A brief history of the 67th Special Operations Squadron – the ‘Night Owls’ – following on from last week’s twinning event.
Shortly before the 67th Special Operations Squadron was granted the Freedom of Hunstanton in October 2014, Mark Service, Historian and Archivist for the 67th, gave an illustrated talk at the Hunstanton Community Centre in which he outlined the what happened to the 67th following its departure from RAF Sculthorpe in November 1953 when it was relocated to Prestwick in Scotland.
In October 1961 it was activated at Spangdahlem AB in West Germany, with responsibility for local base rescue at Ramstein; Laon and Toul in France; and Torrejon in Spain. Tasked with rescue and recovery operations in the European area, including spacecraft recovery in the Atlantic, the Squadron operated the SB-29 (1952-1956); SC-54 (1955-1958, 1960, 1962-1965); HU-16 (1957-1960, 1962-1963); and HH-19 (1955-1961, 1962-1964). The 67th was re-designated as an Air Recovery Squadron on 1 August 1965 and began operating the HC-130.
The 67th then became an Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron on 8 January 1966 and relocated to Moron AB, Spain on 1 July 1966. The Squadron moved to RAF Woodbridge in January 1970 and operated the HC-130 (1965-1988); HH-43 (1966-1972); HH-3 (1969-1971); and HH-53 (1971-1988).
It was in June 1988 that it became the 67th Special Operation Squadron, and converted to the newly modified MC-130 “Combat Shadow”. On 15 January 1995 the 352nd Special Operations Group, including the 67th, relocated to RAF Mildenhall where the squadron has been based ever since. Major changes have taken place at RAF Mildenhall in recent years: The 21st Special Operations Squadron was inactivated on 9 October 2007 and the MH-53 “Pave Low” was retired. Between 2013 and 2015 the 7th Special Operations Squadron retired the MC-130 “Combat Talon” and replaced it with the CV-22B “Osprey”. Also, between 2013 and 2014, the 67th Special Operations Squadron retired the venerable MC-130 “Combat Shadow” and replaced it with the MC-130J “Commando II”. To reflect the increased responsibilities and capabilities of the units, people and assets the Special Operations Group was upgraded to a Special Operations Wing. The 352nd Special Operations Wing was activated at RAF Mildenhall on 23 March 2015 and the newly titled 752nd Special Operations Group is a component of this highly specialised team.
The 67th Special Operations Squadron’s considerable achievements in Rescue and Special Operations are too lengthy to list here but they continue to build on this proud heritage. In partnership with HH-60G “Pave Hawk” Helicopters from the 56th Rescue Squadron at RAF Lakenheath, they provide Search and Rescue coverage as the only assets capable of extremely long-range rescues into the inhospitable North Atlantic Ocean. The Helicopters possess the unique capability to refuel in-flight and the “Commando II’s” of the 67th SOS provide the tanker for the Helicopter, Communications platform and Airborne Command and Control facility. Additionally, the “Commando II” can deliver highly trained Para-rescue specialists to the scene and deploy these men by parachute direct to the stricken vessel or aircraft.