Air Commandos bid farewell to MC-130P Combat Shadows

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Katherine Holt
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
The final two MC-130P Combat Shadows in the Air Force landed for the last time here, in front of more than 400 people, during an MC-130P heritage flight May 15.

Aircrafts 66-0217 and 69-5819 were built in 1969 and received their P designation in 1996. They are the last two MC-130Ps in the Air Force to be retired.

“As we get ready to retire a venerable warhorse … today is bittersweet,” said Col. Sean Farrell, the 1st Special Operations Wing commander. “We are truly saying goodbye to a legend. The Shadow’s been a warhorse for AFSOC and SOCOM (U.S. Special Operations Command) and the nation for over 25 years, and the airframes are even older. It is a legacy of valor that we are honoring today.”

The two MC-130Ps are slated to take their last flight to the boneyard June 1, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.

Since Operation Desert Storm, the MC-130P has been involved in many operations: Northern and Southern Watch, Deny Flight in Yugoslavia, Restore Democracy and Uphold Democracy in Haiti, Deliberate Force and Joint Endeavor in Bosnia, Assured Response in Liberia, Guardian Retrieval from Zaire, Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn and Odyssey Dawn.

“As a wing commander whose task is providing combat ready forces, I hate to see the Shadow go,” Farrell said. “The capability it brings is nearly irreplaceable. As we say a somewhat bittersweet goodbye, we’ll never fully replace what the Shadow has done. What the planes, the crews, the maintainers brought to the fight. The legacy of valor, persistence and tenacity will carry on in our force for the next generation of helicopter and tilt-rotor refueling.”

Built with 1960s technology, the MC-130P began its special operations career in the mid-1980s and went on to conduct critical air refueling missions in the late 1980s during Operation Just Cause in Panama, and the early 1990s during Operation Desert Storm.

From the aircrew who execute the mission to the maintainers who enable it, the old airframe comes with a long history that inspires and motivates those who contribute to its mission today.

“The Combat Shadow’s accomplishments are legendary, and I am sad to see them go,” said Senior Master Sgt. Rebecca Shelley, the 1st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron AC-130J superintendent. “Seventeen years of taking care of them have defined who I am today as an Airman as much as taking care of my kids defines me as a mother. We would keep them flying for another 20 years if you let us. It has been an honor serving with the MC-130P for half of its life and nearly all of its special operations life.”

Since the early 1990s, the Air Force Special Operations Command looked to replace the aging aircraft with cutting edge technology, but the Combat Shadow managed to prove its worth within the special operations community time and again.

“This is a testament to the hard work and ingenuity of the thousands of maintainers who put their blood, sweat and tears into keeping these planes airworthy and safe,” Farrell said. “We talk about what the Shadow brought to the fight, those guys kept going until the very end.”