15th Special Operations Squadron [15th SOS]
The 15th Special Operations Squadron, located at Hurlburt Field, FL, is one of eight flying squadrons within the 16th Special Operations Wing. The squadron flies the MC-130H Combat Talon II.
The 15th SOS history begins with the 18th Observation Squadron, activated February 5, 1942 at Dover, Del. The unit was redesignated the 15th Antisubmarine Squadron (Heavy) Nov. 29, 1942, and assigned to the 26th Antisubmarine Wing, Miami, FL. The primary operational aircraft of the 15th was the B-24. The unit distinguished itself by participating in arduous, over-water patrols in search of German U-Boats. The 15th Bomb Squadron (Very Heavy) was activated June 25, 1944, at Dalhart Army Airfield, TX. The unit was equipped with specially modified B-29s, stripped of armament, except for tail guns, and fitted with the AN/APQ-7 "Eagle" radar. This new and experimental radar permitted the bombing of targets through zero visibility. The 15th distinguished itself in contributing to the destruction of Japan's oil producing industry, relieving and resupplying the POW camps after World War II, and participating in a fly over of the surrender ceremonies in Tokyo Bay.
The 15th Air Commando Squadron was created March 15, 1968, at Nha Trang Air Base, Vietnam, and assigned to the 14th Air Commando Wing. The unit had been known as Detachment 1, 314th Tactical Airlift Wing, since November 1966. The unit was equipped with four UWC-130Es. Its mission was to conduct tactical airlift operations in support of selected American and Vietnamese counter-insurgency forces in Southeast Asia, conduct rescue and recovery operations as directed by the Joint Personnel Recovery Center using the Fulton Recovery Systems and conduct other special operations under the "Combat Spear" program. The unit distinguished itself by accomplishing 30 Fulton recoveries in a reporting period. In one 90-day period, two Silver Stars, 40 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 121 Air Medals and eight Bronze Stars were awarded to unit personnel. The 15th Air Commando Squadron was renamed the 15th Special Operations Squadron Aug. 1, 1968. No significant changes in the 15th SOS mission were made. The 15th SOS was deactivated October 31, 1970.
A direction by Congress in 1981 to upgrade and expand the Combat Talon fleet set in motion the Combat Talon II program. Actual flight testing of the MC-130H began in September 1988. The 1275th Test and Evaluation Squadron was responsible for initial flight testing. The MC-130H arrived at Hurlburt Field in 1991 and was assigned to the 8th SOS.
The 15th SOS was reactivated October 1, 1992 at Hurlburt Field. Members of the initial cadre at Hurlburt continued to perform flight tests, deploy and also conduct formal school training. The unit has since distinguished itself by supporting more than 24 readiness exercises, eight real world deployments, successfully completing the first around-the-world deploy-ment of a single Combat Talon II, and pioneered the first-ever formation flying techniques under special operations conditions involving both Combat Talons I and II.
From June 10-30, 2000, squadron members from the 15th SOS deployed to Honduras to participate in the Relampago Azul, or Blue Lightning, joint/combined exchange training exercise. While in country, a request came from the U.S. Military Group for help. The World Food Organization and the UN needed to deliver much-needed supplies to the Hondurans, still recovering from the devastation caused by the 1998 Hurricane Mitch.
The 15th SOS, once it was determined the assistance could be given with no impact on the mission, or without incurring additional costs, received the go ahead, to use MC-130 Combat Talons to move tons of cargo while conducting normal training sorties. Altogether, squadron members flew a total of eight sorties carrying 160,000 pounds of oil, rice, beans and sugar to residents of Puerto Lempira and Mocoron, Honduras, 250-300 miles from the training location.
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