MIHAIL KOGĂLNICEANU AIR BASE, Romania — When the call for air support is radioed in by Special Operations Forces on the ground, if the bird can’t fly due to mechanical failure, the result could be catastrophic. To ensure those aviation assets can reach time on target, a select group of Airmen spend countless hours providing round-the-clock maintenance on those birds so they’re able to meet their combat mission.
“For each hour of flight time, it requires at least 20 hours of maintenance,” said Tech. Sgt. Robert Sammeli, a navigation and communications systems specialist assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Maintenance Squadron (SOMXS). Sammeli is a member of the more than 70 maintainers deployed from RAF Mildenhall, U.K., to maintain the two MC-130H Combat Talon IIs and two MC-130P Combat Shadows here to support Jackal Stone 11.
Jackal Stone, a multinational SOF exercise currently being held in four different locations within Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine, requires extensive aviation support to meet the demands of the Special Operations Task Groups on the ground.
In addition to the participants from those three nations and the U.S., the exercise also attracted members from Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania, Norway, and Poland, so the coordination and delivery of air support was complex.“Each country brings a unique aspect to the training,” said Air Force Col. James Brandenburg, the Deputy Commander of the Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component, the heart of all air operations and planning for Jackal Stone 11. “
We get to know each other and know our capabilities and limitations,” Brandenburg said. “Eventually when we have to do this for real, we can take those capabilities and capitalize upon the individual skill sets and make ourselves more effective in the field.
Once air support is requested through the CJSOAC, the team of maintainers on shift begins the process of prepping the aircraft for flight.
“We get the planes ready to fly,” Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Hasty, a 352nd SOMXS MC-130H crew chief said. “I work with a wide range of specialists, from other crew chiefs to hydraulics and engine specialists.”
“The mission we have is quite unique compared to other commands because of the SOF personnel we work with and our specialized aircraft,” Hasty said.
The Combat Talon II and Combat Shadow are tailored for special operations missions and provide infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special operations forces and equipment in hostile or denied territory. Additionally, the Combat Shadow is capable of single or multi-ship low-level air refueling missions for special operations helicopters.
“The giant nose on our planes is the radar systems that make these different than other C-130s,” Sammeli said. “These aircraft have the ability to conduct low-level flying, which can get through any terrain to include low-level mountains.”
Over the course of the exercise, the MC-130s flew over 30 sorties which included airdrop missions, helicopter air refueling, infiltration and exfiltration.
“Our strength lies in our ability to bring special operations forces to bear against enemies we [potentially] face currently, or will potentially face in the future,” added Brandenburg.