May 15, 2015 (by SSgt. Katherine Holt) - The final two MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft in the Air Force landed for the last time in front of more than 400 people during an MC-130P Heritage Flight on May 15.
USAF MC-130P Combat Shadows #66-0217 and #69-5819 from 9 SOS fly by during their final flight, May 15, 2015, at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The final two MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft in the Air Force landed for the last time at Hurlburt Field, Fla., in front of more than 400 people and will take their last flight to the boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, June 1. [USAF photo by A1C Ryan Conroy]
dropped members of the 7th Special Forces Group, 24th Special Operations Wing and joint partners, who performed high altitude low opening jumps. Aircraft 66-0217 performed a fly by with two HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters from the 41st Rescue Squadron assigned to Moody Air Force Base, Ga., and aircraft 69-5819 performed a fly by with two CV-22 Ospreys assigned to the 8th Special Operations Squadron.
“As we get ready to retire a venerable war horse…today is bittersweet,” said Col. Sean Farrell, 1st Special Operations Wing command. “We are truly saying goodbye to a legend. The Shadow’s been a war horse for AFSOC and SOCOM and the nation for over 25 years, and the airframes are even older. It is a legacy of valor that we are honoring today.”
Since Desert Storm, the MC-130P has been involved in many operations: Northern and Southern Watch, Deny Flight in Yugoslavia, Restore Democracy and Uphold Democracy in Haiti, Deliberate Force and Joint Endeavor in Bosnia, Assured Response in Liberia, Guardian Retrieval from Zaire, Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn and Odyssey Dawn.
“As a wing commander whose task is providing combat ready forces, I hate to see the Shadow go,” said Farrell. “The capability it brings is nearly irreplaceable. As we say a somewhat bittersweet goodbye, we’ll never fully replace what the Shadow has done. What the planes, the crews, the maintainers brought to the fight. The legacy of valor, persistence and tenacity will carry on in our force for the next generation of helicopter and tilt-rotor refueling.”
Built with 1960s technology, the MC-130P began its special operations career in the mid-1980s and went on to conduct critical air refueling missions in the late 1980s during Operation Just Cause in Panama and the early 1990s during Operation Desert Storm.
From the aircrew who execute the mission to the maintainers who enable it, the old airframe comes with a long history that inspires and motivates those who contribute to its mission today.
“The Combat Shadow’s accomplishments are legendary, and I am sad to see them go,” said Senior Master Sgt. Rebecca Shelley, 1st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron AC-130J superintendent. “Seventeen years of taking care of them have defined who I am today as an Airman as much as taking care of my kids defines me as a mother. We would keep them flying for another 20 years if you let us. It has been an honor serving with the MC-130P for half of its life and nearly all of its special operations life.”
Since the early 1990s, the Air Force Special Operations Command looked to replace the aging aircraft with cutting edge technology, but the Combat Shadow managed to prove its worth within the special operations community time and again.
“This is a testament to the hard work and ingenuity of the thousands of maintainers who put their blood, sweat and tears in to keeping these planes airworthy and safe,” said Farrell. “We talk about what the shadow brought to the fight, those guys kept going until the very end.”
After the heritage flight, an informal reception was held for the members of Det. 1, their families and past Combat Shadow Airmen.
“Thank you to the men and women of Det 1 and attached flyers,” said Lt. Col. Sam Kwan, 1st SOG Det. 1 commander, “It has been the privilege of my life to command this unit. It is bittersweet, but there is no better way to go out.”
Additionally, Chief Master Sgt. Matt Caruso, Air Force Special Operations Command command chief, gave remarks regarding his time as a Combat Shadow flight engineer.
“We were there regardless of condition. Call us, we’ll go no problem,” he said. “We never complained; leadership wouldn’t have it. We are simply strong and tough Air Commandos. The spirit lives on with each of you. Be proud of what you have done and how you have done it.”
Aircrafts 66-0217 and 69-5819 were built in 1969 and received their MC-130 P designation in 1996. They are the last two MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft in the Air Force to be retired. On June 1, 217 and 819 will take their last flight to the boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.