Green Hornets return

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Lt. Col. Matt Smith addresses the crowd after assuming command of the 20th Special Operations Squadron Friday at Cannon Air Force Base. The squadron will operate the CV-22 Osprey.

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

The 54-year history of the Hornets, officially known as the 20th Special Operations Squadron, entered its new phase in the Air Force on Friday at Cannon Air Force Base.

In a brief ceremony, Lt. Col. Matt Smith assumed command of the squadron, which starts with an initial cadre of 12 men and women, including Smith, to operate the CV-22 Osprey.

Smith said the number of Ospreys to arrive at Cannon hasn’t been determined, but the size of the squadron could increase to around 100 personnel.

The Osprey is a tiltrotor aircraft that combines the hover and vertical takeoff/landing qualities of a helicoptor with the fuel efficiency and speed of an airplane. Its primary usage lies in infiltration, exfiltration and resupply missions.

“It’s peerless,” Smith said. “No other machine can do what it does.”

The Osprey, with a wingspan of 84 foot 7 inches, can travel at a cruising speed of 277 mph. Manned by a four-person crew, it can carry up to 32 airmen or 10,000 pounds of cargo.

Col. James Cardoso, commander of the 27th Special Operations Group at Cannon, spent more than three years with the 20th SOS while it was stationed at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Before moving to AFSOC headquarters at Hurlburt in 2000, his jobs with the 20th included but weren’t limited to training officer, flight commander and evaluator pilot.

Never did Cardoso imagine he’d be speaking in Cannon, “on a crisp New Mexico day when the legacy of the Green Hornets was returned to the toolbox of the Special Operations machine.”

Before transferring command to Smith, Cardoso noted the essence of the Green Hornets “does not lie in its machinery, but in the spirit of its people.”

The squadron, first activated in 1956 to perform traditional helicoptor missions has been deployed to provide support for combat operations in Vietnam, Operation Desert Sheild and has been used domestically in south Florida drug enforcement in 1993.

The 20th SOS was deactivated in Oct. 2008 at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

“We combine the great platform of the CV-22 with the rich heritage of the 20th,” Smith said. “It means a lot. We’ll sustain it and the spirit will carry on.”