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Blackbirds fly high in hallmark year

  • Published
  • By Capt. Christian Helms
  • 8th Special Operations Squadron
The past year was a hallmark in the proud 91 year history of the 8th Special Operations Squadron Blackbirds, a year which witnessed the transformation from a squadron with a handful of personnel to a combat unit, ready and able to employ the global reach of the CV-22 Osprey; any time, any place.

In the beginning of 2008, the 8th SOS consisted of 20 squadron members, two aircraft, and a seemingly insurmountable amount of testing, mission requirements and organizational tasks.

By Feb. 2009 the squadron had completed a demanding three month Department of Defense-mandated test, validated numerous first-ever tactics, performed multiple off-station training exercises and successfully executed the first overseas deployment of Air Force Special Operations Command's flagship program. All the while, the squadron only gained 21 personnel throughout the year and tackled the daunting task of bringing the CV-22 from a program still in the test phase to operational readiness.

All great journeys begin with a first step. The journey of the CV-22 from testing to operational readiness began and ended in the hands of the 8th SOS.

In 2008, 8th SOS Air Commandos executed a $4 million Initial Operational Test and Evaluation of the CV-22 in the deserts of Nevada. During the test, aircrew flew a record-setting 400 hours of flight time - the highest to date for Air Force CV-22's.

The deployment to Nevada was a resounding success and resulted in the AFSOC commander immediately putting the squadron on alert for contingency operations.

Fresh on the heels of returning from Nevada, the 8th SOS and the CV-22 made history by self-deploying 5,300 nautical miles to Mali, Africa to take part in Flintlock 09.

Flintlock is a regularly scheduled exercise that focuses on U.S. and coalition forces training a broad spectrum of African militaries in small unit tactics and strategic employment of host nation forces, while cultivating relationships and military interoperability.

Not only was it an historic deployment for the 8th SOS, but also for the Department of Defense's newest combatant command, Africa Command. Flintlock 09 was the stage for AFRICOM's inaugural exercise as well as the CV-22's first overseas deployment.

The 8th SOS's remarkable achievements and steadfast dedication to the Special Operations Command mission epitomizes the "quiet professional" persona of Air Commandos.

The Blackbirds continued a tradition of excellence cemented by previous members, and in true Special Operations fashion, a small specialized team of Airmen transitioned the CV-22 from test to combat operations, firmly planting the revolutionary tiltrotor capability into the SOCOM arsenal.

The Blackbirds' dedication to the fly, fight, and win mentality is the sole reason AFSOC can provide a combat ready CV-22 squadron. We stand ready to answer our nation's call . . . any time, any place.