17th Special Operations Squadron [17th SOS]
The 17th SOS, an MC-130P Combat Shadow squadron, conducts aerial refueling of Special Operations helicopters, conducts unconventional warfare and Special Operations in support of Commander-in-Chief, Pacific and the National Command Authority.
The 17th Special Operations Squadron traces its lineage to the 17th Reconnaissance Squadron (Bombardment) which was originally constituted as the 17th Observation Squadron [Light] on 5 February 1942. It was activated on 2 March 1942 at Providence, RI, and assigned to the 71st Observation (later, 71st Reconnaissance; 71st Tactical Reconnaissance; 71st Reconnaissance) Group (though attached to the 91st Reconnaissance Wing, c. 21 October-9 November 1945, and to V Bomber Command, from 10 November 1945-31 January 1946).
It was redesignated as the 17th Observation Squadron on 4 July 1942 and as the 17th Reconnaissance Squadron [Bombardment] on 2 April 1943. It was reassigned to V Bomber Command, on 1 February 1946, shortly before inactivating on 27 April 1976 at Yokota AB, Japan. During the course of World War II, the squadron conducted antisubmarine patrols off the west coast of the United States, c. May-c. September 1942 and then saw combat in the Southwest and Western Pacific, from 28 January 1944-25 July 1945, operating from locations in New Guinea, Leyte, Mindoro, and Luzon. The squadron flew L-1, O-46, O-47, and O-52 (1942); A-20, P-39, and P-40 (1942-1943); and B-25 (1943-1946) aircraft.
It was consolidated on 19 September 1985 with the 17th Liaison Squadron and the 17th Special Operations Squadron.
The 17th Liaison Squadron was cconstituted on 19 September 1952 and activated on 20 October 1952 at McChord AFB, WA. Assigned to Western Air Defense Force, the squadron was not manned during that period. It inactivated on 25 September 1953.
The 17th Special Operations Squadron was constituted on 11 April 1969 and activated on 1 Jun 1969 at Nha Trang AB, South Vietnam. Assigned to the 14th Special Operations Wing, the squadron operated the AC-119, seeing combat in Southeast Asia. Having relocated to Phan Rang AB, South Vietnam, on 15 August 1969, the 17th SOS inactivated on 30 Septembet 1971.
The 17th SOS reactivated on 1 August 1989 at Kadena AB, Japan, under the 353d Special Operations Wing (later, 353d Special Operations Group), operating the HC-130.
The 17th SOS flew disaster relief missions in the Philippines, from 16-31 July 1990.
In August 2000, a crew from the 17th SOS, along with another from the 1st SOS, flew a C-130 each to deliver 19 tons of disaster relief aid across the Pacific to assist in Vietnam's worst flooding in a century. Nearly 22,000 pounds of plastic sheeting, 3,600 blankets and 5,000 water containers were flown from Guam, to Okinawa and then on to Vietnam by two Kadena-based C-130s.
A crew from the 17th Special Operations Squadron began the final flight of MC-130P Combat Shadow, tail 69-5825, 18 July 2013 from Kadena Air Base to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. "After having executed a wide variety of missions in the aircraft over the last 13 years, I have mixed emotions seeing her headed to retirement" said Lt. Col. Daniel Kobs, 17th Special Operations Squadron, operations officer. "While it is sad to see an aircraft that has accomplished so much leave operational service, it marks the beginning of an important AFSOC transformation in the Pacific as we usher in a new era of SOF airmen and capabilities."
With nearly 19,000 flying hours, tail 69-5825 has a long history in the European and Pacific theaters conducting both special operations and rescue missions. The aircraft is most noted for its participation in the evacuation after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo near Clarke Air Base, Philippines, in June 1991. At that time, this aircraft was designated as an HC-130N. The HC-130N "King" was the only dedicated fixed-wing personnel recovery platform in the Air Force inventory.
In addition to its history, tail 69-5825 has a solid reputation among not only those who flew the aircraft but also those who maintained it. Senior Airman Robert Brown and Tech. Sgt. Anthony Rutt, 353rd Special Operations Maintenance Squadron 69-5825 designated crew chiefs, accompanied the aircraft to the Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Center, often called "the boneyard."
"I've been with the aircraft since it arrived in Kadena four years ago. It's hard to watch it go," Brown said. "You get attached to these aircraft. You have pride in your own plane and the work you have put into it." The retirement of tail 69-5825 begins the 353rd Special Operations Group's transition period for upgrading the MC-130 fleet.