Combat Shadow crew conducts refueling in support of Operation Tomodachi

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Christopher Love
  • 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
An MC-130P Combat Shadow crew from the 17th Special Operations Squadron successfully refueled four HH-60 helicopters conducting search and rescue operations off the shores of northeastern Japan, March 18.

The Shadow crew left here in the late morning to fly to Matsushima Airfield, which reopened March 16, thanks to the swift work of Japanese forces alongside members of the 353rd Special Operations Group.

On the way, the MC-130P dropped to an altitude of 1,000 feet to refuel the two HH-60s. It then performed the second set of aerial refueling missions on the return journey.

"This is our bread and butter; this is why we're here," said Master Sgt. Michael Milich, a 17th SOS loadmaster, "to refuel any helicopter that needs it, so it can continue the search and rescue mission."

During its low altitude refueling, the Shadow crew surveyed the remains of houses, trees and all kinds of debris, strewn for hundreds of miles across the across the Pacific.

"It's amazing to see whole houses floating in the ocean," remarked Maj. Kerry Redman, co-pilot aboard the Combat Shadow. "There are piles of debris everywhere, no matter where you look. It puts the whole scope of the tsunami in perspective."

The Shadow's return journey in the afternoon marked the one week anniversary of Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami, March 11.

Just as the relief effort continues full force, so too does the commitment of the team aboard the Shadow.

"I want to be here as long as possible," said Capt. Sam Robino, the Shadow's pilot, "as long as we're making a difference."