Tactical Tailor

Archive for the ‘Guest Post’ Category

19th SFG(A) Conducts Exercise Ridge Runner with Polish, Latvian Allies in West Virginia

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

CHARLESTON, W. Va. — West Virginia Army National Guard (WVARNG) Special Forces Soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) recently completed the first irregular and unconventional warfare training iteration for members of the Polish Territorial Defense Forces and Latvian Zemmessardze as a part of the Ridge Runner program in West Virginia.

Ridge Runner is a WVARNG training program that provides various National Guard, active duty, and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally nation armed forces training and experience to in irregular and asymmetrical warfare tactics and operations.

Both nations have newly established national guard-type forces for their militaries, the Territorial Defense Forces for Poland and the Zemmesardze for Latvia, that are focused on the defense of their homeland and resistance against an aggressor.

“The conclusion of this Ridge Runner training is an exceptionally important milestone for both West Virginia and our allies in Poland and Latvia, who we have a longstanding relationship within our State through the State Partnership Programs with the Illinois and Michigan National Guards,” said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, Adjutant General of the West Virginia National Guard. “West Virginia is the perfect venue for our highly trained special forces to help these two nations’ military forces develop the skills vital to their mission at home, which is extraordinarily important in this era of geo-political uncertainty.”

“This exercise provides us a unique set of skills needed in developing our unconventional warfare skill sets,” said Marek Zaluski, acting public information officer for the Polish Territorial Defense Forces. “Our primary role is similar to that of the National, which is to support the local communities. In addition, we serve as a reserve base for conventional forces. Here at Ridge Runner, we developed skills beyond that. We’ve learned how to work with Special Forces, serve as liaisons, how to speak the same language, have the interoperability and cooperation.”

He continued, “We greatly appreciate the opportunity to train with the West Virginia National Guard, through Ridge Runner and the State Partnership Program. All those skills being developed go right along with what we learn at home. The soldiers who came with us for this exercise were specifically handpicked from a larger group because they represent the skills needed to operate with the Special Forces community as liaisons, pathfinders, and as people who are the points of contact in case of an unconventional warfare situation.”

Ridge Runner’s mission is to develop and execute irregular warfare training across the State of West Virginia that contributes to the development of Special Operations Forces’ (SOF) and General-Purpose Forces’ (GPF) irregular warfare understanding and capabilities, in order to support national security.

The Ridge Runner program operates in different parts of the state because of its diverse training needs and the terrain the State of West Virginia offers. Ridge Runner is held numerous times per year to train forces in both the United States and around the world.

The State Partnership Program (SPP) is a National Guard Bureau initiative that links states and territories with partner countries around the world to foster mutual interests, establish long-term relations, enhance U.S. national security interests, and promote political stability. Through the SPP program, the Illinois National Guard is partnered with Poland and the Michigan National Guard is partnered with Latvia.

Story by CPT Holli Nelson, West Virginia National Guard

Photos by Edwin Wriston

Max Talk 29: How to React in a Gunfight…..the RTR Drill Explained!

Monday, July 8th, 2019

This is the twenty ninth installment of ‘Max Talk Monday’ which shares select episodes from a series of instructional videos. Max Velocity Tactical (MVT) has established a reputation on the leading edge of tactical live fire and force on force training. MVT is dedicated to developing and training tactical excellence at the individual and team level.

It is vital to understand how to react to effective enemy fire. Those first few moments under fire can make all the difference between life or death. This video cuts through the nonsense and provides tactical context to what combat veterans know – how to react to enemy fire, how to train to blow through the possible freezes, and how to best stack the odds for survival. Do not confuse tactical cool-guy shooting with real drills with real tactical context. Train to win the fight!

Detailed explanations can be found in the MVT Tactical Manual: Small Unit Tactics.

Max is a tactical trainer and author, a lifelong professional soldier with extensive military experience. He served with British Special Operations Forces, both enlisted and as a commissioned officer; a graduate of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Max served on numerous operational deployments, and also served as a recruit instructor. Max spent five years serving as a paramilitary contractor in both Iraq and Afghanistan; the latter two years working for the British Government in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Website: Max Velocity Tactical

YouTube: Max Velocity Tactical

Excellence in Tactical Training.

SCUBAPRO Sunday – Fins

Sunday, July 7th, 2019

While the concept of fins is simple, the designs and options available are numerous. When evaluating which fins will best meet your needs, keep the following questions in mind:

• What do I plan on using the fins for PT/ Surface swimming, diving, Over the Beach (OTB)or river and stream crossing, will you be carrying them while patrolling?

• What water temperature range will you be using them in (so what size boot pocket will you need)

• What type of kick will you use, and in what environment, IE getting in and out of an SDV or closed in areas like around piers or caves?  


When the military first started diving, there was only basically one type of fin;(the duck fin) now there is a fin for almost every type of dive/swim. Fins are a specific piece of kit, almost to the point that you can have more than one set of fins depending on what you are going to do. Your fins are one of the only pieces of equipment that significantly affect how well you perform during your time in the water. 

Surface Fins

Typically, a more basic fin design will meet your needs. The length of the fin needed by surface swimmers is typically shorter than those needed by SCUBA divers and are they are shorter than those used by free divers. If you feel like you are fighting your fins rather than being aided by them, then your fins are probably more significant than you need. Meaning they are too big for you. Full foot fin are usually the best for this as long as the water is warm, or you can buy a set a little bigger and use a dive sock.  

Combat Swimming

Military divers tend to desire more fin features than recreational divers. They probably use a fin that has more in common with a technical / cave diver. There are two types of divers that are more aware of the propulsion power offered by their fins. SCUBA fins tend to be the same length or slightly longer than snorkeling and swimming fins, which means they require more leg strength and power to kick effectively.  


Foot Pocket Open or Closed

Water temperature will affect the gear you choose. The gear you wear can be a factor in determining the fins you take into the water with you. If you are in cold water, you will need thinker booties. The good thing about your feet is you can always go with a dive bootie in warmer water. Your feet, for the most part, will not overheat. So, you only have to worry about how cold the water is and if you have to use a thinker boot then usual. If you dive wearing boots (either neoprene or hard sole), an open-foot design fin is what you’ll want to wear. An open foot pocket accommodates boots because the heel strap was around the back of the diver’s boot and can be adjusted to offer a comfortable fit. If you wear rigid-sole boots, the open-foot pocket is the best option.  

Closed-foot fins cover your entire foot. You can still wear a dive sock to keep it from rubbing if you are going barefoot, but most people won’t need that.  


 Technology has help fin’s out over the last 20 years or so. If you are blindly wearing a pair of fins because it was issued and that’s all you have, you really should go to a dive shop and look at some more options. There are shoes today for running, doing CrossFit, or walking.  Fins have evolved to be the same way.

Diver fins now offer features like Paddle, Channel and Split fin designs.



Channel and Paddle

Channels help move the water across or through the fin, which allows the diver to move through the water quite rapidly. Channels increase the speed because they offer less surface area resistance in the water. The channels also offer extra flexibility, which means the fin can bend further and move more water with each kick. Modified paddle fins offer a more flexible material that is used for connecting the blade to foot pocket, cutaways in the upper portions of their blades, and soft center panels. They tend to be more flexible than traditional paddles, making them easier on the legs and ankles. The best paddles can compete head-to-head in comfort and performance with the best splits fins. It can also help on long dives with leg cramps and sore knees and angles. 

Split Fin

The theory behind split fins is as the diver kicks their foot downward when engaged in an up-tempo flutter kick, actually generate lift along with a jet-propulsion effect, similar to a boat’s propeller. The faster the propeller turns, the more propulsion is generated. With split fins, power comes from the speed of a diver’s kick rather than the force of the kick. Split fins are also popular among divers who experience knee pain or have had knee surgery. The split fin reduces the amount of resistance felt by the diver’s joints while offering a great deal of effectiveness with each kick.  

There are so many fins out there today that do some many things. It is tough to use one set of fins everything. I would also say there is no point to ask one set of fins to do anything. You can you a small set of fins for water jumps or river and stream crossing/ OBT and then when you are swimming on a long dive you can use a different pair of fins. Fins are like shoes, you have more than one pair of boots, and you can genuinely have at least two to three sets of fins that can do it all.

Lastly since is basically Independence Day weekend on July 6, 1747. John Paul Jones is born in Arbigland, Scotland. He is originally appointed to the Continental Navy in 1775, he is known for his quote,” I’ve not yet begun to fight!” during the battle between the Continental frigate, Bonhomme Richard, and HMS Serapis on Sept. 23, 1779.



1st SFAB Medics Learn to Diagnose and Treat Tropical Diseases

Sunday, July 7th, 2019

FORT BENNING, Ga. — Combat medics from 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade attended a three-day long Military Tropical Medicine Course at Fort Benning, June 10-12, to learn about infectious diseases they may have to diagnose and treat in future operations.

The Navy Medicine Professional Development Center in Bethesda, Maryland provides the curriculum and instructors for a four-week long in-residence course for doctors and physicians assistants.

1st SFAB requested a condensed version to help the brigade’s medics support their 12-Soldier combat advisor teams.

The course “prepares medical providers to do good medicine in austere environments dealing with pathogens that they just don’t commonly see here,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Kevin Taylor, Assistant Course Director and Army Liaison.

The small combat advisor teams are designed to train, advise and assist conventional foreign security force partners in remote locations where robust medical resources aren’t always available. The medic is critical to the team’s health and safety.

“Training on tropical disease and vectors is essential to prepare our medical personnel to treat and ideally prevent disease non-battle injury. This is especially crucial on small advisor teams where every person has a mission essential job,” said U.S. Army Capt. Danielle Ivenz, 1st SFAB’s Environmental Science and Engineering Officer.

Taylor, a doctor specializing in the prevention of infectious diseases, wants Soldiers to take the threat of in places like Asia or Africa seriously.

To drive home his point, Taylor told the class that mosquitos infected with the most dangerous strain of Malaria bite people in Africa ten or more times in a month and roughly a third of all military members who contract Malaria in a given year were serving in Africa when infected. Untreated, that most dangerous strain of Malaria can be fatal in just a few days.

Malaria isn’t the only medical threat 1st SFAB’s Soldiers may face. The course covered a number of diseases including Ebola, Dengue Fever, and Rabies. Instructors focused on a combat medic’s ability to make a rapid diagnosis and request a medical evacuation if more advanced care is needed.

Students learned how to use a simple, field expedient diagnostic kit that uses a drop of blood to quickly diagnose a number of tropical infectious diseases. “The big question is does this person need to be moved or not,” said Taylor.

1st SFAB’s medics also learned how to build a health threat assessment with an emphasis on the diseases their teams are likely to encounter and how to prevent them. Taylor said the preventive medicine procedures and medicines given to Soldiers are highly effective when used properly.

“This course helped to identify what regionally specific illnesses and threats we may encounter in an unfamiliar environment. Through this training we can provide a better level of protection to our teams while away from higher level echelons of care,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Salman, Senior Medic for 3rd Squadron, 1st SFAB.

By MAJ Matthew Fontaine, 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

The Baldwin Files – Talent Management – Part 1 of 3

Saturday, July 6th, 2019

Let us talk about talent management. The Army’s Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis (OEMA) defines talent as “…the unique intersection of skills, knowledge and behaviors in every person. Talent represents far more than the training, education and experiences provided by the Army. The fullness of each person’s life experience…and a myriad number of other factors [that] better suit them to some development or employment opportunities than others.” OEMA goes on to say that talent management is the: “…systematic planning for the right number and type of people to meet the Army’s needs at all levels and at all times so that the majority of them are employed optimally. Talent management begins with entry-level employees and aligns their talents against the demand for them during their entire careers, to include positions at the very top of the Army.” More simply, I would say developing a system that enables and ensures people are being, “employed optimally” is the key to effective talent management – both from the individual’s and the Army’s perspective. That certainly articulates a worthy vision, but we are not quite there yet.

“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.”

– Heraclitus

I am not claiming to be that one warrior, but I always aspired to be that guy. I did have a long, colorful, and very unusual, career in the U.S. Army. During the course of 36 years, I learned a few things about the workings of the existing Personnel Management system. For the last few years, as many of you know, that term “talent management” has come into vogue. Sadly, based on what I have seen and experienced – and despite optimistic talk – the institutional Army remains largely locked in manning mechanisms and procedures that have not changed much since WWII. Even the transition from a draft back to an all-volunteer force only changed how people come in the door. Once in, officers and NCOs are still locked in rigid career tracks that require specific “branch qualifying” duty position blocks to be checked within certain narrow time in service windows in order to be promoted. The system actively resists individuals even briefly daring to step off the prescribed path and timeline; and – in the worst case – the result of such a transgression is damaging if not career ending delay or denial of a promotion. That is not effective talent management and never will be.

I am going to be using my own career to illustrate how “the system” worked – or failed to work – for me. I thought about discussing this subject in more generic terms rather than making it about myself. Not that I am ashamed of any of the events that I am going to describe; rather, because my career was so anomalous, I worried that many of the specifics would not be applicable or of value to any readers in service today. Still, I concluded it was best to write about what I personally saw and know. Besides, I wanted to get this personal history recorded eventually; so, I convinced myself that others would find some utility in my experiences. We will see. I admit I am the hero in this story. That does not mean that there are also stereotypical villains in this tale. Many of the characters I will introduce actually helped get the system to work for me. Others may have tried to block my preferences, but most thought they were doing what the system demanded and acted in good faith – even if not in my favor. But, yes, a couple of these people were dicks and I took a certain satisfaction in besting them and the system when I could.

I have written twice before about my experiences in Germany, 1975-78. The “rehabilitative” transfer to the Divisional Pathfinder Detachment made a huge difference in my professional life. There I found a handpicked group of troopers who were all sharp and combat focused. We had the esprit that comes from having a specialized mission and I loved it. I left that team after 2+ years as a Sergeant (E-5) seriously thinking in terms of making the Army a career. Indeed, shortly after PCSing to Fort Lewis, Washington (with less than 5 months left on my original enlistment), I reenlisted for another 3 years. Up to that point, I was still blissfully ignorant about how the Army personnel management system worked.  I just got on with my professional and personal life. With 12 months on station at Fort Lewis I received orders to PCS to Hawaii. Just a couple of weeks earlier, my girlfriend of almost a year, who was a Supply Specialist in an Aviation unit, had gotten orders for Korea. Faced with almost immediate separation, we did the only thing we could think to do. We got married.

To this day, I have no idea if starting a marriage as a long distance relationship before skype, email, or cell phones were invented would have worked. Fortunately, we never had to find out. I went to my PAC before the ink had dried on the marriage license to codify our union with the Army. We were thinking that after a year in Korea, the Army would allow my new wife to join me in Hawaii. We did not think we had any other choices. After all, orders were orders – or so we neophytes thought. I told the SFC PAC NCOIC our plan as I was filling out the paperwork. He looked at me as if I had a you-know-what growing out of my forehead and said, “Wait here.” A couple of minutes later he came back and hustled me into the Battalion Commander’s office.  I told my story to the BC and he told me to sit down. His comment to me was, “we can do better than that.” It turns out before taking command he had just completed an assignment at Infantry Branch in the HQ we now call PERSCOM, in Alexandria, Virginia. He did not call some General or even another Lieutenant Colonel. He did not seek anyone’s approval or concurrence. Instead, he called one of the “little old ladies in tennis shoes” that actually run the Army’s personnel management system. He told her the problem and gave her mine and my wife’s names and social security numbers. In no time, she had arranged to rescind both our sets of orders, stabilize us at Lewis for an additional 6 months, and cut new orders so that we would both PCS together to Hawaii. The phone call took about 30 minutes.   

I strongly suspect that call saved my nascent marriage if not my career. That was 1979. All I know is that on November 30th of this year I will be celebrating my 40th Anniversary with that same woman. From that experience, I learned that the system is made up of people, orders can be changed or amended, and policies can be waived or even disregarded on a case-by-case basis. There are always options. Skip ahead 5 years and I am a promotable Staff Sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division just accepted into Officer Candidate School (OCS). Even that did not happen without a minor complication. When my OCS Class date came down I was not at Fort Bragg, but was TDY at Infantry ANCOC at Fort Benning. In fact, I had to voluntarily withdraw in writing from that course because it overlapped the start of my OCS Class. ANCOC became the only school I ever started that I did not complete. The cadre at ANCOC actually asked me to finish the course and take the next OCS Class. I could not. At the time, the Army would not commission anyone with more than 10 years of service. If I took even the next class, my graduation / commissioning date would be 2 months too late. Therefore, I had no choice but to rush back to Bragg, out-process, and PCS back to Fort Benning just 2 weeks later.

I do not regret any of that, but the fact that I waited to literally the last minute to seek a commission would have a significant ripple effect throughout the rest of my career. As most SSD readers already know, the Army gets almost all of its officers through West Point, ROTC, or OCS. The first two are generally 4-year programs and the cadets in those schools earn a degree while simultaneously meeting the prerequisites for a commission. OCS is the smallest program, and at the time, was 14 weeks long (today 12 weeks). What many people do not realize – I did not before I got there – is historically, 75% of OCS Candidates are what are called “College Options.” That is, people who already have college degrees that enlist specifically to go to OCS. They complete Basic and then go straight on to an OCS training company. Less than a dozen people in my class of ~150 had more than 4 years of service. Those of us without a degree were required to attend “Degree Completion” sometime after commissioning. That administrative requirement would also have an unanticipated impact on my career 4 years later.

I graduated OCS and was commissioned in Infantry on 22 February 1985. My wife was assigned to an Aviation unit at Bragg and had remained there while I was in school. My intent was to go directly back to the 82nd. In this case, I had a better than average chance to get what I wanted since I was already Jumpmaster qualified and Senior Rated. However, after OCS I still had some more schooling to complete. First up was the Basic Infantry Course and that was almost 6 months. Normally, after the Basic Course, most – but not all – Infantry Lieutenants would go to Airborne and Ranger School. I had already checked that first block so all I had to do was Ranger School. By the time I was half way through the Basic Course, I had tentative orders assigning me to the 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne, in hand. It was all coming together. However, there was another factor looming over the Schoolhouse that potentially was going to upset my plans.

The Army had just stood up the 7th Infantry Division (Light), at Fort Ord, California. It was the Army Chief of Staff’s highest priority. Almost all of my peers that summer were already on orders to go there. Likewise, they had priority to Ranger School and that meant that I would be waiting at least a couple of months after the Basic Course before I could even get into the school. To make matters worse, the rumor was that filling the 7th was considered so important that orders for anywhere else were soon going to be rescinded. I was not going to take that chance. So, the day before graduation from the Basic Course, I called up the S1 for 3rd Brigade and asked him if I could come on up and return back to Ranger School later on a Division slot? He put me on hold and asked the Brigade XO if that would be ok. The XO agreed. I suspected – and later confirmed – that the 82nd was struggling with no longer being the highest priority fill for the Army. That summer, the 82nd and 101st had serious shortfalls in company grade infantry officers because they were all being diverted to Ord. I had the answer I wanted. I waved my orders around, signed out of the schoolhouse within 48 hours, and drove faster than the law allowed north and home to Fort Bragg.

That is why I ended up going to Ranger School about 18 months later. Including that 2-month sabbatical, I spent just over three years at 2nd Battalion, 505th PIR. During that time, I was a Rifle Platoon Leader, Mortar Platoon Leader, Tow Platoon Leader, Company XO, and finally the Battalion S3 Air. In other words, I had checked all the infantry lieutenant career blocks that I needed to. However, the Army personnel management system had negatively affected my wife’s career during this period. About a year after I got back she received orders to Germany for 3 years. That was not going to work, so she refused those orders and left the service after 8 years. I also had to start looking forward to the next phase of my career. I would have to go back to Benning for 6 months at the Infantry Advanced Course (now Captain’s Career Course). In addition, because I still had to do Degree Completion, I would be spending 18 more months going to a civilian college nearby in Columbus, Georgia. Infantry Branch also had a Heavy / Light policy, so since I had been on the light side initially, I could expect a mechanized infantry assignment next. I was not enthusiastic about the likelihood of that.

Something else happened in 1987 that helped me make a fateful decision about my future. Special Forces (SF) became a separate Branch. I had been serving with SF qualified officers and NCOs for my entire career. The majority of SF had come from the infantry ranks for decades. In fact, my last Battalion Commander and XO in 2/505 were both SF qualified. I had thought about SF before and had intentions to go over as a Captain after Rifle Company command. That had been the common practice for several years since SF Warrants had replaced Lieutenants on ODAs after 1983. SF had been a school, a skill identifier, and just a temporary assignment for Officers and NCOs of other Branches prior to that timeframe. Now, Lieutenants like me had only a single window to submit a packet to be considered for accession to SF. 1987 was my year group’s one and only window. With the full encouragement and support of my BC and XO, I submitted my packet with high hopes of being selected. Several months passed before I received a response from SF Branch. They had rejected me.

When I initially outlined this subject, I quickly realized that it naturally divided into three blocks of time. My infantry career up to 1988, my SF time from then to 2001, and finally the period from 2001-11, a.k.a. my GWOT years. As I began to write, it dawned on me that my relationship with the Army’s Personnel Management System changed significantly during each block of time. In Part 1, that you have just read, I worked with and within the system. Sure, occasionally I had to nudge the system with the help of others. Still, I was generally moving in the direction that the Army and Infantry Branch wanted me to take so there was very little friction. In Part 2, as you will see, I eventually found myself at odds with what SF Branch wanted to do with me. Therefore, at times, I had to aggressively work in opposition to the system and there was a great deal of friction. In Part 3, I was obliged to operate almost exclusively outside the system and, therefore, avoided friction almost entirely.

The “take aways” from this first article is that the Army has essentially an industrial age, conveyor belt, assembly line, MANNING system vice a flexible management system. And, from what I have seen, the other Services are not appreciably better. The system has a great deal of difficulty dealing with individuals as individuals as is required for genuine talent management. Indeed, the system is easily flummoxed by anyone who is different in any way. In 1979, dual-service couples were unusual, but the problems my wife and I encountered decades ago still apparently persist, unabated, for similar couples today. Almost inevitably, one of the two must eventually sacrifice their career to keep the marriage intact – or dissolve the marriage. It is not effective talent management if we habitually advantage one soldier’s career at the direct expense of another. Moreover, some aspects of the system are counterintuitive and counterproductive to any semblance of talent management. Time in service rules for example. One might assume that more enlisted experience would be considered a valuable asset for an officer and not a liability. That would be incorrect. As I pointed out earlier, it is rare that people are commissioned with more than 4 years of enlisted service. The system does not deal well with “rare.” Spoiler alert, I was initially rejected by SF Branch because of my abnormal amount of time in service.

Nevertheless, I am not writing this because I am disgruntled. Clearly, the system was good to me and I acknowledge that up front. But, that system is not going to be good enough as we move deeper into the ever-higher tech 21st Century. We need more and more talent in a postindustrial age, not just mass numbers of warm bodies. The Services have to find that talent and retain those people once we have them. It will have to be a radical departure from what we have previously experienced. However, I will sound one cautionary note. Military service cannot ever become entirely about self-actualization of the individual. Duty, honor, and selfless service – not to mention teamwork and unit cohesion – are always going to matter and must NOT ever be sacrificed in the name of individuality. The needs of the Service must be addressed and balanced as well as the needs of the individual. There will always be a number of less desirable and even thankless jobs that need to get done. That burden simply has to be perceived to be shared equitably under any system.

The attached picture shows soldiers climbing the ruins of the Ziggurat of Ur near Nasiriya, Iraq. It is a good metaphor of our current system. It provides a solid, if crumbling, path to the top, i.e. professional success – as long as you do not deviate from that prescribed path. Moreover, the path is wide enough that – at least in some cases – a few can move faster under their own power toward the top without disadvantaging others. Most people can accept that as long as the opportunity is perceived to be fairly administered and truly talent based. However, no one appreciates looking to the left or right and seeing that an escalator has been put in place for a privileged few. We have probably all seen this individual. His boss thinks he walks on water and wants to fast track him; his peers know him as a Spotlight Ranger and do not trust him as far as they can throw him, and his subordinates consider him an unmitigated piece of crap. An effective talent management system would have to have some methodology to collect and reconcile those disparate evaluations of everyone’s performance to differentiate true talent from the posers. Finally, if anyone has more recent experiences, or has knowledge of new(er) changes to the system – that have made it better or worse – I would love to hear it.

De Oppresso Liber!

LTC Terry Baldwin, US Army (Ret) served on active duty from 1975-2011 in various Infantry and Special Forces assignments. SSD is blessed to have him as both reader and contributor.

FirstSpear Friday Focus – Warrior East

Friday, July 5th, 2019

Go check out the latest personal protective equipment from FirstSpear at the ADS Warrior Expo next week!

Kit Badger – World War II Stories

Thursday, July 4th, 2019

Kit Badger has just posted the first of the three part series called, “World War II Stories” which feature the accounts of his Grandfather Ray’s service in the Navy during WWII. The first one was posted today since he joined the Navy on July 4th, 1942.


AFSOC U-28A Aircraft Named “Draco”

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019


After more than 13 years in service, the U-28A intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft officially received approval in May for the naming convention of “Draco”.  

Draco is the Latin term for dragon. Most aircraft commonly have a name after their numerical designation, such as CV-22 Osprey. 

Col. Robert Masaitis, 492nd Special Operations Training Group commander, Draco pilot and former commander of the 34th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, commented on the process of naming the aircraft.

“From my time in the community (2010-2012), we were split between a couple of schools of thought on the official naming of the U-28,” said Masaitis. “Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel, the AFSOC commander at the time, had told us we ought to name the aircraft. Between the two, then later three squadron commanders, we could agree that ‘Draco’ was probably the obvious choice. I’m glad to see we’re bringing this initiative to fruition after all this time, as the U-28 has become so much more than the single-engine, non-descript ‘utility’ aircraft we brought into the service over a decade ago.”

The mission of the Draco is to provide manned fixed-wing tactical airborne ISR support to humanitarian operations, search and rescue, conventional and special operations missions.

 “This is fantastic recognition of an aircraft and community,” said Brig. Gen. William Holt, AFSOC special assistant to the commander. “Draco has changed the very fabric of our AFSOC DNA and will continue to be our premier ISR platform for years to come.”

The Draco reached a historic milestone on June 22, 2018, when the AFSOC aircraft reached the 500,000 flying hours mark.

Lt. Col. Chad Anthony, 319th Special Operations Squadron commander, commented on the capabilities of the aircraft.

“Over the battlefields of the global war on terror, Draco has come to mean unparalleled special operations intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support, especially to the men and women on the ground in the line of fire,” said Anthony. “Aircrew and special operators who have flown and worked with the Pilatus U-28A have known it as Draco since its first combat deployment in June 2006.”

Maj. Caitlin Reilly, a U-28A Draco pilot and AFSOC director of operations executive officer, commented on the importance of the name approval and the Draco community.

“All of us in the U-28 community today are humbled by the vision and expertise of the U-28A plankholders (the original founders of the program),” said Reilly. “They created something that had never been done before, and it has evolved into an asset that is now one of the ‘minimum force requirements’ of our nation’s elite SOF teams on their ‘no-fail’ missions.”

The Draco is an integral part of AFSOC’s light tactical fixed wing fleet.

Col. Andrew Jett, 492nd Special Operations Wing commander, former 34th SOS commander and Draco pilot, commented on the significance of the name. 

“Our partners may not have known the personal names of the crewmembers, but they always know Draco,” said Jett. “There is a tremendous amount of recognition and respect when a crewmember identifies him or herself as being a member of Draco. I’m thrilled about the exceptional reputation Draco has built over the 13 plus years of the program and it’s now codified as the permanent aircraft name, and is something every member of Draco, past and present, can take pride in.”

Reilly further commented on the pride she and fellow Draco aviators take in the name.

The best thing about the U-28 community, and AFSOC as a whole, is that it is a competency-based organization, she said.

All of the U-28 aircrew are equally proud of the Draco name approval.

Every Air Commando in the U-28A community dedicates themselves to the demanding task of upholding the level of expertise and respect that the name Draco commands, said Reilly. It’s extremely challenging, and we’re all immensely proud of what this name represents.

By SSgt Lynette Rolen, Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs

U-28 Photo by photo by A1C Joel Miller

Constellation graphic by Jeff Pendleton