One of the primary reasons America’s special operations forces (SOF) are so effective is the first-class support they get from all fronts. Even in the lowest tiers of the SOF structure, the operator-to-support-guy ratio is remarkable, averaging about one operator to every eight support personnel. The higher up within the SOF hierarchy you go, the more support guys there are for every operator (Delta Force and SEAL Team 6, for instance, have a ratio of one operator to 15 support personnel). Support can range from armorers to high-end comms to rotary-wing and fix-winged aircraft support. In the lattermost case, the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command’s (AFSOC) MC-130J Commando II fleet ensures that other SOF units get nothing but the best service.
In early July, seven crews from the 67th Special Operations Squadron (67th SOS), 352nd Special Operations Wing (352nd SOW) came together for a four-day performance competition.
Regarding the grading criteria of the competition, one of the judges of the event—who also is serving as a pilot with the 67th SOS—said to DVIDS that “crews will be judged on objectives such as hitting targets on time, dropping equipment on time, and getting as close to the point of impact as possible. We have judges flying on the aircraft and judges on the ground.”
The judges evaluated the crews on the following events: precision landings, vehicle infiltration/exfiltration, accuracy of equipment airdrops, tactical offload, and low-level flight.
Such competitions are a superb way to foster teamwork and push everyone to perform better. “The competition pushed people to perform their best in the airplane to a standard that is very high. That’s the objective of this rodeo,” said a 67th SOS loadmaster master sergeant.
According to AFSOC, the MC-130J Commando II is suited for clandestine, low-visibility operations. It’s capable of a range of missions, including low-level, mid-air refueling of SOF helicopters; infiltration; exfiltration; and the resupply of SOF units via either airdrop or airland intrusion. The EC-130J variant of the aircraft can conduct missions in support of psychological operations (PSYOPS), to include leaflet drops and other, more sensitive activities.
The 67th SOS master sergeant went on to highlight that the “takeaways from this event will not just be useful internally to the 67th. The lessons and skill sets learned from this week will carry on with these individuals throughout their career. There’s never a perfect flight. You’re always going to strive to hit that perfect time on target or a perfect drop score all the time. Nevertheless, everyone learned something from this competition that will benefit themselves, the MC-130J community, and AFSOC.”
Each Commando II costs approximately $67 million. Its crew includes pilots, combat system officers, and loadmasters.