Reserve takes home trophy for MQ-9 Squadron of the Year

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. James R. Wilson
  • 919th Special Operations Wing
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems recognized the Air Force Reserve’s 2nd Special Operations Squadron as the MQ-9 Squadron of the Year at the Air Force Association Symposium in Washington, D.C. Sept. 11, 2023.

The 2nd SOS is based at Hurlburt Field, Florida, but assigned to the 919h Special Operations Wing at nearby Duke Field, Fla. The award is given annually to the squadron that distinguishes itself through the operational employment of the MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Aircraft in meritorious service.

The award was presented by Lt. Gen. James Slife, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force and former commander, Air Force Special Operations Command.

"When the Chief of staff of the Air Force challenged us to accelerate change or lose, some squadrons took as a motto, there were fewer among us that took it as an order,” said Slife. “The men and women of the 2d Special Operations Squadron took it as an order. The Chief said accelerate change, this is the squadron that did it."

The 2nd SOS logged more than 16,000 flying hours in combat in 2022. Members of the unit also provided overwatch with the MQ-9 for nine special operations assault force raids while conducting seven kinetic strikes which resulted in 70 enemies being removed from the battlefield and safeguarding 324 partner forces engaged with the enemy.

“We’re deeply honored to receive this award considering its significance across the RPA enterprise,” said Lt Col David Payne, 2 SOS commander. “I think it reflects our squadron’s commitment to accelerating change, developing new capabilities for the total force and transforming for the future to ensure continued dominance on the battlefield.”

The unit led the way on a number of transformative initiatives which are providing the warfighter with ways to employ the MQ-9 that have never been done before. It validated the ability to take off and land using Satellite Launch and Recovery capability during this year’s Emerald Flag exercise significantly reducing the logistical footprint required for combat operations in the future.

Reservists assigned to the unit also demonstrated Combat Agile Employment capabilities of the MQ-9 by deploying from four separate airfields within 28 hours. It also conducted the first MQ-9 short field take off and landing as well the first landing and departure from a dirt landing zone during an exercise in southwest Texas.

“Our members have a vision and commitment to the mission that is essential to delivering a wide range of responsive and relevant capabilities to the warfighter,” said Payne. “This award is evidence that we’re leading the way in RPA operations today while also preparing for the requirements of the future battlefield.”

The leadership from Duke Field also offered high praise for the Citizen Air Commandos selected for the prestigious award.

“The accomplishments of the 2 SOS which culminated in this award are truly extraordinary,” said Col. Jason Grandy, 919th SOW commander. “Their commitment to excellence and willingness to push the boundaries of what’s possible in a mission that never stops is a testament to every member of the squadron. I couldn’t be more proud of them for being selected for this honor.”