by Senior Airman Divine Cox
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
3/18/2015 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Members
of the 353rd Special Operations Group from Kadena Air Base, Japan,
visited Kunsan Air Base in support of the Special Operations Command
Korea Exercise Gryphon Knife from Feb. 23 to March 3.
Exercise Gryphon Knife is a habitual training exercise designed to
integrate partners from the ROK Special Warfare Command and U.S. special
operations forces components to increase combined and joint special
Airmen stationed out of Kadena Air Base routinely travel to the Republic
of Korea to train new crews and enhance interoperability through
combined training exercises led by SOCKOR.
However, this was the first time the unit flew the new MC-130J Commando II to the ROK.
The Commando II primarily flies missions at night to reduce probability
of visual acquisition and intercept by airborne threats. Its secondary
mission includes troop drops and airdrops.
Leaders used this opportunity to assess the handling and capabilities of
the new aircraft in the challenging Korean terrain and sustain crew and
aircraft readiness in support of SOCKOR and the ROK/U.S. Alliance.
"This is a very unique mission," said Lt. Col. Matthew Bartlett, 17th
Special Operations Squadron director of operations. "Primarily since our
aircraft is new, and our crew is new to operating both in the Pacific
as well as operating in Korea, we wanted to familiarize ourselves with
operating in the Korean peninsula as well as familiarize ourselves with
our customers we supported for this mission."
In December 2014, the first MC-130J arrived at the 353rd Special
Operations Group at Kadena AB, replacing the retiring MC-130P Combat
Shadows assigned to the 17th Special Operations Squadron.
The MC-130J Commando II multi-mission combat transport/special
operations tanker, assigned to the Air Force Special Operations Command,
delivers increased combat performance to the warfighter with its more
powerful engines and unique features.
"The future for us looks pretty bright," said Staff Sgt. Christopher
Tanner, 353rd Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron MC-130J
crew chief. "We have a lot of contingency exercises and plans in the
future that will go a lot smoother using this new aircraft."
The MC-130J crew conducted specialized training while on mission here to the ROK.
"One of our missions was to conduct night vision low levels," Bartlett
said. "The mountainous terrain in Korea made that pretty challenging, so
you have to do quite a bit of planning for that type of mission."
Airmen from the 353rd Special Operations Group look forward to flying
and familiarizing themselves with the new MC-130J Commando II.
"The increased range and reliability of this aircraft is amazing," said
Master Sgt. Justin Solis, 353rd Special Operations Maintenance Squadron
production superintendent. "Not only does the MC-130 make our job
easier, but every Airman involved can operate more efficiently."