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550th inactivates with legacy of pride

Col. Shelley Rodriguez, 58th Operations Group commander, and 550th Special Operations Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Zoltan Kaszas furl the 550th SOS guidon as Tech. Sgt. Hugo Sandoval holds it during the squadron’s inactivation ceremony Sept. 29 in the 150th Special Operations Wing hangar. (Photo by Dennis Carlson)

Col. Shelley Rodriguez, 58th Operations Group commander, and 550th Special Operations Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Zoltan Kaszas furl the 550th SOS guidon as Tech. Sgt. Hugo Sandoval holds it during the squadron’s inactivation ceremony Sept. 29 in the 150th Special Operations Wing hangar. (Photo by Dennis Carlson)

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

The 550th Special Operations Squadron has reached the end of its mission.

The squadron was inactivated Sept. 29 in a ceremony at the 150th Special Operations Wing hangar. The last of its planes, an HC-130 P/N King, left Sept. 27 to be handed over to Patrick Air Reserve Base, Florida.

“This is not a somber day to see the squadron close its doors,” said 550th SOS Commander Lt. Col. Zoltan Kaszas. “It’s a joyous day to hold your heads high and be proud we accomplished our mission.”

One day, when someone pulls the squadron’s heritage box off the shelf to reactivate it, Kaszas said, they can do so with pride.

The squadron was activated on April 1, 1971, as the 1550th Flying Training Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, according to unit information. Members trained crews for search-and-rescue helicopters.

The unit moved to Kirtland Air Force Base in 1976 and changed to working with fixed-wing aircraft in 1987. In 1994, it was renamed the 550th SOS.

The squadron graduated an average of 200 combat-ready students a year for special operations and combat search and rescue.

During the ceremony, 58th Operations Group Commander Col. Shelley Rodriguez said the current and former members of the squadron, also known as the Wolfpack, were the real distinguished guests there.

She said Kaszas had been “truly selfless in command,” handling finances, running a mentoring program and leading prisoner of war/missing in action remembrance events. He also served as a deployed commander.

Members of the 550th SOS trained crews for the King, MC-130P Shadow and MC-130H Talon. All of those planes have been retired from the active-duty Air Force, although the Air National Guard and Reserves still use some.

Rodriguez said training crews for all three aircraft wasn’t easy.

“There is legend upon legend on the intensity of that rivalry,” she said of the relationship among crews of the three types of planes.

Retiring all three aircraft from the same location was another challenge.

“You have to synchronize when the iron leaves so it doesn’t impact the mission,” Rodriguez said.

Synchronizing personnel within the rigid system is also difficult, she said, but Kaszas made sure all of the squadron commanders’ careers would continue after the inactivation.

She said 550th members have served in legendary aircraft.

“Use that heritage as a foundation,” Rodriguez said, urging squadron members to teach the next generation, C-130J crews, what to be.

After the inactivation orders were read, Kaszas told squadron members past and present that they had trained, mentored and professionalized countless Airmen. He said students from the 550th SOS have served in every major conflict since the unit formed.

“The Wolfpack has been a front-line enabler of our nation’s national security,” he said.