FROM THE FORWARD: As a young lieutenant flying tactical C-130s at Langley Air Force Base (AFB), Virginia, in the spring of 1967, I heard one Friday night in the Officers ' Club that Tactical Air Command (our parent command) was looking for four C-130 copilots to transfer to Pope AFB, North Carolina, for training in a Top Sec ret C-130 squadron designated Combat Knife. That had to be more exciting than haul ing trash, I thought. The following Monday I volunteered, and within a few months I was on my way to Pope AFB. This led to an exciting Air Force career flying the most versatile C-130 ever produced-the Combat Talon. Jerry Thigpen's study on the history of the Combat Talon is the first effort to tell the story o f this wonderfully ca pable m achine. T his w eapons system has performed virtually every imaginable tactical event in the spectrum of conflict and by any measure is the most versatile C-130 derivative ever produced. First modified and sent to Southeast Asia (SEA) in 1966 to replace theater unconventional warfare (UW) assets that were limited in both lift capability and speed, the Talon I quickly adapted to theater UW tasking, including infiltration and resup - ply and psychological warfare operations into North Vietnam. After spending four years in SEA and maturing into a highly respected UW weapons system, the Joint Chief of Staff (JCS) chose the Combat Talon to lead the night, low-level raid on the North Vietnamese prison camp at Son Tay. Despite the outcome of the operation, the Talon I cemented its reputation as the weapons system of choice for long-range, clandestine operations. In the period following the Vietnam War, United States Air Force (USAF) special operations gradually lost its political and financial support, which was graphically demonstrated in the failed Desert One mission into Iran. Thanks to congressional supporters like Earl Hutto of Florida and Dan Daniel of Virginia, funds for aircraft upgrades and military construction projects materialized to meet the ever-increasing threat to our nation. Under the leadership of such committed, hard-driven officers as Brenci, Uttaro, Ferkes, Meller, and Thigpen, the crew force became the most disciplined in our Air Force. It was capable of penetrating hostile airspace at night, in a low-level mountainous environment, covertly to execute any number of unconventional warfare missions. The highly trained, disciplined Talon I crews led the invasions of Grenada in October 1983 and Panama in December 1989. The long-range "pathfinder" capability of the Talon I's made them the indispensable choice for these classic airfield seizure operations. In Desert Storm the Talon Is reverted to their Vietnam psychological warfare role by dropping millions of leaflets over Iraq and Kuwait. Additionally, they dropped eleven 15,000-pound BLU-82B bombs. Today the Talon I largely fulfills the penetrating tanker role, which includes the low-level penetration of hostile airspace and electronic countermeasures (ECM) protec tion for combat search and rescue rotary-wing forces. The Talon I has earned its place in history as the forerunner of modern Air Force Special Operations. Today both the Talon I and Talon II continue to infiltrate, exfiltrate, and resupply friendly forces around the world. The Talon I has recovered packages and people with the Fulton Recovery System in virtually every theater, and both aircraft have dropped every conceivable object off their ramps, from motorcycles to 15,000-pound bombs. Because of the capabilities of the versatile MC-130, and the extraordinary men and women who unselfishly support its mission of vital national importance, the future of Air Force Special Operations is secure.