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Archive for the ‘Battlefield Airman’ Category

US & Polish Combat Controllers Conduct Combined Training

Sunday, December 30th, 2018

Combat Controllers from the U.S. and Polish forces conduct a military free fall during a culmination exercise near Krakow on Dec. 5, 2018. The exercise follows a two-month training in which the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command’s 321st Special Tactics Squadron assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing in England, and the Polish Special Operations Combat Control Team, share their best practices in order to build upon the Polish Special Operations Command’s ability to conduct special operations air land integration.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena, USASOC PAO)

Early 90s CCT

Thursday, December 13th, 2018

Photo taken at the Climbing/Rappelling/Fast Ripe Tower at the old Combat Control School.

Grit and Determination: AFSOC Airmen Slide with Team USA Bobsled

Monday, December 10th, 2018

Hours, days, weeks, months and even years of training have prepared two Airmen for one moment – four explosive seconds at the top of a winding icy track in a city that once hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics.

(From left) Capt. Chris Walsh, a Special Tactics officer with the 24th Special Operations Wing, and Capt. Dakota Lynch, a U-28A pilot with the 34th Special Operations Squadron, are push athletes who are competing for a spot on the U.S. Olympic bobsled team in 2022. As push athletes, both Airmen train vigorously on sprinting and strength to accelerate a bobsled up to 24 miles per hour in close to four seconds while the pilot focuses on navigating hairpin turns in a choreographed chaos down the ice. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Conroy)

Early days of sprinting, heavy lifting, box jumps and squats have faded into late nights of sanding runners, making countless adjustments and pushing through frustrations to shave off hundredths of a second pushing a 500-pound sled 60 meters.

The goal? A chance to make a team in four years. A chance for a medal. A chance to represent their nation and the Air Force. A chance.

Two Airmen within Air Force Special Operations Command were selected to compete with the USA Bobsled team this year. Capt. Dakota Lynch, a U-28A pilot with the 34th Special Operations Squadron, and Capt. Chris Walsh, a Special Tactics officer with the 24th Special Operations Wing, are push athletes who are ultimately competing for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in 2022.

“If you want it bad enough, you’re going to do whatever it takes to be successful … that’s the grit of this sport,” said Walsh. “It takes four years of commitment to make yourself better with every opportunity and even then you’re never really quite there … you have to keep grinding.”

As push athletes, both Airmen train vigorously on sprinting and strength to accelerate a bobsled up to 24 miles per hour in close to four seconds while the pilot focuses on navigating hairpin turns in a choreographed chaos down the ice.

“It’s a metal and carbon fiber bullet rifling down an ice track at speeds of 85-95 miles per hour,” said Lynch on the experience. “It’s like a fast-moving jet with a monkey at the controls while getting in a fight with Mike Tyson … it can be incredibly violent.”

Preceding the countless hours in the gym and on the track, the ride begins with a dream to succeed at the highest athletic level. For Walsh, it was an article in a magazine and for Lynch, it was a challenge from friends while deployed to Africa. For both, it would begin a journey of bruises, scrapes and exasperation that would lead them to Park City, Utah, for the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation North American Cup.

The first steps of their journey was a gauntlet of tryouts and selection beginning with an open combine. From there, standout athletes were invited to rookie camp and then push championships in Lake Placid, New York. Both Lynch and Walsh excelled once again and were invited to national team trials to continue to the next phase — competition.

“It relates pretty closely to the job because there’s days where you know it’s going to be tough,” said Walsh. “Every workout, every time I’m in the garage with the team, every step I take is either taking me closer or further away from my goal. If I’m lazy and I decide to slack one day … that workout may mean the difference between me making the Olympic team or not.”

Both Airmen attribute their time in AFSOC to their success on their bobsled journey. Walsh is a member of Air Force Special Tactics, which is a special operations ground force comprised of highly trained Airmen who solve air to ground problems across the spectrum of conflict and crisis.

“The qualities that Special Tactics fosters in individuals translates very well to bobsledding,” said Walsh. “ST operators are mature, responsible and disciplined and need to be squared away as an individual. If they’re not, the team as a whole is weak … so having that grit and determination to see the mission through is a big piece of what makes me successful here.”

For Lynch, the team mentality of a four-man bobsled loosely correlates to responsibilities of piloting an aircraft. The U-28A aircraft Lynch flies provides an on-call capability for improved tactical airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in support of special operations forces.

“In AFSOC I am responsible for the aircraft, the men and the women on that aircraft and ensuring the mission is executed properly, safely and precisely,” said Lynch. “Things aren’t going to get handed to you – conditions are going to suck, you’re going to get your crap punched in, but you’re going to have to have the strength and resiliency to drive through it and press forward.”

As active-duty Airmen, both Lynch and Walsh have had to negotiate service commitments with leadership support. Both have been granted permissive temporary duty by their respective commanders to vie for a chance at being accepted into the Air Force World Class Athlete Program.

WCAP provides active duty, National Guard and reserve service members the opportunity to train and compete at national and international sports competitions with the ultimate goal of selection to the U.S. Olympic team while maintaining a professional military career.

“I wouldn’t be here without my squadron and group commanders taking a chance on me and giving me a shot,” said Walsh. “It makes me want to do really well to represent my country, the Air Force and AFSOC in a good light.”

Story by SSgt Ryan Conroy, 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

USAF Stands Up Special Warfare Training Wing

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

To meet the demand for special operations warfighters and improve retention rates for these critical career fields, United States Air Force officials activated the Special Warfare Training Wing Oct. 10, here.

The mission of the new wing is to select, train, equip, and mentor Airmen to conduct global combat operations in contested, denied, operationally limited, and permissive environments under any environmental conditions.

“This new wing will help us provide additional oversight and advocacy for the complex, high-risk and demanding training that’s necessary to produce Airmen to meet the requirements of the joint force,” said Col. James Hughes, SWTW commander.

The new wing headquarters and subordinate organizational structure will consist of approximately 135 personnel. The existing Battlefield Airman Training Group, which was activated in June 2016, has been renamed to the Special Warfare Training Group and will report to the SWTW.

Building upon what the Battlefield Airmen Training Group has started, the previously established five pillars of marketing and recruiting, manpower and leadership, curriculum, equipment and infrastructure will serve as a starting point for the wing.

“Keeping these pillars in mind will allow us to continue focusing on building the best Airman we can from the time they step into a recruiter’s office up until the end of their careers,” said Hughes.

“Wings move the ball forward at an operational and strategic level,” said Hughes. “They can provide structure, oversight, strategic vision and unity of command. But to become a leader in the special warfare community, we have to continue pushing the envelope of science and technology. It all comes down to doing everything we can to create Airmen capable of problem solving across a wide-range of national security challenges to meet the joint force’s needs.”

Additionally, the wing will focus on improving human performance by staying at the forefront of science and technology with the addition of the Human Performance Support Group, a one of kind unit that will integrate specialists from a variety of sports and medical fields into special warfare training to optimize physical and mental performance, reduce injury and speed rehabilitation to create more capable and resilient ground operators.

“By pushing the limits of science and technology, we’re going to find the most efficient and effective methods for improving human performance,” said Hughes. “We’re going to take what we already have learned and enhance how we produce the most physically and psychologically fit Airmen possible for the joint force.”

Special Warfare Airmen, previously known as Battlefield Airmen, are the critical ground link between air assets and ground forces. They are trained to operate as a ground component to solve ground problems with air power, often embedding with conventional and special operations forces. Their requirements have grown substantially since 2001 due to the effectiveness of and increasing demand for the precision application of air power in the joint combat environment.

Seven Air Force specialty codes currently fall into the Special Warfare category: Pararescue, Combat Rescue Officer, Combat Control, Special Tactics Officer, Special Operations Weather Team, Tactical Air Control Party personnel, and non-rated Air Liaison Officer. These Airmen share ground combat skill sets and a sharp focus on joint, cross-domain operations.

The first step toward more efficient and effective training is to combine the courses of initial entry for all special warfare candidates into one cohesive course.

“The various Special Warfare Air Force specialty codes are a lot more similar than they are different,” said Chief Master Sgt. James Clark, SWTW command chief. “These courses of initial entry are the bedrock of lethality and readiness. By combining them, we’re making the pipeline much more efficient, while also building a team mentality that focuses on our similarities, rather than our differences.”

This change is also the first step toward answering the most important question facing the SWTW: How do we create and develop the most adaptive and agile leaders possible?” said Clark. “It starts by continuing to be critical of ourselves, while searching for any way to become more efficient in everything that we do.”

www.specialwarfaretw.af.mil

-Air Education and Training Command

Air Force Battlefield Airmen To Be Renamed Special Warfare

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018

While there are lots of changes coming to the US Air Force’s ground forces, known for the past 15 years as “Battlefield Airmen”, the most recognizable, is a name change. They will soon be referred to as “Special Warfare”.

Yes, it’s going to be confusing in the joint arena. However, don’t forget that the Army has run the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (SWCS) since 1956, so confusion may have ensued on occasion even before referring to two operational SOF elements (Navy and Air Force) by the same moniker.

IMG_7394

The Air Staff has yet to issue definitive guidance on the renaming, but the training pipeline has already begun to refer to components of the program as Special Warfare rather than BA.

There are still questions about which career fields will be included in the new community. Currently, it includes Combat Controllers, Pararescue, Special Operations Weather and Tactical Air Control Party. However, due to additional physical fitness and medical standards, SERE and EOD candidates are recruited and groomed before enlistment along with the SW candidates (more on this below).

Also, there’s discussion Special Tactics Officers may become Specal Warfare Officers (once again, adding to confusion over Staff Weather Officers and Surface Warfare Officers, so context is everything). This also makes one wonder if the term “Special Tactics” will go away altogether, as major moves are afoot to reamalgamate CROs (who will become STOs/SWOs) and PJs into Air Force Special Operations Command, creating new Special Tactics Squadrons.

Another big change, and major improvement, which began a little over a year ago, is how Special Warfare recruits are prepared for their enlistments. While in the Delayed Entry Program, Recruits must participate in Special Warfare Development conducted by contractor T3I Services. Developers are retired Special Warfare Airmen who bring “been-there, done-that” experience to their charges, encouraging them through mentorship, instruction, challenging workout schedules and administration of the Physical Ability and Stamina Test.

In addition to the creation of a Prepatory Course between Basic Military Training School and their current selection courses, there is also discussion that how SW candidates are selected will change to a system more in common with the US Army’s 18X SF candidate program. Under this concept, SW candidates would be assessed and then assigned one of four Air Force Specialty Code training pipelines (CCT, PJ, SOWT and TACP) rather than choosing a careerfield on their own.

While there are numerous other moves underway, these are the most pressing. Already, the ST community is far and away larger and different than it was pre-GWOT. It’s grown up. But within five years, it will be something altogether different.

Saturday Night at The Movies: The 25 Hour Day

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

Here’s a 1967 Republic aircraft documentary featuring the F-105 Thunderchief and other airframes supporting the ground forces in Vietnam. Interestingly, there’s actually coverage of the ground crew and maintainer effort.

Many of our readers are overt or closet airplane nerds.  See if you can count and identify the various aircraft.

How far we have come in precision.

Royal Air Force JTACs Integrate with US Counterparts

Monday, August 14th, 2017

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – Members of England’s Royal Air Force recently spent time immersed with the 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.


An A-10C Thunderbolt II conducts a show of force maneuver during training, July 26, 2017, at Grand Bay Bombing and Gunnery Range, Ga. The range features a moving target system, which is on a 1,000 foot long track that is remotely controlled by the control tower and can move back and forth to assist in training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Andrea Jenkins)

The NATO allies visiting were Joint Terminal Attack Controllers tasked with building stronger ties with the 93rd AGOW in hopes of future integration opportunities.

“All the missions overseas aren’t integrating just the U.S. Armed Forces, but also our NATO forces,” said Master Sgt. Francisco Corona, the 93rd AGOW NCO in-charge of weapons and tactics. “So all the NATO forces are trying to train with us. I’d rather integrate in (training) where we can make mistakes and learn from them instead of making mistakes in a deployed location.”

Since 2001, U.S. and foreign JTACs have been in high demand as liaisons between Army ground commanders and Air Force assets.


U.S. Air Force and Royal Air Force joint terminal attack controllers communicate with 23rd Fighter Group A-10C Thunderbolt IIs during a close air support training exercise, July 26, 2017, in Lakeland, Ga. Two Royal Air Force members recently spent time with the 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing to compare and contrast how each entity conducts business and to plan future coalition training events. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Daniel Snider)

“As air-to-ground experts, we advise, assist and control for the ground commander to meet his intent, whether its kinetic effects, like bombs on targets, or getting smarter at cyberspace,” said Corona.

Both groups of JTACs said they’re no stranger to operating in coalition settings while deployed.

“While I was a JTAC in Afghanistan, the vast majority of our aircraft were U.S. aircraft,” said Squadron Leader Neil Beeston, the officer commanding Air Land Integration Cell. “It was great working with the U.S. Armed Forces, especially with the A-10s; it’s a fantastic aircraft. The troops on the ground know that when you’ve got a pair of them above you, you’re in pretty safe hands.”

While the JTACs and U.S. aircraft are skilled professionals, sometimes communication barriers exists between countries. Beeston’s colleague stressed the importance of hashing out common issues.

“The whole worldwide JTAC community has the same struggles,” said Flight Sergeant Simon Ballard, the chief instructor from the ALIC. “Since we’re going to be working together, we need to practice together before we go do that in the real world.”

Not having the allied JTAC community in sync and on par with each other could potentially lead to less-than-optimal situations, which in turn risks lives.

“We don’t want to learn how to work together in a war area of operations,” said Corona. “We’re flexible though, whether it’s [English] JTACs or whatever joint force JTACs, we make things happen and we’ll make it work.”


MSgt Francisco Corona, the 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing NCO in charge of weapons and tactics, communicates with a fellow Joint Terminal Attack Controller during a close air support training exercise, July 26, 2017, in Lakeland, Ga. Two Royal Air Force members recently spent time immersing with the 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing to compare and contrast how each entity conducts business and plan future coalition training events. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Daniel Snider)

After the gathering, troops returned to their leadership with proposals and plans to further integrate training scenarios, whether it be academic courses or mixing into each country’s exercises to further synchronization.

“The bonus for them is they’d be integrating with different Army divisions because the 93rd AGOW is spread over at least six Army divisions,” said Corona. “They’d get that opportunity, where there’s not many divisions they work with over in [England].”

While Corona is confident in U.S. JTACs, he said it’s all about continuing to get better, to maintain leading from the front.

“We’re figuring out how we go to the next level to continue to be the best JTACs in the world,” said Corona. “We’re going forward with a proficiency mindset, of ‘how do we get better,’ because at the end of the day, the better trained individuals are going to be the winners.”

By Airman 1st Class Daniel Snider, 23rd Wing Public Affairs