Before the 6 SOS there was the 4400 CCTS

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Nathaniel Overson
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Historian's Office volunteer
In 1994, the United States Air Force commissioned the 6th Special Operations Squadron to train our allies on American equipment. Since that time, the 6 SOS has trained thousands of foreign airmen, both abroad and here at Hurlburt Field. In addition to training their foreign colleagues, the 6 SOS has developed working relationships with these foreign forces, which helps the United States to build better relations with these countries overall. Although this approach appeared new to some people, the USAF tried something similar with the creation of the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron in the early 1960s. This squadron performed these same tasks several decades ago in Vietnam and at Hurlburt Field.

The Air Force activated the 4400 CCTS at Hurlburt Field April 14, 1964. Gen. Curtis LeMay, Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, handpicked Col. Benjamin H. King to command the squadron. At the activation ceremony, Colonel King stated, "All I can promise you are long hours and hard work in preparation for what lies ahead." He also told them they were "air commandos" in a special operations unit.

By July 1961, Colonel King's command had 125 officers and 235 men, all volunteers from inside the Air Force. Their mission was twofold: conduct combat operations in Vietnam and train South Vietnamese forces for combat operations. The squadron's combat mission included airlift, reconnaissance and airstrike, while their training mission focused on individual training and unit training of foreign troops. The squadron acquired eight A-26s, eight T-28Bs, and 16 SC-47s aircraft for conducting combat operations.

That summer, the unit commenced training with the T-28 and B-26. Its first students were United States Army Special Force Soldiers from North Carolina, who they taught close air support, airlift and fire support procedures. Their training emphasized nighttime combat operations. During this period, the unit received the pseudonym Jungle Jim for the first time.

With the threat of communism spreading in Vietnam, the Joint Chiefs of Staff rushed the 4400 CCTS into action by sending a detachment from the squadron to Mali for a trial run. Six months later, the squadron's second detachment deployed to South Vietnam, where they covertly began training the South Vietnamese air force. The 4400 CCTS conducted its first combat actions against North Vietnamese targets in December 1961. The 4400 CCTS's final detachment went to Panama, where they monitored the growing communist threat in the region.

In South Vietnam, the 4400 CCTS trained members of the SVAF in formation flying, gunnery and dive bombing. Since the United States was there as advisors, one member of VNAF had to accompany U.S. aviators on their missions. In their first year, the 4400 CCTS flew 4,040 sorties in support of Operation Farm Gate and 93 percent of the first year T-28's missions were flown at night. Furthermore, nearly half of the T-28's spent their entire ordnance on their missions. 

While Airmen from the 4400 CCTS were training and conducting operations around the world, the Air Force formed the Special Air Warfare Center April 19, 1962. Eight days later, they re-designated the 4400 CCTS as the 4410 Combat Crew Training Squadron and reassigned it to the 1st Air Commando Group at Hurlburt Field. By 1964, the 4410 CCTS included 75 T-28s which were divided among three squadrons, 25 RB-26s and 12 C-46s and C-47s. In conjunction with 14 U-10Bs, these aircraft conducted combat cargo transport operations.

In the years to follow, the 4410 CCTS's growth continued until the unit contained six squadrons and attained group status by doubling its numbers in December 1965. That same month, the 4410 Combat Crew Training Group was reassigned to the 4410 Combat Crew Training Wing.

Four years later, the unit and the 1st Special Operations Wing crossed paths again July 15, 1969, when the 4410 CCTG was assigned to it. During mid-October 1969, the 4410 CCTG was inactivated, but its legacy included 11 different squadrons, several groups, wings and the SAWC. Today, a portion of the Air Force Special Operations Command's rich heritage is traceable both directly and indirectly to the 4400 CCTS and the 4410 CCTG.