Major General James L. Hobson, Jr. commanded Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), Hurlburt Field, Florida. During his command, AFSOC operated one wing, three flying groups and a Special Tactics Group with more than 100 aircraft and 11,900 personnel assigned worldwide. Hobson courageously led the airfield seizure and rescue of Americans at Point Salines Airport, Grenada in Operation URGENT FURY. His efforts resulted in being awarded the 1983 Mackay Trophy, for the most meritorious flight of the year. Hobson was born in Memphis, TN in 1942. He graduated from Memphis State University and was commissioned through Officer Training School at Lackland AFB, TX in 1965. After pilot training, Hobson flew slick C-130s for a short time before transitioning to the classified MC-130E. He soon deployed to Vietnam and logged over 400 hours of combat time including 23 top secret missions into North Vietnam. Upon returning from Vietnam, Hobson moved to Hickam AFB, HI to fly the JC-130 aircraft. The challenging JC-130 mission was to recover sensitive reconnaissance satellite film capsules in-flight. Departing as the chief of standardization and evaluation in 1973, Hobson continued to build his impressive C-130 resume with assignments to the 318th and 8th Special Operations Squadrons (SOS) as instructor and evaluator pilot. Following his staff assignment to Air Force Personnel Center, Hobson returned to the 8th SOS as the Operations Officer at a critical period in U.S. history. With the recent failure of Operation EAGLE CLAW, America was galvanized to try again to rescue U.S. hostages in Iran. The subsequent planned rescue effort involved Hobson’s crews including the current CSAF, General Norton Schwartz. The plan, dubbed Operation HONEY BADGER, involved landing a rocket-propelled YMC-130 in a soccer field near the U.S. Embassy along with other Combat Talon aircraft loaded with Rangers and other SOF forces. The plan was never executed because the hostages were dispersed around Tehran and eventually released. Hobson became the Commander of the 8th SOS prior to the crisis in Grenada. After his heroic actions in Operation URGENT FURY, he and others were personally thanked by President Reagan. Hobson’s career took off from this point with early promotion to Colonel. After Naval War College, Hobson was the Vice and then Commander of 39th Special Operations Wing at Eglin AFB, FL. After promotion to Brigadier General in 1989, Hobson became the Vice Commander of 23rd AF at Hurlburt Field, and assisted in the planning of the Panama invasion in December 1989. He commanded the 322nd Airlift Division, Ramstein AB, Germany and orchestrated the massive logistical air bridge through Europe in support of Operation DESERT STORM. Next, he commanded the 435th Airlift Wing at Rhein-Main AB, Germany and then became the Director of Operations and Transportation at Air Mobility Command. During his tenure as commander, AFSOC triumphantly fought in combat operations in Bosnia, notably assisting in the rescue of Air Force F-16 pilot Scott O’Grady from the enemy. Major General James Hobson retired in 1997 as a command pilot with 6,850 military flying hours. He is the President and CEO of Air Transport International and lives in Little Rock, AR with his wife Diane.
Years Honored: 2009
Aircraft/Specialty: MC-130E Combat Talon I
As Commander and lead pilot, 8th Special Operation Squadron, Major General James Hobson led the airfield seizure and rescue of Americans at Point Salines Airport, Grenada in Operation URGENT FURY. Much of his career was spent developing, refining and implementing Special Operations Tactics. Today, he is regarded as one of the early proponents for the creation of Air Force Special Operations Command, retiring as its third commander.