435th CRG Celebrates 25 Years of Excellence

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jared Lovett
  • 86 AW/PA

The 435th Contingency Response Group marked a significant milestone as it celebrated its 25th anniversary at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Feb. 26, 2024.   

The first of its kind in the Air Force, combining the personnel and equipment of disparate organizations into one force element, the 435th CRG was created on Feb. 26, 1999. Just two months after its inception, the CRG hit the ground running and deployed in response to an escalating conflict in the former Yugoslavia. 

Tasked with rapid deployment to austere locations, the CRG's inaugural mission to Tirana, Albania, for Operation Shining Hope in 1999 exemplified its purpose. There, the group established a massive base camp at the Rinas Airport to facilitate critical relief efforts for refugees amidst the turmoil and support the deployment of Task Force Hawk, an Army helicopter assault force.  

However, the roots of the CRG's mission extend further back, drawing inspiration from the IX Engineer Command during World War II. As part of the Ninth Air Force, aviation engineering units like the 435th Troop Carrier Group played a pivotal role in building, camouflaging, maintaining and defending expeditionary airfields, including participation in the historic Normandy landings.  

Over the past quarter century, the CRG has not only upheld these proud traditions but has expanded upon them, showcasing unparalleled skills and dedication. From deployments in Tirana to operations spanning Europe, Africa and the Middle East, the CRG has consistently demonstrated its capability and resolve in executing critical missions.  

One notable deployment occurred in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where the CRG supported Operation Enduring Freedom, overcoming harsh winter conditions to construct an air base accommodating more than 3,000 coalition forces. In 2003, the CRG earned Airborne Assault credit for their role in establishing Bashur Airfield for Operation Northern Delay in Northern Iraq, enduring challenging conditions before returning to Ramstein.  

“Since February 26, 1999, the men and women of the CRG have answered our nation's call,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Pat Rayner, 435th CRG commander. “From Albania to Iraq, Kyrgyzstan to Diyarbakir, Mozambique to Manda Bay, 101 to 201, and from J-Town to Malacky, the CRG has extended our nation’s global reach, brought relief during humanitarian disasters, protected our partners and allies, and projected combat power to the forward edge.”  

Their unwavering commitment to service, marked by courage and sacrifice, ensures the group continues to play a vital role in USAFE's mission to defend vital U.S. interests, deter aggression and deepen relationships with the Air Force’s allies and partners by projecting combat-ready airpower in the European and African theaters. 

On the anniversary day, the 435th CRG held a historical briefing where Airmen spoke about significant events that shaped the legacy of the group. Then they had a formal dinner together as a team.

Retired Col. Clifton Bray, the 435th CRG’s first commander, attended and served as the 25th Anniversary dining-In keynote speaker. 

“When you wake up each morning and look at yourself in the mirror, you are looking at who enables large humanitarian relief efforts to happen,” he said. “Whenever a nation’s leaders direct something to be done, there is another group of men and women who make it happen – that’s you. This is why the 435th CRG exists. There is no civilian equivalent to the CRG. Few will ever fully appreciate what you do, but that does not change the fact you are greatly needed.” 

The threat picture has changed over the course of 25 years; however, the CRG’s capability to assess, open and operate expeditionary air bases remains a powerful asset for the joint force.