TYR Tactical

Air Force Battlefield Airmen To Be Renamed Special Warfare

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.


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.

53 Responses to “Air Force Battlefield Airmen To Be Renamed Special Warfare”

  1. AD says:

    Not sure how TACP gets rolled into this as they are ACC and not AFSOC until they asses to the SOF TACP side. Are guys going to enlist into SW and get assigned to an ASOS? There’s likely to be some really pissed off candidates if that’s the case.

    • SSD says:

      Not sure if you knew but the goal is to make all new TACP MFF qualified out of the pipeline. They’re building racehorses who are going to be used as plough horses. Imagine all of that and then getting assigned to 1st CAV.

    • Tc says:

      Conventional army is going to get their support one way or another. TACP’s do not get “assigned” to an army unit. Their ASOS act as pools where they are loosely aligned with an army maneuver unit but are able to support whomever. As afsoc supports less of the enabler request and odas are struggling to meet their jtac quotas of 1 per team this will open the pool up so that those request can be filled with a qualified jtac. And regardless of what was written down or said in the past about how asos alignment worked, thats what happened in reality. TACPs were facing a lot of road blocks on training I.e you support armor so you only are eligible for training that relates to that. Then theyd have those guys augment an oda, or 82nd etc. Or theyd pcs to an asos that was aligned with an airborne or infantry unit. So in reality there is a requirement to have the qualifications or familiarity with supporting a multitude of different elements. Additionally TACP reenlistment bonuses are on par with pjs which are higher than ccts. With the TACP new pt requirements being instituted theres no reason for them not to be able to augment any maneuver element and have them be more plug and play at any asos or sts. Makes sense to have your numbers on paper actually rep your ability to support.

    • TK says:

      You know pararescue arnt even under AFSOC anymore than TACP are.

      • serious says:

        Two things—TACP are considered BA and receive BASIP, in fact. That’s how they’re being rolled in. Does not matter whether they’re SOF or not, though there are some TACPs aligned to the teams, rather than the Army. That’s when they’re owned by AFSOC v ACC. Next, PJs are also assigned to ACC v AFSOC often—in fact, arguably the majority are, since their actual intent was/is to aid in the rescue/recovery of aircrew. The vast majority of SOF utilized is CCT and SOWT in terms of ground personnel. The rest of the Air Commandos are Aircrew/SMA. SERE and EOD time and again have been correctly assessed, reassessed, and identified as support personnel, and will not be labeled BA, let alone a relabeling to SW.

        • SSD says:

          Well, we’ll know for sure once we see the final guidance from the CSAF and how much SW Vision deviates from ST Vision.

        • Interesting Topic says:

          All of the Air Force ground guys are enablers, CCT, PJ, TACP. The lot of them. To watch a guy who is support, call out others for being support is pretty entertaining.

    • STO says:

      This is happening now (https://www.airforce.com/careers/featured-careers/special-operations?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI-sjip-LW3QIVip6zCh0VVgPCEAAYASAAEgJkVfD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds&dclid=CObBrK3i1t0CFdRmwQodkoQH7g) TACPs are recruited into “Air Force Special Ops,” which is somewhat disingenuous.

      By contrast, Special Warfare breaks out the SOF and Conventional forces slightly more clearly. Note that SOF TACP’s already reside, and will continue to reside, in Special Tactics. It’s not perfect, but it meets the boss’s intent to combine the tribes without changing the TACP org chart.

      –Special Tactics (ST) and Guardian Angel (GA) combine as the Air Force’s SOF ground component. It will be organized, trained, and equipped under AFSOC to conduct global access, precision strike, and recovery for CFACCs and CFSOCCs.

      –The Special Warfare enterprise will help train and equip the TACP Weapons System—the Air Force’s Conventional ground component—organized under ACC to conduct air to ground command and control for CFACCs.

  2. Whiskey2Sierra says:

    Was wondering the same about JTAC/TACP

  3. M says:

    JTAC is a qualification held by CCT and TACP among others throughout DoD and the international community. Those with the aptitude will most likely be pushed in that direction.

  4. Jose says:

    The problem comes with the overuse of the word “special”

    When something is named special, is because cannot be filed under any other field.

    Once that field is fully established, it should drop the word special and adopt a more descriptive one, once its skills sets have been framed.

    And this goes for the USSOCOM and the like too.

    After all this decades, a more descriptive name should be chosen for Special Forces as we know them now.

    • Ed says:

      I’m impressed, you stated your thoughts without really saying anything of substance or give a descriptive example. From both my conventional and “special” service we always put out in either end of course critiques or operational critiques, identify problem/issue, make a reasonable suggestion. So simple!

      Oh, BTW my mother said I was special, so there is that!

      • Jose says:

        Well, after 28 years of service, mostly Special I learned a few things.

        One is that properly identifying a problem gets you more than 50% of the solution.

        Second, anything you say can be critized by someone who is just seeking some attention.

        Third, moms should not be allowed in the screening for Special Units.

        Just kidding, some mothers should! 😉

  5. Logan says:

    Are you saying CROs and STOs will be the same AFSC? I don’t see how you can make the Personnel Recovery SME also the SME on ATC and CAS and vice versa.

    • SSD says:

      Think of them as an 18A with all of the enlisted 18 MOSs working for them. STOs already lead CCT, PJ, SOWT and TACP in STSs. Moving the PJs to AFSOC and forming additional STSs means there won’t be a stand alone CSAR force. Integrating CROs into that environment wouldn’t make s much sense as combining the Officer AFSC.

  6. Frank says:

    Don’t like this name change at all. I remember when USAF Security Police (SP) changed to Security Forces (SF), and the ensuing fallout when they began wearing the SF arm designation on their field uniforms. I also remember going TDY to Hurlburt in the 90s and EVERYBODY on that base was a “Special Operations Computer Repair Technician”, or “Special Operations Chow Hall Monitor”, or “Special Operations Security Forces”. The USAF has a hard time with AFSOC, and this name change further complicates the challenges faced by the actual combat-oriented AFSCs.

    • WS Woods says:

      ‘The USAF has a hard time with AFSOC’…thats what happens when four star fighter pilots make all the decisions. Classic. We have now had four-star Rangers in charge of SOF, Admiral SEALs in charge of SOF and a four-star Marine combat paratrooper as CJC. The closest thing the USAF has come is a four-star MC & MH pilot as USAF Chief of Staff. Longoria and Holmes came the closest so far.

  7. GD442 says:

    It would be a an even greater idea if the whole service got issued a black beret and make everyone special operations….oh I forgot the army did that already it failed wonderfully.

    You get a beret! And you get a beret!

    You are SOF! And you are SOF!

    • WS Woods says:

      Do you rmember the SF ‘candy stripe’ experiment with green berets for everyone in an SF unit, Combat, Combat support, Combat Service Support MOSs all. Major failure!!! Then there was the effort by the US senate to create USSOCOM and the DoD attempts to create the ‘purple’ force. Ah well, the more things change, the more they repeat. Some really bad ideas just won’t die.

    • EODFish says:

      The way I read this change is the exact opposite. If nothing else this will serve to remind Security Forces members that they aren’t special in the eyes of the Air Force. The term Battlefield Airmen at its very core allowed the argument to be made that SF fell under that umbrella.

  8. FormerSOWT says:

    I’ve watched over the years as the AF goes through these changes. Having been former Army SOF before joining the AF, i thought then, and do now, that the AF needs to fix how it does business. While I think the “18X” approach is a solid one, the school house needs revamping and better consolidation. I would like to see the creation of a badge or tab to go along with the qualification as well. Keep the ST moniker, develop better school house criteria – the ST school houses have a nasty reputation for varying standards and unethical craziness. Some former SOF students are thrown away in the interest of showing “how much harder” the AF is. Re-look at the SCUBA requirements. Too many otherwise competent Airmen are lost to a school not really needed. Have a SCUBA Team(s) within the Squadron like Army SF does it so fewer people have to have that qualification.

    • STO says:

      Valid feedback. We’ve been working hard to professionalize the pipeline…you wouldn’t even recognize it now. Assessment and Selection now happens under the leadership and oversight of a Special Warfare Training Group, with a SW Trng Wing standing up shortly. We’re fiercely committed to fairly applying impeccably high standards.

  9. Mickey says:

    I thought the rebrand was,”Special Tactics.”

    • SSD says:

      That was over 30 years ago.

      • FormerSOWT says:

        So does 30 years down the road make the term “Special Tactics” less relevant? The term, as you’re aware, was to give the AF community one term to be known by; not just in the AF, but DOD wide. Keeping it builds legacy and prestige. No one is suggesting the SEALs or Army Special Forces change their names because they’ve had them a long time.

        • SSD says:

          I prefer the term as it is unique to the AF and well known in the joint arena. I was just pointing out that the term was older than USSOCOM.

          • SSD says:

            Btw, I’m curious if you know where the term came from. Most don’t.

            • FormerSOWT says:

              I was always told it was coined by CCT, and goes back to the Brand X days.

              • SSD says:

                It comes from the old CCSs. They had three teams, a HALO, SCUBA and Special Tactics team. The ST team did the airfield seizure mission which does indeed go back to Brand X but from the Honey Badger plan and not Eagle Claw.

            • ALO says:

              During the planning stages for Desert 1 years ago, a group of senior officers were discussing viable options for a rescue. Charlie Beckwith stated they need to use “some special tactics” in order to pull it off. The term stuck and Coach Carney carried it on. That’s where we get it from.

              Info pulled from an AFSOC heritage video.

  10. WS Woods says:

    We’ve come a LONG way from when Coach stood up the 720th Group and brought PjJ and CCT together under one roof. CCTos, STOs, SWOs…all the same animal, just getting better and better, more and more respect from our SpecOps bretheren. Faster, higher, deeper, longer, farther, more deadly to the enemy!!!

  11. Arthur Lopez says:

    Interesting to see how this will all play out.

    As former career Navy, I had the pleasure of experiencing much but I will never tire to see the changes in our military especially in the non conventional communities.

    Looking forward to see how this evolves.

    You have my prayers for the warriors and the leadership that will sustain them.

  12. Ltc. George N Roll says:

    I have served in TACP, CCT, Was in contention To be a PJ Sq. Commander when there was a plan to put PJ’S in seporate Sqs. I server in the JSOC/ JCU, and SOCLANT as well as commanding the 4th Combat Comm.

    TACP were calling air strikes in support of the Army when CCT were mostly operating Conventional DS and LZs.
    I was on the 7th Air Commando CCT, an early predisor to Modern Special Tactics CCT.
    From my background I believe TACP ARE COMBAT AIRMEN and would remind everyone that ALL JOBS ARE EQUALLY IMPORTANT! Don’t look down your nose at the TACP Guys

  13. Romad85 says:

    TACPs have been plug and play for their ARMY customers for the majority of the GWOT. TACPs joining the Special Warfare thing will give them access to more training that will broaden their ability to remain plug and play.

  14. Mark says:

    I knew they could walk on water (ref pic above).

  15. Maj type says:

    So how do you roll Combat Aviation Advisors into this? Want some air support?

  16. STO says:

    1. Read the article carefully–SSD published undecided notes and clearly differentiated them from facts (“yet to issue definitive guidance”, “Also, there’s discussion”, “There are still questions”). Overall, a fair effort, if ill-timed.

    2. NCO and Officer leadership across the force are gathering input NOW to make decisions soon. We are actively seeking input from all corners–including here!

    3. “Specal Warfare Officer” (sic) is a no go, but STO & CRO may merge. Expect SOF enlisted career fields to merge into one Air Force Specialty (1Z) with individual AFSCs (1ZX).

  17. STO says:


    –Special Tactics (ST) and Guardian Angel (GA) combine as the Air Force’s SOF ground component. It will be organized, trained, and equipped under AFSOC to conduct global access, precision strike, and recovery for CFACCs and CFSOCCs.

    –The Special Warfare enterprise will help train and equip the TACP Weapons System—the Air Force’s Conventional ground component—organized under ACC to conduct air to ground command and control for CFACCs.