353rd Special Operations Group [353rd SOG]
The 353rd Special Operations Group, with headquarters at Kadena Air Base, Japan, is the Air Force component for Special Operations Command Pacific. The 353rd SOG is composed of three flying squadrons and the 320th STS. The 320th and two of the flying squadrons are located at Kadena Air Base: the 1st SOS which flies the MC-130H Combat Talon II, and the 17th SOS, which flies the MC-130P Combat Shadow. The third flying squadron is located at Osan Air Base, Korea; the 31st SOS which flies the MH-53J Pave Low III helicopter.
The group's mission is to act as the focal point for all US Air Force special operations activities throughout the Pacific. The group is prepared to conduct a variety of high-priority, low-visibility air support missions for joint and allied special operations forces in the region. It maintains a worldwide mobility commitment, participates in theater exercises, and supports humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.
The group develops wartime and contingency plans to effectively use the full range of helicopter and fixed wing capabilities, to include infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of US and allied special operations forces. The primary peacetime responsibility of the 353rd SOG is to oversee the training and maintenance of its assigned units. The group ensures the combat readiness of these units through comprehensive involvement in numerous theater and joint chiefs of staff-directed military exercises and training activities throughout the Pacific.
The 353rd SOG comprises the US Air Force's special operations air arm in the US Pacific Command. The commander is designated Commander, Air Force Special Operations Command, Pacific, a sub-unified command to the Special Operations Command, Pacific. The 353 rd SOG has three flying squadrons, a maintenance and tactical communications squadron and special tactics squadrons.
The 353rd Special Operations Group flew 19 tons of disaster relief aid across the Pacific in August of 2000 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 from the 353rd SOG, manned each by a crew from the 1st and 17th SOS.
The Department of Defense announced plans to station a special operations squadron of CV-22 Osprey aircraft at Yokota Air Base, Japan, according to a DoD news release issued 11 May 2015. The first three aircraft will arrive in the second half of 2017 with an additional seven aircraft scheduled to arrive by 2021, the release said.
The deployment of tilt-rotor aircraft will provide increased capability for U.S. Special Operations forces to respond quickly to crises and contingencies in Japan and across the Asia-Pacific region, including humanitarian crises and natural disasters, according to the release. The deployment will also increase interoperability, enhance operational cooperation, and promote stronger defense relations with the Japan Self-Defense Forces, according to the release.
The CV-22 Osprey is a highly advanced aircraft with unique capabilities and an excellent operational safety record, the release said. The deployment reflects the United States' steadfast commitment to defend Japan and to station its most advanced capabilities forward as part of the Asia-Pacific Rebalance, according to the release.