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Archive for the ‘AFSW’ Category

24 SOW Observes 10th Anniversary at Hurlburt

Sunday, July 3rd, 2022

Hurlburt Field, Fla. —  

12 June marked the 10th anniversary of the 24 SOW at Hurlburt Field. The “at Hurlburt” is key here as the wing’s lineage dates back to its original establishment as the US Army Air Forces 24th Composite Wing (Special) 19 November 1942 and activation on 25 December 1942. Upon activation at Camp Olympia, Reykjavik, the wing’s first mission involved the defense of Iceland during World War II through 15 June 1944. The wing’s original weapon systems included P-38, P-39 fighter aircraft (1942-43), and P-40 and P-47 fighter aircraft (1944-44).

Prior to activation at Hurlburt in 2012, the wing is best known for its many mission areas in the Caribbean and the Panama Canal Zone where it served many years as the host unit at both Howard and Albrook Air Force Bases. Between 1946 and 1948 the wing supervised large numbers of major and minor bases and Air Force units in the Caribbean area from Puerto Rico to British Guiana. Organized again in 1967 in the Canal Zone, the wing assumed operation and maintenance responsibilities for Howard and Albrook Air Force Bases (1967-1987 and 1989-1999) and special operations mission sets that included air transport, paramilitary operations, exercise participation, civic actions in Central and South America, search and rescue missions, humanitarian operations, mercy missions, aeromedical evacuation; as well as the support of Army Special Forces, U.S. military assistance units, and training of Latin American air forces.  From activation in 1967 until mid-1972, the 24 Wing also operated the USAF Tropic Survival School at Albrook.

From 1992-1999, the wing operated as the senior USAF organization in Panama, replacing the previous command and division-level Air Force host units.  In June 1992, it began operating the only C-21, CT-43, C-27, and special mission C-130s in Air Combat Command (ACC).  The wing also provided mission command and support to multi-service units directed by United States Southern Command and United States Southern Air Force, 1992-1999. Mission areas included counternarcotics operations, aerial command and control, intra-theater airlift, security assistance, and the general defense of the Panama Canal.  During 1999, the wing conducted base closures and unit inactivations in compliance with the Panama Canal Treaty of 1977 that stipulated all U.S. military forces would depart Panama by 31 December 1999.

With the 24 SOW’s activation at Hurlburt 10 years ago, AFSOC selected the “24” from the inactive scrolls of Air Force historical units because of its long history of and close association with nearly all special operations mission areas. From the mountaintops in Afghanistan to the depths of an infamous cave in Thailand, the 24 SOW conducted operations ranging from the fiercest types of combat to the purest forms of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

At activation, the 24 SOW kept its awesome lineage alive and, as importantly, it inherited the history of Air Force Special Tactics. After being activated at Hurlburt Field and assigned to Air Force Special Operations Command, the wing comprised of two Special Tactics groups, a training squadron, and operational squadrons with a mission to organize, train, and equip Special Warfare Airmen for rapid global employment to enable airpower success.

Since 2012, the 24 SOW has been an integral part of every major joint operation in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, Africa, Europe, and Pacific theaters of operation. Special Tactics, from its beginning, has provided global access capabilities inherent to no other unit in the Air Force or its sister services – capabilities absolutely essential to effective military operations. The 24 SOW also provides unique rapid deployment, precision strike, personnel recovery, special reconnaissance and battlefield surgery capabilities. Today the wing’s primary weapon system is not an aircraft weapon system typical in most Air Force wings. Today, and since 2012, the 24 SOW’s weapon system is the men and women who provide and sustain these capabilities for AFSOC and the Joint Force.

Since its activation 10 years ago, members of the wing and its predecessor unit, the 720th Special Tactics Group, have been recognized with our nation’s highest valor awards including the Medal of Honor, 12 Air Force Crosses, 57 Silver Stars, and hundreds of Bronze Stars. This level of individual recognition makes the 24 SOW the highest decorated community in the U.S. Air Force in the modern era. On this special anniversary of the 24 SOW at Hurlburt, the wing remains a forever reverent organization and honors its members who made the ultimate sacrifice in both training and combat. Perhaps the AFSOC commander Lt Gen James Slife stated it best, “Within AFSOC – and the Air Force writ-large – no group [has] paid a greater human toll and carried a heavier deployment burden of the last two decades than AFSOC’s Special Tactics Force.”

By Charlie Newell, 24 SOW Public Affairs

137th Combat Training Flight Hosts First Female JTAC Student

Tuesday, June 28th, 2022


The 137th Combat Training Flight (CTF) hosted its first female student in the joint terminal attack controller qualification course (JTAC QC).

The course, held March 21-April 22, 2022, in Oklahoma City, included two NATO students, an Estonian tactical air control party specialist and a German Air Liaison Officer, who was the first female participant in the 137th CTF JTAC QC.

“I enjoy the spectrum of coalition students we get through here because each one is a very different dynamic for instruction. Some are already trained, and for others it’s their first time passing a 9-line,” said Tech. Sgt. Justin Davis, 137th CTF instructor. “Our students essentially get seven or more full mission profiles in our simulator and three full mission profiles with live contract close air support (CAS) during our field week.”

Students go through three phases within the course over five weeks: two weeks of academics, two weeks simulator testing command and control skills in the Advanced Joint Terminal Attack Controller Training System (AAJTS), and field training that consists of daytime and nighttime calls for fire on a training range with contracted CAS aircraft.

“The contract CAS piece makes a big difference in training because it doesn’t have the same flight time restrictions as working with military aircraft,” said Davis. “Students have triple the time, in addition to in-depth instruction in the simulator where we can start and stop scenarios to adjust as needed. All that being said, I don’t know that there’s any one thing in particular that we’re doing right, but I know it’s the combination of things we’re doing right that initially brought NATO coalition partners here and why they continue to send students.”

The 137th CTF is one of two schoolhouses in the U.S. able to qualify JTACs and is one of three in the U.S. Air Force. Since 2016, the 137th CTF has hosted students from every U.S. military branch and a dozen NATO partner nations. It is unique as a schoolhouse for its manning ratio between instructors and students. Other class sizes can reach up to two dozen students with only a handful of instructors, whereas the 137th CTF class size allows for nearly a one-to-one ratio that provides time for more personalized and in-depth instruction.

“Several of our international students come here already qualified as JTACs and use our course as a stepping stone to become instructors back home,” said Maj. Jeffrey Hansen, 137th CTF director of operations. “Our instructors are also better for having our coalition partners, especially those already JTAC qualified, as students because their feedback allows us to expand on our training and improve how we teach. Plus, the relationships we have built with international students have been leveraged into continuation training, such as with Estonia through the State Partnership Program.”

Once graduated from the course, military members have a Department of Defense certification to go into a deployed environment and conduct CAS, which is the ability to provide joint fire close air support to ground forces, with any available U.S. or NATO asset.

“When it comes to military doctrine, especially on the NATO side, it remains vague because you have to incorporate 30 countries,” Hansen noted. “CAS is different because anywhere you go in the world, we all share a language, forming an intense bond. The diversity of our classes and the bonds we form with all of the students who have come through demonstrates firsthand that our shared language forges a connection that transcends any differences between branch of service or nation of service.”

By TSgt Brigette Waltermire

137th Special Operations Wing

Using VR Through VALOR to Improve Combat Casualty Care

Tuesday, June 7th, 2022


The 24th Special Operations Wing Surgeon General’s office has implemented the use of virtual reality training devices, in partnership with SimX, throughout special tactics to maintain the critical pararescueman’s skill in an ever-changing operational environment.
“The operational mission is going to continue to grow in complexity in the future fight,” said U.S. Air Force Col. John Dorsch, 24th SOW Surgeon General. “The PJs must be prepared to treat both injury and illness in austere environments for longer periods of time with limited reach-back.”

When looking at what the future operational environment may look like, the 24th SOW SG team must consider the implications to operational medicine. Scenarios PJs face could be in low-visibility areas where they have to keep patients alive for longer periods under possible chemical, biological, radiation or nuclear conditions.

“Preparing PJs medically for the future fight will require an advanced interoperable standard, optimized initial and sustainment training, deliberate tech development and integration, and enhanced performance tracking and feedback,” said Dorsch.
The virtual reality program objectives are to improve realism, increase flexibility and reduce cost. Through more than $10 million in Department of Defense Research and Development Funding and the Air Force Small Business Research Innovation Research program, SimX and the 24th SOW have been able to create more than 80 training scenarios including canine treatment and care, blast injuries, severe gas exposure, and more.
These training devices provide intricate and realistic training scenarios that other methods, such as medical dummies, cannot, and improves the effectiveness of the training.
“By using a flexible piece of equipment, we are able to deliberately and efficiently target specific desired learning objectives based on evolving mission requirements,” said Dorsch. “We now have the time and bandwidth to provide trainees with enhanced real-time feedback from the through the program, which grades the trainee on a point system through data analysis and a performance tracking system.”

Currently, there are 14 sites online using the PJ Tactical Combat Casualty Care curriculum, including Air Force Special Operations Command and Air Combat Command. In the future, they plan to expand access to the existing medical training portfolio across all SOF TCCC responder tiers, broaden capabilities and integrate partner force training.
“The VALOR program has increased the availability of efficient and effective medical training and has allowed us to develop complex decision-making, which will improve survival rates in U.S., coalition and partner force combat casualties in the future fight,” said Dorsch. “VR training is critical for ensuring that the highest level of combat trauma and austere medical care are provided by our special operations ground forces. We have only scratched the surface of its incredible potential.”

Story by Capt Savannah Stephens, 24 SOW Public Affairs

Photos by TSgt Carly Kavish

Emerald Warrior 22.1 Concludes for AFSOC, Czech Special Forces

Tuesday, May 24th, 2022


Air Force Special Operations Command wrapped up its 15th Emerald Warrior exercise that provided realistic and relevant training to prepare special operations forces, conventional forces and international partners for conflict in an evolving, strategic environment. 

The EW 22.1 planning team applied lessons learned from real-world operations to train and ready forces to the joint force, while staying focused on security priorities laid out within the 2022 National Defense Strategy; specifically, pacing strategic competitors. Trained, credible forces and strong international partnerships are pivotal to this effort.  

“In this year’s iteration, we improved our approach to command and control through the employment of the Special Operations Task Group and Special Operations Task Unit,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Kevin Koenig, exercise director of Emerald Warrior. “This dispersion of leadership allowed for real-time, on-the-ground decision making and allowed commanders to perform operations quickly and more efficiently. We exercised our agile combat employment capabilities and focused additional training on non-kinetic skillsets to include public affairs and information operations. With our partner nations and sister services, our goal is to continue to deter adversaries, now and in the future, in all domains.” 

The objective for this year’s EW was to gain and maintain an advantage on the battlefield and in the information environment, and grow kinetic and non-kinetic effects above and below the threshold of armed conflict from strategic competitors. 

This annual exercise is an opportunity to further test and improve future approaches to AFSOC units like the mission sustainment teams. These MSTs established forward-operating bases by providing initial site security, receiving cargo and personnel, and setting up shelter. 

“It was very impressive how the 1st SOW and 27th SOW [from Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico] capabilities came together in order to forward stage our contingency locations during this exercise,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Travis Deutman, commander of the Emerald Warrior SOTG. “As these capabilities continue to progress, it’ll definitely be something that’ll be useful within AFSOC.” 

In line with AFSOC’s Strategic Guidance, the exercise fuels on-going innovation and experimentation efforts within the command.   

“The most important idea to understand about Emerald Warrior is that as AFSOC implements force generation, we’re building new concepts; the two biggest concepts being the SOTG command team and our MSTs,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Haack, deputy director of operations for AFSOC. “These concepts combine to enable the force to do agile combat employment in a contested environment. We increased our agility; we pushed our decision making forward to the lowest level. These teams are trained and enabled, and ready to fight the fight in the contested and uncontested environment.” 

In addition to introducing new command and control structure, the exercise continued as a forum of collaboration between the U.S. and its international partners and allies. This year, AFSOC hosted partners from the Czech Republic. 

“We look forward to working with our partner nations and coalition forces from across SOF,” said Haack. “Emerald Warrior allows us to problem solve in an exercise environment, establish communication and build enduring relationships. Those relationships with our Czech partners and fellow SOF coalition forces are critical so we’re not meeting them for the first time down range.” 

By 2nd Lt Cassandra Saphore, Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs

Emerald Warrior 22 Prepares Air Commandos for Strategic Competition

Friday, April 29th, 2022


Air Force Special Operations Command is hosting the 15th annual Emerald Warrior exercise at multiple locations across the Southeast U.S., from Hurlburt Field, April 25-May 15. The combined exercise provides realistic and relevant training to prepare special operations forces, conventional forces and international partners for operations in the evolving strategic environment.

Emerald Warrior applies lessons learned from real-world operations to provide trained and ready forces to the joint force, while also focusing on security priorities laid out in the AFSOC Strategic Guidance, and nested and relevant national-level strategy. 

It hones the skills of participating units and is an opportunity to test future concepts. In line with AFSOC’s Strategic Guidance, the exercise fuels on-going innovation and experimentation efforts within the command.

Additionally, Emerald Warrior strengthens international cooperation by inviting partner-nations to participate in the exercise. This year’s foreign partners are from the Czech Republic.

Emerald Warrior is not in response to any specific event and is a regularly-scheduled exercise. Exercises like Emerald Warrior are necessary to rehearse U.S., allied and partner abilities to deploy and conduct operations under challenging conditions. These exercises help our forces to prepare for mission requirements.

Residents near training locations may experience increased military activity in their area. All training occurs at designated sites, previously coordinated with local authorities.

Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs

Air Commando Tests Stamina and Builds Relationships During Best Ranger Competition

Friday, April 22nd, 2022

Fort Benning, Georgia —  

Imagine yourself going through months of training for a rigorous event just to lose your teammate to an injury weeks prior and have to drop out. Now, imagine being the only U.S. Air Force member in a group of over 100 U.S. Army soldiers – well, this is exactly the situation U.S. Air Force Capt. Reace Hudgeons, a Tactical Air Control Party Officer at the 17th Special Tactics Squadron, Detachment One, Savannah, Georgia, found himself in when he competed in the Best Ranger Competition April 8 – 10, 2022, at Fort Benning, Georgia.

After three days of competition, Hudgeons and his new teammate, a U.S. Army Captain James Moore, finished sixth out of 51 teams on the first-ever joint team from different units..

A few days before the Best Ranger Competition was set to begin, Hudgeons received a phone call from the 75th Ranger Regiment asking if he would want to participate in the competition with one of their Army Captains. He had already assumed he would not participate this year due to his Air Force teammate’s injury, but immediately jumped on the opportunity.

“I drove to Fort Benning late on Friday evening and didn’t arrive until after one in the morning,” said Hudgeons. “Eight hours later I met my teammate, CPT Moore, for the first time and we started training together.”

Even though the two had never met before, they didn’t find it hard to integrate and plan for the three days of competition that lied ahead. They already had common ground due to the joint training between their units.

“I always wanted to compete in this event, but never expected to win or even place in the top ten,” said Hudgeons. “I just wanted to prove that there are Air Force members who can do the same things as Ranger-qualified soldiers in the Army.”

After three days and two nights of 19-mile ruck marches, six-hour land navigation events, long foot movements, and many other events, the two crossed the finish line in sixth place with smiles on their faces.

“Teaming up with a guy from the 75th Ranger Regiment made a huge difference,” said Hudgeons. “They’re already the best of the best and being able to team up with someone of that caliber made me push myself even harder. Keeping up with him was challenging at times, but it was hands down such a worthwhile experience.”

The team’s experience highlights the strength in unity behind joint forces. Hudegons and Moore showed up having never met each other before and integrated seamlessly due to trusting in each other’s abilities to do the work based on the credibility established from their career fields.

“The relationship we had, the success we had, is what our relationship is supposed to look like as TACPs and Army maneuver units,” said Hudgeons. “They should trust us to compete under their unit’s name with an expectation of success. That’s where we need to be as an Air Force and a sister service.”

When asked if he would do it again, there was no hesitation. Even through the months of training leading up to the event, to having to drop out last minute to re-joining with a brand new teammate, he would not trade his experience for anything.

“I highly recommend any qualified member to volunteer and compete,” said Hudgeons. “Know what you’re getting into, be prepared to do 80-100 miles on your feet, and have the right attitude. Show up, perform, work alongside them, do some things better than them, and they will welcome you with open arms.”

By Capt Savannah Stephens, 24 SOW Public Affairs

Thai Cave Rescue Mission – MSgt Ken O’Brien at NMUSAF

Friday, April 15th, 2022

Featured guest speaker, Master Sgt. Ken O’Brien, shared his experience in the Thai Cave Rescue during the Humanitarian Exhibit opening at the National Museum of the USAF. O’Brien played an instrumental role in the Thailand Cave rescue mission. He was essential in creating the rescue plan, which placed himself as the furthest American inside the cave. During the mission, he also led the effort to retrieve and successfully resuscitate a Thai Navy SEAL. His team’s heroic efforts led to the rescue of 13 Thai civilians.

Welcome to the Jungle: Special Warfare Airmen Acclimate to Indo-Pacific Environment

Friday, April 15th, 2022

WAHIAWA, Hawaii (AFNS) —  

The 38th Rescue Squadron’s Blue Team traveled to Hawaii to conduct jungle warfare training, March 26 – April 10.

Moody Air Force Base’s pararescuemen are special warfare operators charged with the responsibility of rescuing personnel all around the world. As such, it’s vital they familiarize themselves with all types of environments.

In an effort to sharpen their capabilities in rescue operations throughout the Indo-Pacific region, Blue Team learned how to track personnel in the jungle.

“The jungle is a very unforgiving environment,” said Lt. Col. Michael Vins, 38th RQS commander. “There are areas in the jungle where you can only travel 100 meters in an entire day. We need to be ready for that kind of environment by training there, understanding how to survive there, using different equipment … everything is so different, so we need to get used to that kind of environment to be effective in (Indo-Pacific Command).”

Blue Team put their tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) to the test in a climate they had never experienced before by performing a series of training scenarios to include team vs. team tracking and anti-tracking exercises.

“Over the last 20 years, we’ve gotten really good at desert warfare with the war in Afghanistan and Iraq,” said Staff Sgt. Evan Rogowski, 38th RQS Blue Team pararescueman. “With that kind of phasing away, and the new area of responsibility quickly becoming the INDOPACOM region, we’re really having to take a step back from some of the older TTPs that seemed to work well in the desert and figure out how to adapt to this environment, which is way more difficult to operate in.”

Upon arriving in the jungle, the team set up an outpost to conduct operations. Over the duration of five days and four nights, they survived with only the rucks on their backs and the knowledge they gained as special warfare operators in the Air Force. Rogowski said one of the biggest challenges they faced was the weather.

“It’s pretty unpredictable out here in the jungle,” Rogowski said. “It can be raining in the morning and then completely sunny in the afternoon, and back to rain. Outside of carrying the proper equipment, there’s not much we can do to control that.”

The unique experience tested their ability to adapt in an unforgiving environment. To combat the risks associated with sleeping on the ground, the team slept in enclosed hammocks.

Encounters with centipedes, spiders, steep inclines and thick foliage made it difficult to execute the mission. Despite the challenges, the team was able to effectively track their targets in the jungle. Using tactical formations and hand signals, they practiced combatting potential threats from simulated enemies and booby traps.

“As highly trained special warfare operators, we’re always thinking about modern-day warfare and high-tech weapon systems, but something so primitive like grenades that roll out of bamboo if you kick the wrong stick over is enough to wipe us all out,” said Staff Sgt. Evan Orth, 38th RQS Blue Team pararescueman. “Getting this training makes us more aware of threats we would have never expected in this environment, which could be the difference in saving not only our lives but the life of the person we’re trying to locate on the ground.”

Blue Team learned mostly through action, however instructors from the Tactical Tracking Operations School also provided an array of tips in a classroom setting before they ventured out into the jungle.

“They’ll sleep in the field for four nights to give them an opportunity to live in the environment, assess their gear, work out the little kinks or whatnot and make sure their sleeping systems are good,” said Pete Kerr, TTOS president and instructor. “The more time you spend out in the field, you start to hone those senses.”

Kerr expressed the importance of attention to detail. Whether tracking an adversary or a missing ally, such as a downed pilot, being able to notice subtle disturbances in the terrain is crucial to finding a target.

“What that’s doing is programming the subconscious mind to pick up on these indicators,” Kerr said.

TTOS provided detailed hands-on training enabling the special warfare operators to determine a person’s direction of travel and intent.

“That footprint is going to explain a story to you,” Rogowski said. “Where that person went, what they did, how fast they were moving, where they’re going to, are they paranoid? And I think that’s kind of hard to put into words unless you’ve actually been there.”

Using the skills they learned during the training scenarios, the team was put to the test in a final two-day, one-night exercise. During the exercise, Blue Team tracked a simulated downed pilot while traversing the terrain undetected from potential danger. Once they retrieved the isolated personnel, the team made their way to an extraction point.

After a sleepless 24 hours and hiking 6 kilometers through grueling terrain, the team completed their mission.

By the end of the two-week course, Blue Team gained the knowledge necessary to refine their TTPs for the unique jungle environment, thus enabling them to operate effectively in the Indo-Pacific region.

“The culmination of this exercise validates the effectiveness the rescue teams will have in a contested jungle environment,” Rogowski said. “The lessons and skills learned here will further expand the way we operate in the INDOPACOM area of responsibility. We’ll take these lessons and shape our TTPs for the future of special operations, personnel recovery, and combat search and rescue.”

By SSgt Devin Boyer, 23rd Wing Public Affairs