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9th SOS celebrates 75 years of air power

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Maj. Gen. Brad Sullivan, deputy director for operations, Operations Team One, National Joint Operations and Intelligence Center, accepts a few gifts from Lt. Col. Robert Johnston, 9th Special Operations Squadron commander, and the rest of the unit during a banquet at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., Apr. 5, 2019. Sullivan was the guest speaker for the event, and discussed unit morale, readiness and its accomplishments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

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(Ret.) Lt. Col. Sam Gallaway speaks at a “War Stories Wednesday” seminar for an audience consisting of 9th SOS members at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., Apr. 3, 2019. Gallaway gave insight on what it was like being involved with the 9th SOS during Operation Eagle Claw. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

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Capt. Nicholas Murphy, 27th Special Operations Air Operations Squadron pilot, rejoices with his son after flying at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., Apr. 2, 2019. The pilot led a nine-plane formation flight that consisted of aircraft from Cannon and Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

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A 9th Special Operations Squadron loadmaster looks over a formation of MC-130J Commando II’s over New Mexico Apr. 2, 2019. Since 2014, the 9th SOS has become the premier specialized mobility unit, providing infiltration, exfiltration, refueling and resupply for special operations forces throughout the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

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A formation of MC-130J Commando II’s fly over Clovis, N.M., Apr. 2, 2019. The 9th Special Operations Squadron celebrated its 75th anniversary by flying across New Mexico, at one point being joined mid-flight by aircraft from Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

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A formation of MC-130J Commando II’s fly over mountains near Albuquerque, N.M., Apr. 2, 2019. Aircraft from Cannon and Kirtland Air Force Base took part in the 75th anniversary celebration of the 9th Special Operations Squadron’s operational existence. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

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Airmen from the 9th Special Operations Squadron walk out to their aircraft at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., Apr. 2, 2019. The 9th SOS celebrated their 75th anniversary by doing what they’ve known for nearly a century: taking to the skies and soaring. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane T. Plummer)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

For years, the 9th Special Operations Squadron has supported Cannon’s mission to provide readiness in executing global special operations. Now, it’s time for Cannon to support the 9th as they celebrate 75 years of air power.

To mark the significant milestone, the 9th’s pilots took to familiar skies over New Mexico in a nine-aircraft formation. They also invited former 9th members to share their stories, and formally ended the week with a banquet.

“Heritage provides us with guidelines to tether us to codes and standards,” said (Ret.) Senior Master Sgt. Roy Dowdy, 27th Special Operations Wing historian. “Recognizing those special operators who came before us and valuing their accomplishments should instill a unique sense of pride and perspective that few others in the Air Force can readily identify with.”

The squadron currently operates the MC-130J Commando II at Cannon and has done so since it was stood up here after serving at Hurlburt Field, Fla. However, since it was activated April 1, 1944, the unit has flown several different aircraft, from the B-17 Flying Fortress during its first year of service to the Convair B-36 Peacemaker during the Vietnam War.

They even flew O-2B Skymasters and C-47 Skytrains for a brief period of time, but regardless of what aircraft they’ve put their pilots in, the effort and servitude displayed has never changed.

“As the 9th SOS celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, it continues to be one of the busiest squadrons in the Air Force today,” Dowdy said. “They consistently serve in the vanguard of the Special Operations Forces community, providing the nation with unparalleled SOF airlift on a worldwide basis. Their achievements add to the 27th SOW’s legacy on a daily basis.”

To celebrate those achievements, they spearheaded a nine-aircraft formation across New Mexico that included assets from the 415th and 67th SOS. It was a test of communication and coordination, as well as a show of capability, which all allowed its crew members to reflect on the landmark event, according to their unit commander, Lt. Col. Robert Johnston.

“The 9th SOS 75th anniversary allowed the squadron to take a brief pause from an extremely busy ops tempo and reflect on the proud, rich heritage of our unit,” Johnston said.

The following Wednesday, the 9th SOS hosted a “War Stories Wednesday” event and invited former unit members, active duty and retired, to the base’s Landing Zone to give insight on how it functioned during pivotal moments in Special Operations Forces history.

The unit returned two days later to wrap up the anniversary celebrations with a banquet, inviting Maj. Gen. Brad Sullivan, deputy director for operations, Operations Team One, National Joint Operations and Intelligence Center, to be the guest speaker. There, he spoke about the unit’s accomplishments and the direction it’s heading.

“I am constantly impressed by the light, the passion, the fire of this unit,” Sullivan said. “I challenge you all to continue improving.”