522 SOS Fireballs return

USAF: Airman Ericka Engblom U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Paul Pendleton, 522nd Special Operations Squadron commander, prepares to accept the guidon from acting commander of the 27 Special Operations Group, Col. Charles Myers.

The 522nd Special Operations Squadron, the Fireballs, were welcomed back to the U.S. Air Force at Cannon in a reactivation ceremony April 7 at the Drop Zone.

Lt. Col. Paul Pendleton, a seasoned aviator, assumed command of the 522 SOS. He will lead the unit in its new role as the U.S. Air Force’s first MC-130J Combat Shadow II squadron.

“We already have our work cut out for us,” Col. Pendleton said. “But I know we will exceed every expectation, after all, we are air commandos. We will commit ourselves to excellence, be dedicated and courageous, and we will always lead the way.”

The 522 SOS has a rich history that dates back to World War II, during which it was one of the most decorated U.S. Army Air Force units.

“When the Japanese invaded the Philippines, the ground elements of that unit (the 522 SOS) were forced to surrender and were subsequently marched to prison camp in what came to be known as the Bataan Death march,” said Col. Charles Myers, Deputy Commander, 27th Special Operations Group.

“Over the course of the next five years, the unit flew five different airplanes in three theatres, all missions in direct support of our ground elements.”

During this time the Fireballs were selected to introduce a new weapon, napalm, in the battle for southern France.

As a squadron which started back in 1939, the Fireballs are no stranger to change. They served in conflicts, such as the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and have flown nearly a dozen different aircraft in support of various missions.

“Much as our air commandos have had to adjust to the nature of our enemy and adapt our capabilities, the Fireballs continually adapted their mission, when needed, where needed,” said Myers.

This is one of the reasons the squadron was chosen for reactivation. Their new mission will be infiltration, air refueling of Special Operations Forces vertical lift assets, and the resupply of joint and coalition SOF via airdrop in hostile, denied, and politically sensitive areas.

The aircraft the squadron will be flying, while similar, is superior to its predecessor, the MC-130P Combat Shadow.

“It will go further, faster and climb higher with more cargo,” said Myers. “Simply put, this plane represents a large step up in a MC-130 capability.”