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4th Special Operations Squadron [4th SOS]

The 4th Special Operations Squadron is the largest of eight flying squadrons within the 16th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The squadron employs the AC-130U Spooky gunship for close air support, armed reconnaissance, and interdiction missions in support of conventional and joint special operations forces.

The squadron traces its lineage back to the 4th Air Corps Ferrying Squadron, which was activated in April 1942 and was subsequently, redesignated the 4th Ferrying Squadron in May 1943. It ferried a variety of fighter, bomber, and non-combat aircraft to locations in Alaska, Africa and Europe. The squadron was disbanded in March 1944. The 4th Liaison Flight was activated in October 1949 and was redesignated the 4th Liaison Squadron in July 1952. Its mission included transport, air evacuation, courier duty and reconnaissance.

The squadron flew the L-13, C-45 and L-20 aircraft. The unit inactivated in March 1954. The 4th Air Commando Squadron (Fire Support) was activated in August 1965 and was redesignated the 4th Special Operations Squadron in August 1969. The squadron's primary mission was to fly strikes against enemy forces in Southeast Asia. The 4th also flew reconnaissance, forward air control, search and rescue and equipment test missions. The squadron flew C/AC/FC and HC-47s. In December of 1969, the squadron was inactivated.

The 4th Airborne Command and Control Squadron was activated in April 1970. It provided an airborne and auxiliary command post and a communications link for Fifteenth Air Force and Strategic Air Command. It occasionally flew "Looking Glass" missions to back up the SAC airborne command post. The squadron flew the EC-135A/C and G models and was inactivated in September 1992. The 4th entered its latest incarnation in 1995, with the activation of the 4th SOS at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The squadron was officially activated May 4, 1995. The 4th SOS airmen participated in their first deployment soon after in October during Exercise Foal Eagle in the Republic of Korea.

In September 1996, the squadron made its first operational deployment to Brindisi, Italy, supporting Operations Joint Endeavor, Joint Guard and Joint Forge in the skies over Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the three years of staging out of Brindisi Air Base, the 4th SOS provided on call fire support to ground troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina, aided in the Non-Combatant Evacuation of American citizens from Albania (1997) and provided vital reconnaissance information to the National Command Authorities during the 1997 crisis in the Congo.

On the other side of the world, two augmented AC-130U gunship crews broke the longest flight in a C-130 world record, with a 36-hour non-stop sortie from Hurlburt Field to Taegu Air Base, Republic of Korea. Although the squadron and its 13 all-weather AC-130U gunships have deployed to a number of other JCS directed contingencies and exercises, the squadron's most significant deployment to date was its call for duty during Operation Allied Force. Seven crews and their aircraft attacked Yugoslav border posts during a 17-sortie campaign to drive Serb forces from the Kosovo-Albanian border. During this campaign, the AC-130U's all weather capability was validated, when one of the crews fired on one of these border posts through the weather, destroying the target and making history as the first employment of the gunships synthetic aperature radar.

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