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The 352nd Special Operations Wing hosts Chindit veterans and families in celebration of Air Commando Heritage

  • Published

The 352nd Special Operations Wing welcomed World War II Chindit veterans Sid Machin, Robbie Robertson, and their families, to RAF Mildenhall in a celebration of Air Commando heritage, Jan. 24, 2024.

The visitors toured an MC-130J Commando II and a CV-22B Osprey aircraft, saw demonstrations by Special Tactics Airmen, and learned how Chindit ancestry shaped the mission of the 352 SOW. They also toured a KC-135 tanker aircraft of 100th Air Refueling Squadron and the RAF Mildenhall Air Traffic Control Tower.

The Wing’s history is deeply rooted in both the Chindits, who conducted ground operations in Burma during World War II, and the 1st Air Commando Group, the U.S. Army Air Force element that provided insertion, close air support, and resupply capabilities to the Chindits deep in Japanese-occupied jungles.

“It’s an incredible honor to have Sid and Robbie visit the 352nd to see how the foundation they laid for special operations forces has grown and developed over the years, and for them to teach current Air Commandos the history of the Wing,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Mark McGill, 352nd Special Operations Wing Commander.

The 1st Air Commando Group laid the groundwork for the modern special operations wings that make up Air Force Special Operations Command. Following World War II, the group was disbanded, reformed with other missions, consolidated with other units, moved from the U.S. back to Europe and finally came to live at RAF Mildenhall in 1995 where it was upgraded from a special operations group to the 352 SOW in 2015.

Despite restructuring throughout the 20th century, the need for units dedicated to special operations missions was recognized in the 1960s and the story of the Air Commando grew. This necessity fueled the evolution into today’s special operations wings, like the 352 SOW, that take on the most challenging missions the Air Force has to offer.

The 321st Special Tactics Squadron carries on the legacy of special operations and disruption of adversary activities as a ground element integrating air and ground operations. The 67th and 7th Special Operations Squadrons provide specialized access and resupply support to ground elements with the MC-130J and CV-22B, respectively.

The Chindit Society, an organization dedicated to honoring and preserving the legacy of the Chindits, helped coordinate the event and was represented by Lt. Col. (Ret.) Paul Corden of the British Army’s 77th Brigade, named after the original Chindit Brigade, formed by Maj. Gen. Orde Wingate in 1942.

Machin, his son Neil, and Corden flew on an MC-130J during the visit as well. The flight was Sid’s first time on a military aircraft since his time on active duty.
The 352 SOW and the Chindit Society look to continue their strong partnership through events such as Chindit Reunions, the Wing’s Formal Dining Out, and other collaborations between the U.S. and the U.K.