Coronet Oak

Captain Chris Miller's experience in Panama

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The Oak mission was a fairly straight forward one. Howard AFB was home to the 24th Wing. The 24th Wing had one "permanent party" flying squadron, the 310th Military Airlift Squadron. The rotational C-130s assigned to Coronet Oak were responsible for the bulk of SOUTHCOM's airlift requirements since its founding in 1962.
The Oak mission has since moved to two locations in Puerto Rico: Borinquén Air Base and Muñiz Air National Guard Base. 24th Wing also owned Coronet Nighthawk, an ANG counter-drug operation involving F-15s and F-16s on a rotational basis. Howard Air Force Base was a center for U.S. counternarcotics detection, monitoring, intelligence-gathering and communications. During most of the 1990s over 2,000 counter-drug flights per year originated from Howard.
The 310th had just one C-130, primarily for local training of Army troops under the JA/ATT program. The remainder of their fleet consisted of short-range aircraft such as the C-27 Spartan. Although the Spartan was a great aircraft for the short-range missions around central America, it just didn't have the legs to be able to reach out to South America and most of the Caribbean.
The bulk of the Oak missions involved 2 or 3 day trips to Caracas, Venezuela; Quito, Ecuador; La Paz, Bolivia; Lima, Peru; Santiago, Chile; or the US Virgin Islands. On a typical 15-day deployment, a crew would get two of these trips, fill in as duty crew or alert crew for two or three days, and get the rest of the time off. If you got REALLY lucky, you got to take a 5-day trip down to Uruguay or up to Honduras to do airdrop training with the host nation paratroopers. These were always a good deal because the host nation troops were generally small numbers, didn't do multiple jumps/sorties, and really knew how to take care of the crew after mission termination. There were also out-and-backs to Bogota, Columbia and other locations closer to Howard. Of course, like all other locations airlifters drop into, each and every one of these locations had their unique souvenirs and "must see" tourist attractions.

E-Mail Last updated on 2 May 2006 by Chris Miller Go Top

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