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“Wicked Wanda” flies final mission

December 29, 2014 (by SrA Desiree W. Moye) - Often described as low, slow and discreetly lethal, “Wicked Wanda” flew her last flight on December 19, and is scheduled to officially retire in 2015.

USAF AC-130H #69-6575 “Wicked Wanda” taxis for the last time after serving 43 years with the 16th SOS on Hurlburt Field on December 19, 2014. “Wicked Wanda” flew her last flight Dec. 19, and is scheduled to officially retire to the Hurlburt Field Air Park in 2015. [USAF photo by SrA Desiree W. Moye]

This historical AC-130H Spectre gunship has deployed in nearly every conflict the U.S. has been involved in, officially and unofficially, since the end of the Vietnam War.

There were many missions and plenty of wins for Tail Number #69-6575. Some of these include Operation Just Cause, the Iran Hostage Crisis, Operation Eagle Pull, Operation Frequent Wind, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Urgent Fury and Operation Continue Hope.

During “Wicked Wanda’s” final taxi, her engines roared and her propellers cut through the crisp frigid air from the Gulf. The spectacle transported a few in the crowd back to their glory days.

Bill Walter, retired chief master sergeant, was an aerial gunner on “Wicked Wanda” for 27 years.

“[Wicked Wanda] was my aircraft during the Iran Hostage Crisis,” said Walter. “She had a real good combat history, I’m actually happy to see her retire honorably.”

Gene Eller, retired chief master sergeant, operated “Wicked Wanda” as a flight engineer for the 16th SOS. He picked her up at Warner Robins Air Force Base, Ga., and delivered her to Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, for combat support.

“I actually volunteered for the delivery assignment in January 1973,” said Eller. “In 1975, the plane returned from combat and I was still with the squadron. I have a total of 5,000 flying hours in the gunship.”

Spectre’s crew proved the aircraft’s significance in Operation Just Cause. As the only close air support platform in the theater, aircrews earned the Mackay Trophy and Tunner Award after they destroyed the Panama Defense Force headquarters with close air support.

The gunship is currently on the ramp outside of the Commando Hangar.

Eventually, “Wicked Wanda” will be displayed in the Hurlburt Field Air Park, where visitors may see her gray splendor and learn about the glory she saw during her 43-year enchantment over the skies.

Courtesy of 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

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Hurlburt Airmen who were former members of the 16th SOS take a group photo in front of an AC-130H Spectre gunship #69-6575, “Wicked Wanda”, at Hurlburt Field on December 19, 2014. [USAF photo by SrA Desiree W. Moye]

A1C Taylor Williams and Ian Robinson, 4th SOS special missions aviators, pose with “Wicked Wanda”, an AC-130H Spectre gunship, at Hurlburt Field, on December 19, 2014. ”Wicked Wanda” #69-6575 was flown during the Iran Hostage Crisis. [USAF photo by SrA Desiree W. Moye]