January 6, 2012 (by SSgt. William Banton) - The 1st Special Operations Wing welcomed home the final C-130 assets supporting Operation New Dawn from Iraq, January 6, 2012.
USAF MC-130P Combat Shadow #69-5819 taxis after landing on Eglin AFB, January 6, 2012. Hurlburt Field assets returned home following the completion of Operation New Dawn and the subsequent withdrawal of U.S. forces by December 31, 2011. Hurlburt Field assets have been deployed in support of OIF and New Dawn since 2003. [USAF photo by A1C Christopher Williams]
The return of the two MC-130P Combat Shadows and aircrew from the 9th Special Operations Squadron represents the end of Hurlburt Field's involvement to OND. The initial withdraw from Iraq began in December with return of the 4th Special Operations Squadron's aircraft.
"The return of these aircraft marks a significant event in Hurlburt's history," said Col. Jim Slife, commander of 1st Special Operations Wing. "Since February 2003, our people and assets have steadily deployed in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn, defining the Air Commando spirit every step of the way. Although this aircraft's arrival signifies the end of one chapter, we remain engaged in operations around the globe and vigilant in the defense of our country's freedom."
Since 2003 the 9th SOS flew 8221 sorties accumulating more than 12,000 flying hours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and OND.
This unit, as with a large portion of the Air Force Special Operations Command, forces has been continuously deployed in one form or another since 9/11, said Chief Master Sgt. William Turner for command chief AFSOC.
"Many of our forces have been deployed since long before (9/11)," said Turner. "It's good to have the total force home for the first time, I heard today, in maybe 22 years."
For Combat Shadow aircrews, the final flight over Iraq was bittersweet marking not only the end of an era but also a reflection of how far Iraq has come.
"Flying over Iraq for the last time and knowing that I was there five years ago and seeing the difference -- it's night and day from five years ago and now," said Capt Mike Proctor, an aircraft commander for the 9th SOS. "It was a beautiful experience knowing we made a difference over there."