Liberty’s Last Stand

Members of the 427th Reconnaissance Squadron and 306th Intelligence Squadron arrive at Beale AFB, Calif., from Air Combat Command’s final MC-12W Liberty combat deployment, Oct. 13, 2015. Staff photo by Arie Church.

Arie Church

Oct. 19, 2015: Beale AFB, Calif.—MC-12W Liberty crews returned to Beale AFB, Calif., from the type’s final combat deployment on Oct. 13, before Air Combat Command stood-down the mission.

Pilots from Beale’s 427th Reconnaissance Squadron and sensor and tactical systems operators from the 306th Intelligence Squadron flew some 2,500 missions and 8,000 combat hours over the six-month deployment to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

“As we’ve gone to divestiture it’s been a really significant, emotional event—understandably so—for a lot of airmen,” 9th Operations Group Commander Lt. Col. Darren Halford told Air Force Magazine. “You can’t overstate the contributions of the airmen that made the MC-12 happen. We gave them very little guidance, it was all ingenuity, blood, sweat, and tears to figure out how to make that all work,” he said in an interview at Beale.

MC-12 airmen flew integrated missions with Army aviation and intelligence personnel over the last year until contractors took over the mission, 427th RS Commander Lt. Col. Joey Laws told Air Force Magazine.

“It’s a pretty incredible relationship we’ve developed with the Army,” said Laws. “There was a lot of trepidation in the beginning, switching over to Army rules—as it turns out, professional aviators are professional aviators,” he added.

Air Force Special Operations Command will take on 13 of the 33 MC-12s to stand up a new Air National Guard special operations unit in Oklahoma. The Army will convert eight aircraft to Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (EMARSS) standards, while the remainder will support contractor operations downrange.

MC-12s deployed for the first time to Iraq in 2009, amassing some 400,000 combat flying hours over Iraq and Afghanistan. MC-12 aircrew always deployed individually, making the return to Beale the units’ first and final homecoming. Beale flew its last local MC-12 training sortie last month.