May 4, also known as Star Wars Day, may be over, but an Air Force unit appears to be strong with the Force 24/7. The 75th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron flies C-130 transport planes carrying supplies over East Africa for friendly troops in Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, the Seychelles and Kenya. Her name? Rogue Squadron.
“We are the primary airlift for the Horn of Africa,” Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Patrick Sines said in a recent Air Force press release. “We are responsible for transporting vital supplies to austere places. Being able to help these low-end folks is a huge reward.
The legendary Rogue Squadron of the Star Wars universe is made up of a motley crew of starfighter pilots. While the 75th flies relatively slower cargo planes, the name fits perfectly if you take a closer look.
“Djibouti isn’t too far from Mos Eisley,” the rough desert town that appears throughout the Star Wars franchise, a C-17 pilot with experience in the area told Task & Purpose. Likewise, the Star Wars Rogue Squadron is often given the toughest missions, and the Horn of Africa “is a tough place to operate from an aviation perspective,” he said.
The horn isn’t just tough on the pilots, it’s tough on the crews who maintain the plane.
“At the start of the deployment, we had a lot of hard work,” Lead Airman Justin Young, an electrical and environmental specialist with the 75th, said in the news release. “The plane wasn’t cooperating with the heat, but we were able to turn it around and fix everything.”
What could real life and Star Wars Rogue Squads have in common? A motley crew, especially since expeditionary airlift squadrons are often made up of Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve pilots, so “they tend to be a motley bunch”, said the C-17 pilot.
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To make matters even more interesting, many 75th Airmen are on their first deployment. Many of them are from the 910th Airlift Wing, an Air Force Reserve unit based in Youngstown, Ohio. Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti, where temperatures often exceed 110 degrees, is a far cry from home. But, like their fictional namesake, the Airmen of the 75th are there for an important reason. In Star Wars, Rogue Squadron’s mission is often to explode Death Stars or break through Imperial blockades. But in real life, the mission is to provide friendly forces with the supplies they need to do their jobs.
“You have to have air travel, especially in this area of responsibility,” Sines said. “Being able to move freely throughout the area with air power is critical to success. Having boots on the ground is necessary, but you need to be able to restock those boots.
The Air Force and the US military in general is full of Star Wars nerds. Military Airmen call a canyon in California where they practice low-level passes through Star Wars Canyon; an expensive military computer contract, which ultimately failed, was called JEDI; and Andy Marshall, a longtime and highly respected Pentagon strategist who died in 2019, went by the nickname Yoda. A retired Air Force A-10 attack jet pilot recalls having sex with Star Wars main protagonist Luke Skywalker while flying over a small canyon near Fort Irwin , in California.
“There was terrain that looked like the Death Star trench race,” said Lt. Col. Gregg Montijo, who saw the first Star Wars movie in theaters while attending the Air Force. Academy in 1977. “The A-10s are so maneuverable that you can walk into them and feel like you’re on the Death Star. We’d do that and pretend we were Luke Skywalker.
Obviously, the military has a lot of Star Wars fans, but 75th Squadron may be one of the few US military units to go by the name “Rogue Squadron.” That’s unusual, considering the Rogues are the most famous group of pilots in the franchise, and the US military has some of the best pilots in the world. Montijo himself couldn’t remember hearing of any other Rogue Squadrons, but there might be a good reason for that.
“The funny thing about this term ‘Rogue Squadron’ is that when you say someone went rogue, it means someone went against the rules or the procedure,” did he declare. In most armies, calling yourself a “thug” is a good way to put a target on your back.
“Rogue is like ‘we’re the troublemakers, we’re not going to follow the rules,'” Montijo said. “It’s cool to be associated with Rogue Squadron in a Star Wars sense, but you don’t want to be ‘Rogue Squadron’ in a wing, which could mean you’re the problem kid.”
Even in Star Wars, this remains true. In fact, the reason the fictional Rogue One team chose this name in the 2016 film of the same name is because they disobey orders from the Rebel Alliance so they can seize the Death Star’s secret plans. .
Like in Star Wars, there are times under duress where going a little rogue has saved lives, Montijo said. For example, in 1967, Air Force F-4 fighter pilot Lt. Col. John Pardo threw the figurative manual out the window so he could literally push his wingman’s F-4 by the hook. back while both planes were still in the air so that they could return to friendly airspace. The Air Force nearly court-martialed Pardo for the loss of the fighter jets, but their Wing Commander, the legendary Brig. General Robin Olds (a colonel at the time) intervened. A fellow rogue in spirit, Olds (and the rugged mustache he grew as a silent “f**k you” to his leadership) is still celebrated in the Air Force each year during Mustache March.
Hopefully the 75th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron in Djibouti won’t have to break the rules like Pardo or the fictional Rogue Squadron pilots. With a motley crew, a harsh environment, and a sizable set of missions, the true Rogue Squadron has already earned its name.
“Aligning the EAS with a legendary group of underdogs who overcome difficult challenges is fitting in my view,” the C-17 pilot said.
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