April 18, 2013 (by TSgt. Samuel King Jr.) - The Air Force's last four MC-130E Combat Talon I's spread their wings for a final mission from their home at Duke Field on April 15.
MC-130E Combat Talon I #64-0565 rolls down the taxiway at Duke Field on April 15, 2013, for their final sorties before retirement. The last five Talons in the Air Force belong to the 919th SOW and are scheduled to be retired at a ceremony on April 25. They will make one final flight to the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan AFB by the end of the fiscal year. [USAF photo by TSgt. Samuel King Jr.]
The Talons will be officially retired in a ceremony at Duke Field on April 25 and the aircraft will then be flown to the "boneyard" at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ. April 25th commemorates the 33rd anniversary of the Desert One mission to free the Iranian Hostages - several of the MC-130E's at Duke Field took part in that mission.
"This is an emotional and historic day for the Airmen of the 919th Special Operations Wing," said Col. Andy Comtois, 919th SOW Commander. "Since our inception, the 919 SOW has primarily been a C-130 wing and, for almost 20 years, a Combat Talon wing. We will miss these great warbirds."
The four Talons took off as two two-ships carrying more than 40 of the Wing's Airmen who had a long association with the Talon I's and wanted to be a part of the historic final flight.
"I was glad we were allowed to be a part of it," said Tech. Sgt. Lora Huett, of the 919th Force Support Squadron. "The best part was when they opened up the ramp and took people back to sit on it. It was a beautiful view."
Chief Master Sgt. Tom Mason, the wing's new command chief, flew his last mission as a loadmaster on Aircraft 64-551. The chief transitioned to the loadmaster career field when the Talons arrived at Duke in 1995.
"I've had many great missions over the years both at home and in war," said Mason. "I don't know that I could have planned a more honorable way to end my career as an enlisted aviator than with the last flight of the mighty Combat Talons."
The final flight and the upcoming retirement of the Talons are large steps in the continuing transition to the new Aviation Foreign Internal Defense mission for Air Force Special Operations Command. More than five of the wing's new aircraft, the C-145A, already populate the Duke flightline.
"As our future mission emerges, we must say goodbye to the past," said Comtois. "The sun has set on the Talon mission. The 919th looks forward to a new aircraft and a new mission. Our Citizen Air Commandos are more than ready and capable to take on this new challenge."
The MC-130E made its first Air Force flight in 1966 and has taken part in every major U.S. conflict since. The Talon's primary mission was to provide infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special operations forces and equipment in hostile or denied territory.
Secondary missions include psychological operations and helicopter and vertical lift air refueling.