February 5, 2014 (by A1C Kyla Gifford) - The last MC-130P Combat Shadow assigned to the 67th Special Operations Squadron here took its final flight while based in the U.K. Jan. 24, 2014, visiting several locations the 67th SOS has called home in the past.
From left, Maj. Drew Lazar, copilot, Lt. Col. Scott Hartman, aircraft commander, and TSgt. Eric Kleser, flight engineer, of the last 67th SOS MC-130P Combat Shadow #66-0215, fly the aircraft’s final flight in the UK on January 24, 2014. The Combat Shadow is the last of its kind to leave the European theater. Its departure marks the final step of Special Operations Command Europe's transition from the Combat Shadow to the MC-130J Commando II. [USAF photo by SrA Kate Maurer]
Its departure marks the final step of Special Operations Command Europe's transition from the Combat Shadow to the MC-130J Commando II, said Patrick Charles, 352nd Special Operations Group historian. The MC-130P, tail number #66-0215
, is the last of its kind to leave the European theater.
While flown as a routine training mission, the sortie also served as a final farewell and the end of an era.
"We were able to take the airplane to all the fields that the 67th SOS has been stationed at in the United Kingdom," said Lt. Col. Scott Hartman, 67th SOS assistant director of operations and pilot for the historic flight.
Most of the airfields the Combat Shadow visited have long-since been closed - their runways grown over or used for storage and parking - but Hartman said they were able to complete flybys and low approaches of the 67th SOS's former homes.
"It was a great chance to get a feel for the long history that the 67th has had here in the U.K., and it was incredible to see where previous squadron members lived and flew out of," he said.
Locations the crew visited included RAF Sculthorpe, RAF Prestwick, RAF Woodbridge and RAF Alconbury. During the flight the MC-130P performed an aerial refueling with one of the 352nd SOG's newest aircraft, a CV-22 Osprey from the 7th Special Operations Squadron.
"We were also able to do a flyby of the town of Hunstanton on the Norfolk coast where Reis Leming rescued 27 people during flooding in 1953," Hartman said. "Reis Leming was a member of the 67th SOS (lineage unit) at the time, and Hunstanton is a supporter of the 67th SOS to this day."
Much like the 67th SOS, the MC-130P has a rich legacy.
"The Shadow has a long and proud history in both special operations and in the United States European Command theater," Hartman said. "The MC-130P's success is a product of the talented and dedicated aircrew who flew them and the professional and extremely hard-working maintenance personnel who maintained them through their long history."
Since the mid-1980s, the MC-130P has participated in special operations missions ranging from air refueling of the military's vertical lift platforms; precision airdrop of personnel and equipment; and the execution of night, long-range, transportation and resupply of military forces across the globe.
The MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft were originally designated HC-130s when they were first produced in the 1960s, and started out as a Combat Search and Rescue aircraft. The Air Force used them extensively in Vietnam to fulfill a number of specialized roles in addition to their primary CSAR function.
The Combat Shadow has deployed for Operation Just Cause in Panama, Operation Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Operation Deny Flight in Yugoslavia, Operations Restore Democracy and Uphold Democracy in Haiti, Operations Deliberate Force and Joint Endeavor in Bosnia, Operation Assured Response in Liberia, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn in Iraq and Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya.
Since the standup of Air Force Special Operations Command in the mid 1980s these aircraft have been an integral part of AFSOC's fixed wing fleet and have been used extensively in special operations since that time. Since 1970, the 67th SOS has operated the HC-130/MC-130P (the designation changed in 1996) participating in numerous operations since that time.
For Hartman, the Combat Shadow has been a pleasure to fly, but he said it's time to move on, specifically to the MC-130J Commando II.
"The MC-130J is a great airplane that brings new capabilities and improved performance that I think will serve the 67th SOS and the 352nd SOG very well," Hartman said.
Even as he looks to the future, Hartman was appreciative of his role in closing out the Combat Shadow's U.K. legacy.
"It was an honor to be the aircraft commander for the final flight of the MC-130P (while based) in the U.K."