551st SOS reactivated

USAF photo: Staff Sgt. Heather Redman Paul Harmon, left, Air Force Special Operations Training Center commander, presents Lt. Col. Arthur Davis, right, with the 551st Special Operations Squadron guidon during the activation of the squadron as Colonel Arthur Davis assumed command on July 24.

By Greg Allen: 27th SOW Public Affairs

Pledging to continue its proud heritage, Lt. Col. Arthur Davis assumed command of the newly reactivated 551st Special Operations Squadron on July 24 as the base continues to expand its Air Force Special Operations capabilities.

Moments earlier, Detachment 1, Air Force Special Operations Training Center, predecessor of the 551 SOS, furled its colors less than nine months after it stood up here. Its mission, “turning airmen into air commandos,” continues, but on a much larger scale under the new squadron.

Presiding over the event was Col. Paul Harmon, AFSOTC commander, who commended Lt. Col. Tim Sartz, Det. 1, AFSOTC commander, for his abilities to build a training facility and address the myriad of complex issues that ranged from acquiring office space to determining training space needs.

“(The detachment) was a significant milestone for AFSOC when Colonel Sartz and four instructors stood it up,” said Harmon.

The Air Force Special Operations Training Center officially stood up Oct. 6, 2008 at Hurlburt Field, Fla., to streamline training capabilities by employing dedicated training personnel. Sartz said Detachment 1 officially stood up at Cannon, “with nothing more than a phone call.”

The idea behind AFSOTC was to take inexperienced airmen and train them to be fully mission-qualified operators. This approach is similar to the Army’s JFK Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, N.C., and the Silver Strand Training Center at Coronado Naval Base, Coronado, Calif.

Some of the aircraft the 551 SOS will train operators on include the MC-130W Combat Spear, AC-130H Spectre gunship and CV-22 Osprey. Buildings for simulator training are currently under construction as well as plans for a 33,000 square-foot prefabricated building.

That initial handful of trainers will grow to a cadre of more than 110 military and civilian instructors who will train a rotating student population of about 120. Their mission will remain the same: to train aircrews on multiple weapons systems currently at or planned to be at Cannon in the near future.

The 551 SOS traces its roots to the 1551st Flying Training Squadron that activated April 1, 1971 at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and was assigned to the 1550th Aircrew Training and Test Wing, 1550th Combat Training Wing. The squadron operated multiples types of aircraft that included the H-3, H-53 and UH-1 helicopters.

In 1976 the ATTW and the 1551st Training Squadron moved to Kirtland Air Force Base. In 1994 the unit was redesignated the 551st Special Operations Squadron under the 58th Special Operations Wing chartered to train mission-ready aircrew for Air Force Special Operations Command. The 551st was inactivated in 2007, in anticipation of the MH-53 Pave Low retirement.

Referring to the various aircraft parked in back of him that airmen will be trained on an “array of deadly iron” Davis said he would continue the proud heritage of the 551st and continue to train airmen to “fight the fight.”