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A new Air Force unit specializing in infiltrating and resupplying special operations forces during clandestine missions around the world has been activated at Duke Field outside Crestview, Fla.

The 859th Special Operations Squadron, formerly a detachment unit of the 919th Special Operations Wing at Duke, was activated in a ceremony at the base April 1. Duke Field is the home of the Air Force Reserve’s only special operations wing.

The newest edition to the Duke Field flightline, the C-146 Wolfhound, touches down at its new home at Duke Field this year. (Dan Neely/Special to The Pulse)

The newest edition to the Duke Field flightline, the C-146 Wolfhound, touches down at its new home at Duke Field this year. (Dan Neely/Special to The Pulse)

The ceremony marked a new chapter in the air commando mission that members of the special operations community have performed at Duke since 2012, when the base largely transferred to a non-standard aviation (NSAv) mission to assist in special operations missions around the world.

Non-Standard Aviation refers to operations performed by a fleet of aircraft used by Air Force Special Operations Command to support austere and remote locations not serviced by reliable and safe commercial aviation runway environments.

“We have supported the [Non-Standard Aviation] mission proudly and we are honored to join them in this effort as a Total Force Integration partner,” said Col. Kurt Matthews, 919th Special Operations Group commander.

While Air Force officials declined to comment on the exact nature of the unit’s mission, the Duke Field unit is supplied with a fleet of C-146A Wolfhound tactical transport aircraft. The aircraft began operations with the Air Force in 2011, assisting in missions within the U.S. Africa Combatant Command.

A special operations forces airman and a U.S. Army Special Operations Resuscitation Team member examine a patient at Duke Field, Fla. (Cory D. Payne/Special to The Pulse)

A special operations forces airman and a U.S. Army Special Operations Resuscitation Team member examine a patient at Duke Field, Fla. (Cory D. Payne/Special to The Pulse)

After expressing confidence in the unit’s leadership, Matthews unfurled the 859th SOS flag, activated the unit and placed Lt. Col. Timothy Rowley in command.

“It’s an honor to [activate the 859th] and lead a squadron with such experienced professionals who serve Air Force Special Operations Command both from the active duty and Reserve side of the house,” said Rowley.

Rowley concluded his remarks by praising and challenging members of his unit to continue their efforts to make the 859th a superior unit capable of exceeding AFSOC’s requirements for the Non-Standard Aviation Mission.

“I’m excited about our future and I’m honored to be your commander,” remarked Rowley. “Congratulations and welcome to the 859th Special Operations Squadron. You’ve earned and now you own it.”

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