Honorary commanders visit 5th SOS

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Dylan Gentile
  • 919th Special Operations Wing

Not many people get the chance to fly in the AC-130J and C-146 aircraft simulators or talk with Citizen Air Commandos who instruct newly assigned aircrew on these weapons systems. However, the 919th SOW Honorary Commanders program allowed a group of community partners to do just that March 28, 2024. 

A small group of community leaders, alongside their military counterparts, met with Reservists at Hurlburt Field, Fla. who are key contributors for the Flying Training Unit mission for Air Force Special Operations Command as part of the engagement. Members from the 5th Special Operations Squadron and 5th SOS, Detachment 1 sat down with residents to express the value Citizen Airmen provide to the Air Force as well as the importance of the relationship between its members and the local community.

“We teach newly assigned aircrew how to fly a variety of aircraft in the inventory," said Lt. Col. Nathan Skaggs, 5th Special Operations Squadron commander. “We have some of the most experience aircrew you'll find anywhere in the Reserve and many of our members are experienced aviators with a considerable amount of flying hours to their credit as well as time in combat."

Skaggs also recognized the support Airmen from his unit receive from the community as being a key factor in the decision of service members to join the Reserve. 

"You all are some of our best recruiters," said Skaggs. "You make members fall in love with [Northwest Florida] because of your support and programs you offer our families.”

Community leaders often employ area Reservists, teach their children in local schools and offer employment opportunities to spouses. The military-friendly environment of the area makes it easier for busy Citizen Air Commandos to focus on the mission at hand.

The honorary commanders started the day off in true military fashion with a briefing on the strategic importance and capabilities of 919th SOW units who train AFSOC aircrew. Afterwards, attendees experienced the same training as students by flying in the AC-130J and C-146A flight simulators.

“Today Was incredible,” said Dr. Michael Mosely, superintendent of Rocky Bayou Christian School and honorary commander for the 919th Special Operations Medical Squadron. “My favorite part of the day was employing the guns in the AC-130J flight simulator. I was pretty pleased with how I was able engage the weapons on the aircraft surprisingly.”

Next in the C-146A Wolfhound simulator, one honorary commander couldn’t quite stick the landing when attendees' flying ability was graded by an actual flight instructor. Each honorary commander took turns trying to take off and land at an airfield simulating Duke Field.

Out on the flightline, U-28 Draco pilots highlighted some of the capabilities of their aircraft while fielding questions from the locals. A gunship crew then took the honorary commanders onboard to brief them on all the bells and whistles of their weapons system, and even let them operate the sensors.

“My biggest takeaway from today was the level of proficiency held by 919th SOW members,” said Mosely. “The amount of technical mastery is just mind-blowing to me. I'm amazed that they can be so good at so many complicated things.”

The pool of talent needed to maintain, operate, and fly those gunships stays because of the support of the community, said Skaggs.

“Our first [5th SOS] member will show up at 8 a.m. and the last member might not leave until well after midnight.” said Skaggs. “We’re basically supporting this mission at all hours of the day.”

The day ended with lunch, where attendees sat down with Col. Jason Grandy, 919th SOW commander, and discussed a wide range of issues and topics facing the Air Force Reserve. Grandy explained some of the challenges facing 919th SOW members and fielded questions from the group.

Grandy and other leaders from the wing conveyed their appreciation for the honorary commanders' participation and the ongoing support they provide to the unit.

The objective of the Honorary Commander program is to educate local civic leaders on the contributions the Air Force Reserve is making in their communities while bridging the relationship between area residents and military members. All Citizen Air Commandos have their feet in both worlds often demonstrating a commitment to serving while also being stakeholders and business owners themselves in their local communities.