The Ponies, the Pedros and the Jollies: Alive and Well
“As much as things change, so they stay the same.” Sometimes may we wonder what they use for call signs in the various helicopter units nowadays. The pride we had in being a “Pedro” or Pony” or “Jolly” back in the “good old days”.
After the 20th SOS was absorbed into the 21st SOS in 1969, the “Pony Express” no longer existed. The “Jolly Green’s” and “Pedro’s” continued on until the end of Vietnam when most units were disbanded or reorganized.
The 21st SOS continued to use “Knife” until it was deactivated in 2007. The 20th SOS carried on the “Green Hornet” tradition until their deactivation in 2009.
The helicopter mission has evolved over the years with the active duty Air Force units being drastically reduced. Air Force Reserve and Guard units have become more involved and Rescue and Support missions more combined.
In 1987, the 71st SOS (Reserve) was activated at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ, flying CH-3E/HH-3E with the call sign “Pony Express or Pony”. The unit changed to 305th Rescue Squadron and upgraded to HH-60s and later became the 943rd Rescue Group (Reserve) http://www.920rqw.afrc.af.mil/units/943rescuegroup/index.asp (we received a briefing and static display from the 305th on our Reunion tour in 2000). It is the only Reserve rescue unit in the Southwestern United States. “Pony Express” is still their call sign. (their Newsletter - http://www.920rqw.afrc.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-120211-007.pdf
The HH-60G Rescue Units in Afghanistan such as the 55th RQS use the call sign “Pedro”, it’s “a legacy call sign that reaches back to the early 1960′s and the HH-43 helicopter–the first rescue helicopter used in Vietnam”. (Although not readily known, the “Pedro” call sign was first used by H-5 and H-19's in Korea in the early 1950’s.) A-10 "Thunderbolts" escort HH-60 helicopters and HC-130s during rescue operations. Like their A-1 Skyraider predecessors, the A-10s, designed for close-air support, continue to use the "Sandy" call sign and are woven tightly into CSAR operations. http://www.kdab.afcent.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123196413
Rescue helicopters used “Jolly Green” when in Iraq and still use that call sign in the U.S.
Couple of neat videos on Youtube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcdfmjJGN8Y