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EC-130E 'Commando Solo II' aircraft dedication

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Jay Ostrich
  • Public Affairs Office
Dedicated. It's a term not loosely thrown around when describing someone as wholly devoted to a cause or purpose. But for the hundreds in attendance at the Commando Solo II static display ribbon cutting ceremony, Sept. 23, at Fort Indiantown Gap, it might as well been an all-encompassing metaphor.

Maybe that's because before bombs dropped or troops deployed in the Global War on Terror, this EC-130E, Commando Solo II aircraft, was already flying over the skies of Afghanistan, broadcasting America's messages of freedom.

Or perhaps it is best suited as describing the thousands of Airmen who crewed, flew on and maintained this one-of-a-kind aircraft for the better part of three decades.

While casual passersby at Fort Indiantown Gap's ever expanding park of monuments might just see concrete, steel and paint here, to those who worked with Aircraft No. 63-7773, the meaning of this newest static display here goes much deeper.

"This aircraft just didn't carry messages," said Brig. Gen. Eric G. Weller, 193rd Special Operations Wing commander. "This aircraft carried our hopes, fears, our dreams and our memories. It is my hope that it will stand as a loving link to our past and a lasting bridge to our future."

No matter who you talked to here, everyone had a personal meaning and explanation of why the history of this aircraft is still being written.

"Children and adults will stand in front of this great aircraft and get their picture taken," said Maj. Gen. Jessica. L. Wright, the adjutant general. "And, who knows, seeing this aircraft might be the start of a great military career."

The persistence and devotion to this aircraft never stopped even after it was decommissioned to give way to the EC-130J model the 193rd SOW flies now. This static display, like the aircraft affectionately known as "Triple Cripple," had lots of obstacles to overcome before it could get off the ground.

"There were monumental barriers and lots of reasons why this couldn't happen," said Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Sischo, deputy adjutant general (air). "But, Lt. Col. Dave Palmer would find solutions to every single one of them and the results you see before you."

For Palmer, the visionary and project officer for the 7773 monument, this display was all about leaving a tribute to a very unique unit, this special aircraft and the families who watched their loved ones fly into the sunset and harms way.

"I always encourage my students to leave behind a legacy," said Palmer, a social studies teacher who just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. "This display is a legacy we wanted to leave behind for all the people who dedicated their lives to this mission."

The motto of this unit is "never seen, always heard." With the interactive displays describing the missions flown in the Global War on Terror, this display ensures the legacy of this aircraft and its airmen will always be seen as well.

"It's important to remember our heritage," said General Sischo. "We need to know where we have been so we can appreciate where we are going."