CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, NM (Senior Airman Eboni Reece) – This feature is the third in a continuous series highlighting the phase out and eventual retirement of the eight AC-130H Spectre gunships at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., scheduled to occur in fiscal year 2015.
On the bitter cold morning of Feb. 7, 2014, five crew members of the 16th Special Operations Squadron gathered to prepare for the final flight of “Bad Company” to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. As if to delay the day’s events, a spontaneous snow storm from the previous day covered the flightline in ice and snow. As the crew members trudged through harsh conditions toward the aircraft to complete pre-flight operations, they were met with yet another delay – an almost two-hour delay.
Maintainers were called to assist with getting Bad Company off the ground for its flight. The aircrew briefly took shelter to find warmth in the 11 degree weather before walking out to the flightline for a second time in anticipation of the meaningful trip.
A little behind schedule, but better late than never, Bad Company’s engines started. With propellers rotating and wheels up in the air, it soared toward the significantly warmer weather of its soon-to-be home in Tucson, Ariz.
Built in 1969 and the first of six Spectre gunships scheduled to make the trip to Davis-Monthan, Bad Company has a rich history. Having flown since the early 1970s in support of armed forces during the Vietnam War, it was also involved in every major combat operation in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iran, Iraq and Panama until present day.
Aboard this momentous flight, the crew consisted of Lt. Col. Jimmy Mott, 16 SOS commander, Lt. Col. Ryan Bohner, 16 SOS director of operations, Lt. Col. David Roman, 16 SOS chief pilot, Capt. Adam Jones, 16 SOS flight navigator, Master Sgt. Troy Henson, 16 SOS flight engineer, and Senior Airman Kyle Olmsted, 16 SOS loadmaster.
Joining the 16 SOS commander and five-man aircrew for the flight to Davis-Monthan were Master Sgt. Stephen White, 27th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron lead production superintendent, and Senior Airman Katherine Bontuyan, 27 SOAMXS dedicated crew chief for Bad Company.
As the dedicated crew chief, Bontuyan has held the sole responsibility of ensuring that Bad Company is in tip-top working condition in order to provide close air support, air interdiction and force protection for special operations forces when necessary.
Without the dedicated crew chiefs assigned to Bad Company throughout the years, many of the gunship’s achievements and accolades may not have been possible.
“I’ve been the dedicated crew chief for Bad Company for nearly a year,” explained Bontuyan. “Since the day I was appointed to the position, I have spent almost every day inspecting, maintaining and familiarizing myself with this aircraft. I take my job very seriously and even though it’s probably long overdue for this airframe, I’m sad to see my aircraft take the trip to Davis-Monthan.”
A little more than two hours after take-off, the crew braced itself for Bad Company’s last landing – wheels down for the final time.
Without hesitation, dozens of personnel from the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group met the Spectre gunship on the taxi way and immediately began prepping the aircraft to be transported to the boneyard where it will remain until it is either scrapped and used for parts or regenerated and put back into the air.
After the entire crew ritualistically signed the airframe, Mott shared sentiments about Bad Company, the retirement of the Spectre gunship airframe and his high hopes for the transition of the 16 SOS with the newly created AC-130J Ghostrider.
“It’s hard to encapsulate in a single phrase all of the action these aircraft have seen, special operations forces they’ve saved, and how truly historic these airframes are,” stated Mott. “It is a bittersweet, emotional day for everyone at the 16 SOS, but all good things must come to an end. We are looking forward to starting a new era with the AC-130J Ghostrider.”