1980's

  • 1980
  • APRIL 24

  • On 4 November 1979, Iranian students took 66 Americans hostage in Tehran, Iran. Six Americans escaped, 13 were released in November 1979. By 24 April 1980, a combined special operations force attempted to execute a complicated plan to affect the daring rescue of the remaining 52 hostages. Six out of eight CH-53 navy helicopters made it to the staging area deep inside Iran, designated Desert One, along with special operations EC-130 and MC-130 aircraft. One of the helicopters at Desert One developed hydraulic problems, meaning there were not enough helicopters left to carry out the mission. The mission aborted and the force began to evacuate from the Desert One site. During the evacuation, an airborne CH-53 helicopter collided with an MC-130 on the ground, causing an explosion. The accident killed five 8 SOS members and three Marines, as well as injuring four others. Maj John T. Carney was the lead combat controller for the mission. While the operation failed, lessons learned following the catastrophe led to the establishment of United States Special Operations Command (1987) featuring components from each of the Services including its Air Force component, Air Force Special Operations Command (1990).

  • OCTOBER 24

  • Hurlburt Field renamed five streets in honor of the airmen killed at Desert One: McMillan Street, Bakke Street, McIntosh Court, Lewis Drive, and Mayo Street.

  • 1981
  • FEBRUARY 26

  • While participating in Special Warfare Exercise 81 (SPECWAREX), an MC-130E Combat Talon I (call sign STRAY 59) from the 1st Special Operations Squadron crashed into the ocean shortly after departing NAS Cubi Point in the Philippines on a predawn mission. Eight of the nine crewmembers and 15 special operators, including CCTs SrA Glenn Bloomer and SrA James Bach, perished upon impact with the water. Lost that day from 1 SOS: Major James Kirk, Pilot in Command, Captain Norman Martel, Co-Pilot, Captain Thomas Patterson, Navigator, Captain Gregory Peppers, Navigator, Technical Sergeant Stephen Blyler, Radio Operator, Technical Sergeant Barry Chumbley, Loadmaster, Technical Sergeant Gary Logan, Loadmaster, Staff Sergeant John Felton, Flight Engineer. Lost that day from the combined Special Operations component: Senior Airman David Bingaman, Senior Airman Glenn Bloomer, Senior Airman James Bach, Airman First Class Kyle Wells, Sergeant 1st Class Danny Janecki, USA, Staff Sergeant Patrick Estel, USA, Staff Sergeant Davis Hagen, USA, Sergeant Bryan Broadwater, USA, Petty Officer 3rd Class Rodrigo Penol, Philippine Navy, Seaman Manuel Dumo, Philippine Navy, Sergeant Ewen Miller, Australian Army, Sergeant Murray Tonkin, Australian Army, Signalman Gregory Fry, Australian Army, Warrant Officer 2nd Class Dave Heywood, New Zealand Army, and Sergeant Dennis Terry, New Zealand Army.

  • 1983
  • MARCH 1

  • Search and Rescue Mission ended.

  • OCTOBER 25

  • Following a breakdown in civil order, U.S. forces, in conjunction with contingents of the security forces of several neighboring Caribbean states, invaded the independent state of Grenada in response to an appeal from the governor general and a request for assistance from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. In total, an invasion force of 1,900 U.S. troops, reaching a high of about 5,000 in five days, including 300 troops from the assisting neighboring islands, encountered resistance consisting of about 1,200 Grenadians, 780 Cubans, 49 Soviets, 24 North Koreans, 16 East Germans, 14 Bulgarians, and 3 or 4 Libyans. Within three days all main objectives were accomplished. Five hundred ninety-nine (599) Americans and 80 foreign nationals were evacuated, and U.S. forces were successful in the eventual reestablishment of a representative form of government in Grenada. Eighteen C-130s from Pope AFB delivered US Army Rangers to Grenada during Operation Urgent Fury. More than 650 base personnel deployed to Barbados to support the effort from forward locations. Looking back from a historical point of view, the U.S. government deemed the operation a success – not because of the restoration of the government – but more because we had prevented a potential hostage crisis akin to 1979’s hostage crisis in Iran.

  • 1984
  • FEBRUARY 28

  • Seven combat controllers: Capt Roderick C. Gress, TSgt Larry A. Rainey, SSgt Victor A. Valle, SSgt Eddy D. Clark, Sgt Emilio F. Martinez, Jr, Sgt Jonathon Goerling, and Sgt Steven M. Ray were on board a 37th Tactical Airlift Squadron, 435th Tactical Airlift Wing C-130 conducting a training parachute jump when it crashed, killing all 18 on board. The C-130E, tail number 68-10944 took off from Zaragoza, Spain, on a low-level jump training mission. Weather in the area included a 1,200 foot ceiling and 6 km visibility. The C-130 struck a mesa near Borja, Spain at an elevation of 2,200 feet. In addition to the eight jumpers (7-CCT and 1-PJ), there were seven crew members, and three passengers for a total of eighteen fatalities. This was the largest loss of Combat Controllers in a single plane crash in the history of CCT.

  • 1987
  • JANUARY 31

  • Wing activated and subordinate components re-assigned directly to the USAF Southern Air Division.

  • OCTOBER 1

  • The Air Force activated the 1720th Special Tactics Group on 1 October 1987, later redesignated as the 720th Special Tactics Group on 31 March 1992. Original units assigned to the group included the 1723d Combat Control Squadron at Hurlburt Field, the 1724th Combat Control Squadron at Fort Bragg, N.C., and the 1730th Pararescue Squadron at Eglin AFB. The enterprise would continue to evolve and grow in capabilities and personnel. Lt Col John Carney became the group’s first commander and strongly believed that the combination of Combat Control and Pararescue under the same organizational umbrella would strengthen operations and save lives. The creation of the special tactics group represented the first big step in the institutionalization of special tactics within the Air Force and brought Global Access, Personal Recovery operators and Combat Mission Support personnel together under one organization.

  • 1989
  • JANUARY 1

  • Activated at Howard AFB, Panama, again assuming responsibilities for Howard AFB and Albrook AFS.

  • DECEMBER

  • Flew combat Sorties during the invasion of Panama. Trained foreign and domestic pilots in forward air control. Flew search and rescue, aeromedical airlift, and disaster relief missions in the Latin American region, 1989-1990

photo from 1980