HURLBURT FIELD, Fla.—The last MC-130H Combat Talon II aircraft left Hurlburt Field for the boneyard yesterday.
As members of the 15th Special Operations Squadron prepared for takeoff, families, friends and former MC-130H crew joined them to say goodbye to aircraft tail number 89-0280.
Before it taxied away, ground crews also made sure to take part in what has become a preflight ritual—rubbing the aircraft’s large, rounded nose.
“There’s special things you do whenever a plane leaves,” said Staff Sgt. Kevin Rutkowski. “With the MC-130H, I used to give it a big hug on the nose and tell it goodbye and to keep my friends safe. I did that every single time.”
A former crew chief with the 15th Aircraft Maintenance Unit at Hurlburt Field, Rutkowski said he will never forget the camaraderie of being part of the Talon community.
Now a quality assurance evaluator assigned to the 1st Special Operations Maintenance Group, Rutkowski worked on the MC-130H for six years. During that time, he deployed three times and supported a variety of missions for the 15th SOS.
“There was just so much pride behind the Talons,” he said. “Probably a part of that pride was knowing that at a moment’s notice, we had to be ready.”
Missions performed with the MC-130H involved infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces and equipment, in addition to air refueling operations, among others.
The aircraft first arrived at Hurlburt Field in June 1992 and supported combat and humanitarian operations including operations Allied Force, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, to name a few.
Yesterday’s flight saw the Talon depart Hurlburt Field for the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, also known as the “Boneyard,” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.
On board the aircraft to help deliver it to its final destination was Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command. A former commander of the 15th SOS and MC-130H pilot, Bauernfeind made it a priority to take part in the final flight.
“I’ve spent a majority of my career being around this amazing airplane, its maintainers and operational support staff,” he said. “I felt that it should be sent off right, knowing full well that we’re capturing its heritage. And not only that, but that there will be other aircraft that follow behind it, that maintain that same ‘Talon Standard’ and keep that heritage going forward.”
Following the six-hour flight to Davis-Monthan, the aircrew, including Bauernfeind and 15th SOS Commander Lt. Col. Adam Schmidt, took more photos with the aircraft and signed their names on the aircraft’s nose.
Airmen assigned to the 309th AMARG will help to deliver the MC-130H to join 17 other Combat Talon II aircraft at the boneyard.
From there, the 309th AMARG will perform regular anti-corrosion and other maintenance to preserve the MC-130H, as sometimes, aircraft can be returned to service based on needs of the Air Force.
Now, with the retirement of the MC-130H complete, the MC-130J Commando II has officially replaced the Combat Talon II.
However, for those close to the Talon mission, the aircraft will never truly be replaced.
“We are committed to excellence, to the highest of standards and the highest levels of performance,” said Schmidt. “That mentality defines our community, and isn’t retiring with the Combat Talon II. The standard is alive and well in our MC-130J Commando II aircrew and within our entire squadron.”
By Senior Airman Natalie Fiorilli, 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs