Great Article On Technology For The Battlefield Airman

CMSgt (Ret) Mickey Wright is a career USAF Combat Controller and an old friend. He is one hell of a guy and still works to bring the capabilities to our Air Force’s Battlefield Airmen through his job with Rally Point Management. Recently, a friend pointed out an article he wrote for the Winter 2011/12 issue of “Air Commando Journal” magazine entitled, “Technology at the Tip of the Spear” where he discusses modernization efforts as well as the Summer Camp process that works to spirally insert new technology into the Special Tactics kit bag. Click on the image to download.

ACA Journal

Thanks to Black Diamond Advanced Technology for hosting the article.

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9 Responses to “Great Article On Technology For The Battlefield Airman”

  1. Brandon says:

    I feel compelled to post this again. While AFSOC guys are great and they have capabilities that are worth while, they are so single use and mission specific, it begs to question why do they have their own separate pipelines and units. They could absorbed into Army SF and Ranger units. The Air Force should be taken back by the Army and benefit from more unified commands as the Marine Corps does. Speaking of special operations, the Corps should be forced to choose force recon or marsoc. Stop having the taxpayer foot the bill for both in the name of tradition.

    • SSD says:

      You suffer from myopia.

      • Brandon says:

        In response to this other comments, there is nothing in my comment saying they cant be attached to other units still as they already are. Where “single use” comes from is the fact that they attaching themselves to conventional units on conventional missions and doing conventional medevacs for the vast majority of their missions due to what? Not having special operations missions to be sent on. That is what.

        Ok so they do rescue missions here stateside. Compared to how many that the Coast Guard does? The Army National Guard even has several units on standby that do rescue operations.

        On the military side of special operations, Army SF, Rangers, Delta, SEALs, MARSOC, and Force all have personnel recovery as one of their missions. So it isn’t their bread and butter. The reason why is because it is not frequently needed and their training and skills in other areas makes up the difference. Pararescue guys are known for their medical skills. Well they are the same 18D as any other special operations medic. CCTs are valuable as JTACs. Well JTACs exist in every other special operations unit and I would guess that if there weren’t CCT guys in JTAC schools, than there would be more guys from other units in those classes preventing the need to have CCTs attached to units due to lack of certified JTACs. Then we have combat weathermen. If this isnt single use, I don’t know what is. If a target or environment is so high risk to put traditional weather technology in the area of said target, what makes anyone think that it is worth sending insertion platforms into the same area with actual men on the ground knowing the risk to them or any follow on units would amount to suicide? I would love to read about them doing some great secret stuff but I doubt they will ever find much work in the “special operations secret squirrel mission realm”.

        All I am saying is that they should have a far more standardized pipeline which should be more along the lines with the units they are most likely to attach to and that is Army. So Ranger and SF selection would probably suit them well. I am sure they could come up with a pipeline involving Army infantry school and one of the other selections or ranger school that would teach them the same land nav, small unit tactics and the like that they go to their own school for when the Army puts on those courses and for more units is happy to allow to Air Force to join in. Navy Corpsmen already attach themselves to Marines in Infantry school then either Recon or MARSOC programs. Voila. You took a guy from another branch and made him a special operations medic. He can attend JTAC, FAA, or whatever other specialty training he needs to go to.

        As far as saving money goes, the stationary and separate forms for the same things alone would save a lot money. Then consider the flag ranks you would be reducing by consolidating the two branches. A lot. Then consolidating recruiting operations, boot camps, training pipelines for MPs, clerks, mechanics and the like. Then consider uniforms. No more upside down stripes just for the sake of looking different. No more duplicate service bands and color guards. No need for different camo uniforms, or medals and award insignia.

        Plus everyone would speak the same language and have a unified command the Marines are most known for. This would be huge and most noticeable for airborne operations with the 82nd or even the 101st.

        • MK-EOD says:

          This again? Is every post about the Air Force going to end up full of comments from Army partisans who think the infantry officers that run the Army will manage the Air Force’s planes better than the Air Force does?

          Allow me to cut & paste:

          No one participating in this discussion is a World War II veteran, so no one here has any practical experience what the relations between the Army Air Force and Big Army were like then.

          But a little Googling can give you some clues. The short answer is that right now, in the REAL WORLD, all of the services operate jointly, from the Joint Chiefs of Staff all the way down. I have been on patrols in Afghanistan where the Army, Navy, and Air Force were all represented.

          Contrast this with World War II, where by the time the likes of Hap Arnold got his hands on it, the Army Air Force was all but independent from the rest of the Army and was much more effective for it. Ground commanders do not have the institutional knowledge of how to manage an air war any more than pilots know about battlefield maneuver.

          So despite people’s grousing about how terrible it is that the Air Force is a separate branch, the services work more closely together now than the AAF and the rest of the Army did in World War 2.

          I’m an EOD tech. I spent my entire deployment at a tiny Army patrol base. Contrarily, the big-assed Army EOD company in the same AO spent their entire deployment at the big base, supporting the flight line, because they didn’t have enough qualified team leaders to go out and face the IED threat.

          Every Air Force EOD tech that has died in the wars, from 2004 through 2012 (none have been killed in 2013 so far), died “outside the wire”, supporting the Army, the Marines, or our allies. To the very best of my knowledge, none have been killed doing air base recovery or flight line support, which is what our job, very technically speaking, is supposed to be.

          It’s what needs to be done, so it’s what we do. We’re all supposed to be on the same team. I’m certainly glad I didn’t have to spend my deployment stuck at the big base.

          So maybe the Army should worry about being able to handle its own missions on its own before it starts setting its sights on space launch, bombers, and ICBMs, hey?

          As to the suggestions it’d be some kind of cost savings to integrate two completely different service branches…you’re kidding, right?

          Just changing the uniforms and redoing all of the signs would cost billions. Then they’d have the task of trying to integrate the Air Force’s Technical Order system with the Army’s FM/TM system. Then you’d get into the personnel and organizational nightmares, as Air Force’s entire system of MAJCOMs/Numbered Air Forces/all the way down/ was shoehorned into the Army’s completely different organizational system.

          You’d have hundreds of thousands of personnel now in a service with different regulations, different promotion systems, different training methodologies, different paperwork, and different record keeping procedures.

          It’d be the biggest military boondoggle in modern history. Between the giant organizational cluster that would result, the plummeted morale of forcing hundreds of thousands of personnel into a completely different service (and loss of experience and knowledge from those that separated), and giving air and space assets to Army officers with no institutional knowledge on how to manage them, America’s air power capabilities would be severely degraded, worse than anything the Chinese or the Russians could do to us.

          Fighter jets don’t work as well when you have battle captains at different FOBs getting into pissing contests over who “owns” them. Close air support is less effective when the aircraft are under the control of an infantry unit on the ground, instead of being under the control of an air commander who has more information and can prioritize the assets.

          The same mess would occur if they tried to integrate the Marines into the Army, by the way, or unify all of the services Canadian Style.

          And in the end, what’s the point? Even if we go through all of that trouble, and some how are air assets are just as capable and ready as they were before, what have we accomplished? You’ve just spent a hundred billion dollars to change the signs, the enlisted rank names, and stitching over everyone’s left pocket. That’s exactly something we need to borrow money from China to accomplish.

          This is not meant to disparage my Army brethren. We lived with the Army, worked with them, smoked & joked with them, and mourned their dead with them. I made a lot of friends and met some of the finest Americans I’ve ever known: fit, competent, and courageous.

          But that doesn’t mean the Army should be in charge of the Air Force’s missions. Similarly, I don’t think the Air Force should try to take the Army’s rotary-winged airlift (in other countries’ armed forces, it’s not uncommon for helicopters to be under the control of the Air Force instead of the Army). The cost of making a change that massive greatly outweighs any real-world benefit.

          And for the record, there isn’t a problem with “speaking anyone’s language” now. You guys understand the war is run by a plethora of joint task forces, don’t you? We all have the same rules of engagement. We all get the same briefings. Air Force and Navy personnel have been working hand in hand with the Army, Marines, British, Canadians, and other ISAF partners since the war began.

          The only problem “speaking each other’s language” we had was when we were partnered with an ANA EOD team, because they spoke very little English. We managed to adapt and overcome that.

          It’s not perfect, it’s not seamless, but it works. The friction between the Air Force and the Army is no worse than the friction between Army units or anyone else.

          What I really want is for the interservice bickering to stop. It’s pointless, counterproductive, and at the worst of times gets people killed.

          • SSD says:

            There are still stovepipes and tribalism within the military. For EOD you might not have an issue speaking one another’s language but consider the difference between an Army ground commander trying to speak with an Air Force fighter pilot, on the radio, during contact. In reality, there’s not that big of an issue because there’s a translator in between those two guys and he’s an Air Force TAC. That guy’s a native speaker. The JTAC certification program came about because the Air Force couldn’t create enough TACs to satisfy the Army’s needs. Think of those guys as second language users. All an Air Force TAC does is aerial fire support but he’s so good at juggling radios and maps and aircraft that his skills are in demand by other organizations.

  2. Sam says:

    Being able to attach to multiple different units as tactical air controllers, medics and rescue specialists while being another gun in the fight when needed does not seem single use. When not being utilized on missions, they are staged at FOB’s or COP’s directing air traffic, working in clinics, flying TACEVAC missions or trying to work for whoever needs them. While stateside they respond to open ocean search and rescues, natural disasters and other domestic operations. “single use” is not the term that should be used for them.

    I won’t pretend to know how much money would be saved by absorbing the Air Force into the Army or if it would be a benefit. Personally I think it would be a detriment. Different commands focus on different aspects of our global mission, combining into one would limit our capabilities in my humble opinion.

    • SSD says:

      Agreed, it’s like calling an Infantryman, or a clerk or a cook a single use careerfield. How silly. Battlefield Airmen apply airmanship to the ground operational environment. Having served in both services I can tell you that having personnel that can “speak one another’s” language is pretty important. In fact, when the war kicked off, the Army asked the Air Force to create more of them.

      • Brandon says:

        Two points here.

        1. Infantry men, clerks and cooks are not special operators. By their very job titles alone, they are a jack of many trades in relation to their skills. Clerks and cooks can do all sorts of things in their job field but are probably horrible at being infantry men. Infantrymen will get any job any time because that is who they are. You cant say you can do the same with a PJ or CCT. Example. I can take squad of infantry guys and set up check points, take a handful and do a raid, an ambush, a dismounted patrol and the like. A PJ team might say sure to the dismounted patrol but we have no one to look for so why are we going out? A weatherman would say screw you its not my job. A CCT would probably be the most likely to take all of the above jobs but he would want to call in air strikes on everything. They are trigger pullers second which is why they are attached to units rather than getting their own missions. Show me a PJ, CCT, OR weather team that can do SR, DA, FID or UW, AND personnel recovery as a mission. All Army SF and Rangers (Rangers don’t technically do SR except for their LRS guys on paper but they do in reality) and Navy SEALs can. Force recon also can.

        2. If the Air Force was still a part of the Army, there wouldn’t be a problem with speaking “one another’s” language. The way it is now, there are three different languages to speak. Seaman/Marine, Airman, and Soldier. It would be a lot more “joint” if there were less languages to speak.

  3. Dave says:

    It’s for articles like this….they are part of the “Joint Fight” on that so called Spear, not being attached to any specific unit or team, but attached to every branch (not CG) and to include other SOF entities, CANSOF, AUSSOF, etc. If collapse is the case, why don’t we just condense the USMC into the Navy and the AF back into the Army, or all the branches into one? It comes down to funding and politics in my mind….If these dudes were in the Army and told their chain of command that hey, we need a new airfield light, laser gun or radio they’d get laughed at and be told that money could be used elsewhere to better train the avg joe. That’s why they’re leading the way in beeps and squeaks for the current and future fight. Same thing goes for the Air Force, if it was still the Army Air Corps they probably wouldn’t be were they are today, they’d still be good but probably not the top Air Force in the world. If taxes is what your worried about, I’d probably look somewhere else, I think the SOF budget is around 1% of the entire military budget. B/L, its kind of insulting to say that these guys are so single use and mission specific. SOWT, sure I’ll agree with that. TACP’s, maybe again, those guys possibly even sucked back into Army, might as well, they live with them all the time anyway. But I’d venture to say, that there is more experience pound for pound in 1 ST (CCT/PJ) dude then 10 joes easy, they’ve been involved in more missions, both humanitarian and hostile than probably any other SOF force. Granted, its probably in a Fire Team size element or even Squad size for single things like Panama, Grenada, Mog, etc, but since the community is so small it benefits all. CCT’s have a wide spectrum of jobs other than just close air support, same goes for PJ’s, they do a lot more than just medicine. And from what I have heard, the STS guys are potentially going to go unilateral. My 2 cents