance Airmen who have contributed to operations in this AOR over the past 10,000 days,” Gray said. “We are driven every day knowing that we have the high standard of so many who came before to live up to.”