February 2, 2015 (by TSgt. Kristine Dreyer) - Crews from the 1st Special Operations Squadron and the 17th Special Operations Squadron came together to perform a formation flight that symbolizes the past, present and future of the 353rd Special Operations Group.
From left, an MC-130J Commando II and an MC-130P Combat Shadow both from the 17th SOS along with an MC-130H Combat Talon II from the 1st SOS conduct a heritage formation of three MC-130 variants off the coast of Okinawa, Japan on January 26, 2015. The 353rd SOG performed the unique formation to commemorate the arrival of the MC-130J Commando II, the retirement of the MC-130P Combat Shadow and the continuing mission of the MC-130H Combat Talon II. [USAF photo by SrA Maeson Elleman]
The 353rd Special Operations Group conducted a unique heritage formation flight Jan. 26, 2015, over Kadena Air Base. The three-ship formation consisted of one MC-130P and one MC-130J, both from the 17th SOS, and one MC-130H Combat Talon II from the 1st SOS.
“This formation represents the mission heritage these aircraft, and the air commandos that fly and maintain them, have embodied throughout the Pacific theater in past decades, as they will do well into the future,” said Col. Ben Maitre, who flew the lead aircraft in the formation on his final flight as the 353rd Special Operations Group commander.
While the 1st SOS and the 17th SOS often work side by side as the special operations flying squadrons in the Pacific, it isn’t every day they fly as one in a formation.
“The SOG has never flown a formation with these three versions of the MC-130 platform before,” said Maj. Kenneth King, 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron, assistant operations officer and the formation commander. “Planning and flying this formation required all involved to understand the capabilities and limitations of each aircraft and use that as a foundation for a historic opportunity.”
With the changes in airframes, this formation demonstrates the unique mission capability that each MC-130 variant brings to special operations and how the MC-130J will carry on the legacy and mission of special operations in the Pacific.
“It demonstrates what the MC-130J really means to AFSOC ... a new aircraft that is continuing the mission and heritage of all MC-130s that have come before,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Bartlett, 17th Special Operations Squadron operations officer. “For the SOG, this demonstrates the true nature of our transition with the mission shared and simultaneously executed by all the MC-130s in our inventory even as we retire the older aircraft.”
The last group of Combat Shadows in the Pacific began to leave for the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., in October and the final MC-130P from the Pacific is scheduled to retire in April. The final MC-130P Combat Shadow in the Air Force is scheduled to retire May 2015.
The first MC-130J landed on Kadena in December 2014 and will continue to arrive as each Combat Shadow leaves for retirement.