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Kardax Solutions Installs Range for 351st Special Warfare Training Squadron

Thursday, December 23rd, 2021

Kardax Solutions, working in coordination with Improve Group, is pleased to announce the completion of Phase I of the ACTION (Advanced Combat Training InnovatiON) Range for the 351ST Special Warfare Training Squadron at Kirtland AFB in New Mexico. The success of Phase I is notable in several ways, and we look forward to the next phases of the program. The focus for this innovative range is to improve the lethality, survivability, and combat readiness of the PJ and CRO students. The specific goals of Phase I were:

• Improve the efficiency of the overall training program

• Improve the effectiveness and realism of the training program

• Provide meaningful, repeatable metrics to enable evaluation of training methods and increased capabilities of students.

Each of these goals were addressed using various methods to provide a significant upgrade to the total training capability of the range. Because of the flexibility of the design of the facility, usage can be easily adapted to the requirements of other US Air Force combat teams, other special warfare personnel, and other branches of the DoDs training requirements. The modular design will allow the foundation technology to be scaled to larger or smaller footprints and other locations.

The first of the three-phase program for the 351st SWTS provided two innovative ranges:

The first range is a 37-lane, 50m flat shooting range for qualification, marksmanship and fundamental movement and tactics with automated, hit sensing, auto-scoring targets. The auto-scoring targets have three distinct zones that provide real-time results for each student. Each lane also has an integrated live camera feed that makes zeroing rifles more efficient. The camera system allows a “pinch-to-zoom” interface to show hit location for every shot, eliminating the need to call a range cold to check shot location. The range has an integrated camera system providing multi-angle video on six lanes with recording features that broadcast to the instructional coaching booths, allowing on-site, instant instructional feedback to increase training effectiveness and skill retention. The Range Extractor Database enables the managements of students, real-time leaderboards, flexible reporting, and facilitates analysis of performance at the class or individual level. The data can also be evaluated over the length of the class training to show historical trends and improvement for individuals, teams, and the class as a whole. The 50m range is a fully illuminated range with low level lighting for the targets as well.

The second range is a Shoot-Move-Communicate (SMC) range that consists of three separate lanes of action including 30 targets, each with progressively more challenging terrain for long range skill building, combat marksmanship and advance/retreat tactical movements for small teams. This is the first live-fire SMC range approved and owned by the US Air Force. This training facility significantly increases the real-world scenario simulation for students, increasing student competency for fire and movement training. All firing positions teach students use of cover and concealment and all targets in the system are programmable, hit sensing, and controllable from the RSO Tower.

During the initial phase of the program, Kardax Solutions also provided the MVP HEKTR (Humanoid Engageable Kinetic Training Robot). HEKTR is a remote control, fully armored, all-terrain, responsive, live-fire target that emulates the realism of a moving threat. HEKTR brings an entirely new level of dynamic engagement to the range with humanoid movement, multiple target zones, geofencing, motion restraints and fully programmable features in terms of time, hits, and responses. The HEKTR provides enhanced training scenarios to both ranges to develop the combat mindset of students.

The metrics from this complex training environment will not only drive improvements in weapons training methodologies and student performance but also provide a foundation for mapping Human Performance data and enhancing sound tactical decision-making processes.

Phase II and III of the range hold tremendous potential for further expansion and advancement of training capabilities with ranges such as a live-fire vehicle track, high angle shooting with immediate shot detection feedback and disabled vehicle rescue. In additional, the infrastructure is now in place to expand realistic training scenario ranges.

For further information regarding the prototype range and for additional contracting opportunities using the OTA contract, please contact Lance McGlocklin at Kardax Solutions ([email protected]).

How an Air Force Recruiting Commercial Became a Popular VR Game

Sunday, December 5th, 2021


When Air Force Recruiting Service deployed its “Activate: Special Warfare” mobile tour in April 2021, the four-dimensional virtual reality, experience-on-wheels became the latest entry in an elite category of games.

Over the years, dozens of movies have made their way to becoming games in arcades and on portable devices. This genre includes commercial hits like Dune, a 1992-released game that is based on its namesake film.

Activate’s own story began in 2019 with the production of a commercial targeting special warfare recruitment.

“We were coming up with ideas to promote Special Warfare,” said Travis Waid, a writer and creative director for GSD&M. Waid’s employer is the Austin, Texas-based advertising agency for the U.S. Air Force. “We were also assigned with creating a new experiential tour to promote Special Warfare and it hit us. Instead of creating two separate things, what if they supported each other?”

Passersby examine a display case outside of Charlotte Motor Speedway in Conway, N.C., which featured tactical equipment similar to what Special Warfare Airmen might use. The display is part of the Air Force Recruiting Service’s Activate: Special Warfare mobile exhibit and gives guests a four-dimensional Air Force Special Warfare experience as depicted in an online Air Force commercial. (U.S. Air Force photo by Randy Martin)

A guest with virtual reality goggles and a replicated gun gets a four-dimensional Air Force Special Warfare experience at the Fanzone outside of Charlotte Motor Speedway in Conway, N.C., Oct. 9, 2021. Activate’s scenario is taken from an online Air Force commercial. (U.S. Air Force photo by Randy Martin)

An Air Force Recruiting brand ambassador at the Fanzone on Oct. 9, 2021, outside of Charlotte Motor Speedway in Conway, N.C., assists a visitor to the Air Force Recruiting Service’s Activate mobile exhibit. Virtual reality goggles are one of the tools that give Activate’s guests a four dimensional Air Force Special Warfare experience as depicted in an online Air Force commercial. (U.S. Air Force photo by Randy Martin)

So in late September of that year, a film production team of 53 and more than a dozen people from AFRS, GSD&M and other Air Force members representing several career fields, converged on a bombing range near Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico. Filming required three days and involved Security Forces and Special Warfare Airmen, pilots, tactical wheeled vehicles, helicopters and airplanes from bases throughout the U.S.

For the commercial to look more realistic, the production company turned to Hollywood for delivery of movie-ready weapons.

“We couldn’t use the SF and SW Airmen’s weapons because they had red tips,” Waid said. “So, we relied on a prop house that we found in Los Angeles.”

In the final commercial, action-packed sequences show Airmen in a gunfight with an enemy force outside a walled compound. Viewers see a medevac while pyrotechnics create blast clouds with smoke enveloping a line of sand-colored vehicles on a desert road. An A-10C Thunderbolt II flies by as the video reaches its climax.

Two commercials from this production debuted in several variations on YouTube, Jan. 5, 2020. They were later posted to other Air Force Recruiting social media platforms. One, titled “Calm and the Storm,” has exceeded 18 million views. The other, titled “Join the Fight,” has been seen more than 17 million times.

For AFRS, attention turned to developing Activate: Special Warfare, the game.

Work started on the VR mobile tour with an intended launch date sometime in 2020, Waid said. However, COVID-19 struck in March and forced AFRS to wait until April 2021, for Activate’s inaugural tour.

Since its launch, people have flocked to Activate at venues such as NASCAR’s Fanzone outside Charlotte Motor Speedway, in Conway, North Carolina, Oct. 9-10.

There, among tents and trailers reminiscent of a traveling carnival, Activate was positioned on high ground where throngs of fans ambled about on a quest for souvenirs, free merchandise, food and pre-NASCAR race entertainment. Activate’s shining, black paneled trailer featured graphics to attract visitors from great distances.

Contracted attendants called “brand ambassadors” beckoned passersby to try their skills at no cost. The only condition being a minimum age requirement of 13 or older and registration on a tablet computer. Next came the anxious wait to enter the gaming booth along with other guests.

“The VR game is a real-life version of the commercial video and what connects them really is the story of how SW operators are able to remain calm under extreme pressure while engaging the enemy, calling in air strikes and rescuing others,” Waid said.

Once inside each player dons a vest and VR goggles, takes hold of a device that replicates a gun, and enters the scenario as one of the Airmen in the beleaguered convoy from the commercial.

Because participants wear special VR headsets and vests they hear everything in surround sound and they sense impacts on their over garments. Designers also engineered booths to generate hot air bursts and wind effects synched with explosions and landing of a helicopter for a full four-dimensional experience.

“Best game ever,” one woman said as she exited Activate.

Air Force recruiters were standing close by and greeted people. They talked to potential applicants about experiences and opportunities. Some visitors examined an all-terrain vehicle that was parked out front alongside a display case featuring gear like that used by Airmen in the film. The equipment leant a tactile experience to the VR one.

“The case and ATV are pretty effective in terms of generating interest and questions for recruiters who can step in and have a conversation with a lead or influencer,” said Tech. Sgt. Amos Parker, a recruiter for the 337th Recruiting Squadron at Shaw AFB in Sumter, South Carolina. “With most of the population under the impression that the Air Force only flies jets, it’s really eye opening to influencers and potential applicants.”

In 2021 the experiential tour went to 23 events in 15 states and had more than 12,000 people sign up to go through.

“Of those who signed up, 5,282 opted in to learn more and 1,453 turned into actual leads, which are all great percentages. Considering that the pandemic kept a lot of people home in 2021, those numbers are expected to increase as life begins to return to normal and more people come out,” said Maj. Jason Wyche, AFRS chief of national events branch, strategic marketing division.

Activate: Special Warfare is set to be part of AFRS’s mobile tours for at least five years.

By Randy Martin, Air Force Recruiting Service

Pushing to the Limit: Special Tactics Airmen Compete Together for Team USA Bobsled

Thursday, December 2nd, 2021

HURLBURT FIELD, Florida–For the first time ever, two Special Tactics Airmen assigned to the 24th Special Operations Wing competed together in a major competition for Team USA Bobsledding Nov. 28-29, 2021 at Park City, Utah.

                U.S. Air Force Special Tactics Officer Maj. Chris Walsh and Staff Sgt. Matt Beach, a combat controller, competed together at the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation North American Cup for a chance to represent Team USA at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

                As a Special Tactics Officer, Walsh is trained to lead teams of special operations ground forces for global access, precision strike and personnel recovery missions, however since August of 2019 he’s been training and competing as a full-time athlete in the Air Force’s World Class Athlete program. WCAP provides active duty, National Guard and reserve service members the opportunity to train and compete at national and international sports competitions with the ultimate goal of selection to the U.S. Olympic team while maintaining a professional military career.

                “It’s great to be in the Olympic team picture at all,” said Walsh. “Competing with Team USA, USA Bobsled and the other athletes is a pretty big honor and to represent the Air Force on an international stage is awesome. You hope that you’ve done enough and things work out to where you end up making the olympic team, regardless of that outcome, to me the whole journey of learning a new sport and being able to compete and push myself to the highest level has been very rewarding.”

                Beach, currently assigned to the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington, started his bobsledding journey in 2020 under the guidance of Walsh and fellow Air Force Special Operations Command teammate and bobsled athlete, Capt. Dakota Lynch, a U-28 pilot, who could not compete due to injury.

                “Being introduced to the sport by a fellow ST member is an example of just how good the leadership in the community is,” said Beach. “Having people like Maj. Walsh and Capt. Lynch to coach me through the process has been pivotal to getting me to where I am. Very rarely does anyone come in and instantly master the push and load. It’s a process, but it’s a process I look forward to.”

                Both ST operators are push athletes, who use their explosive strength and precision to accelerate a two or four-man bobsled. In order to excel in this role, the athletes have to conduct thousands of correct repetitions to make sure every hundredth of a second counts. Although the physical training for this process is different from the fitness training required for special operations missions, the mindset needed is similar.

                “The biggest thing from Special Tactics that translates to bobsledding is the mindset that you gain from going through all the ST training,” said Walsh. “It’s that no-quit, figure out how to find a solution, figure out a way to be successful-type of mindset. There are days where it’s really tough and you have to do a lot of late-night work on the sled and then get up early the next morning to compete, so having that gritty mindset is very valuable.”

                In addition to the “gritty” mindset, Special Tactics operators are accustomed to being in extreme pressure situations where high levels of precision are required in rescue missions, controlling aircraft or guiding bombs on targets, which in turn helps them as athletes compete at the highest levels.

                “To compete at this level requires the same focus and attention to detail as pre-mission prep and mission execution,” said Beach. “[Bobsledding], believe it or not, has a lot of parallels with the ST community.”

                Unlike Walsh, Beach is not currently part of the World Class Athlete Program and still works as a full-time combat controller continuing to train alongside his teammates at the 22nd STS.

                “Competing at this level while maintaining all the currencies expected of us as operators is not an easy feat,” said Beach. “Scuba diving all day and jumping out of planes in the middle of the night is not the best recovery when having to race some of the best athletes in the nation, but I have found a way to make it work.”

                In typical ST fashion, both athletes and operators are determined to continue to push themselves to the highest level in whatever they do. For example last year, Beach took on a popular internet fitness challenge back at his squadron in which he had to complete a sub-five-minute mile and squat 500 pounds in the same day. Not only did he complete the challenge, but made sure it was executed to the highest standard by using a certified professional running track and receiving official review from USA Powerlifting judges to verify the squat.

                Meanwhile, Walsh also had his eye on professional car racing and became the first active-duty service member to compete in the TC America Series, a touring car racing series in Virginia earlier this year. He ended up placing third overall among some of the top car racers in North America.

                Although the ST Airmen hope to represent their country on the Olympic stage, in 2022 for Walsh and 2026 for Beach, even more so, they love the thrill of a good challenge and encourage others to pursue their goals no matter what.

                “The best advice I can give anybody to accomplish anything they want to do is, to just start it,” said Walsh. “There’s never a perfect plan from the beginning. I can wait until the moment’s right or I can jump when I’m at an 80% solution and see where I land. And if I fail, figure out how to fail better the next time and eventually succeed. Just begin to build whatever it is that you hope to do. Once you start, you can figure things out as you go.”

                Walsh and Beach placed 6th overall in their most recent competition, despite some equipment issues. They will be competing once more before the 2022 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York Dec. 18-20, 2021.

                Special Tactics is Air Force Special Operations Command’s tactical air ground integration force and part of the Air Force Special Warfare enterprise, trained to execute global access, precision strike, personnel recovery and battlefield surgery operations across the spectrum of conflict and crisis. Air Force Special Tactics is one of the most highly decorated communities in the Air Force since the Vietnam War with one Medal of Honor, 13 Air Force Crosses and over 50 Silver Star medals. The 24th Special Operations Wing is headquartered in Hurlburt Field, Florida with geographically separated units across the country.

By Capt Alejandra Fontalvo, 24th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

TacJobs – USAF Special Reconnaissance

Friday, November 19th, 2021

Special reconnaissance Airmen are special tactics operators with unique training to conduct multi-domain reconnaissance and surveillance across the spectrum of conflict with focus on lethal and non-lethal air-to-ground integration of airpower.

Learn more at www.airforce.com/careers/detail/special-reconnaissance.

Special Warfare Training Wing: First USAF Organization to Host a Special Operations Forces Training “Shura”

Saturday, November 6th, 2021

Joint Base San Antonio – Chapman Training Annex, Texas —

The Special Warfare Training Wing is the first U.S. Air Force organization to host a Special Operations Forces Training “Shura”, a gathering of senior leaders from SOF-generating commands under U.S. Special Operations Command and its allied counterparts around the world held Nov. 2-4, 2021 at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

Over the years, senior leaders of SOF-generating commands have routinely held SOF Training “Shuras” to cross-pollinate best practices and to build lethal SOF warriors capable of solving the nation’s most complex problems in austere environments.

For the SWTW, hosting this iteration of the SOF Training “Shura” represents a natural evolution stemming from decades of its predecessor organizations training Special Warfare Airmen for service in special operations around the world, a critical mission set that has not stopped and is now more important than ever in the age of strategic competition.

“Our relationship with the special operations community is important for the SWTW,” said Col. Mason Dula, SWTW commander. “A third of our graduates are destined for service inside a USSOCOM component, and learning from our SOF-training counterparts helps reinforce the imperative that our Special Warfare graduates will be expected to seamlessly interoperate with joint special operations forces, the day they graduate from our pipelines.”

Members attending the SOF Training “Shura” discussed a wide variety of topics affecting the SOF world, including pre-accessions, recruiting and development, training pipeline standards and more, while reinforcing partnerships to ensure a unified approach towards the USSOCOM SOF Operating Concept 2030, aimed at preparing SOF operators for the future fight.

Two widely discussed topics included the various Assessment and Selection models that different SOF-generating commands utilize and the integration of human performance technology as SOF warriors of the future are built – both of which the SWTW has been accelerating change in since its inception in Oct. 2018.

In Jan. 2019, the SWTW instituted its very own 4-week Assessment and Selection (A&S) to carefully select potential Air Force SW operators based on character and attributes, replacing the previous Indoctrination course that focused primarily on physical attributes.

“Many people think that A&S is just about selection, when in reality, it promotes a learning culture,” said Col. Robert Taylor, Special Warfare Training Group commander. “A&S focuses our cadre, training, and operational forces as best we can on the core attributes of an individual.”

Interwoven in the A&S model of the SWTW and every other aspect of the wing’s imperative to build SW Airmen of the future is its Human Performance Support Group, the first of its kind in the USAF, which fuses cutting-edge science and technology into each step of the process as SW Airmen are built from the ground up at the SWTW.

“We instill human performance principles that SW Airmen can apply throughout the duration of their careers and beyond,” said Col. George Buse, Special Warfare Human Performance Support Group commander. “Our team helps set the foundation for building resilient warriors who are physically harder, mentally sharper, and spiritually stronger.”

At the end of the SOF Training “Shura”, all parties left with new knowledge that will go on to affect the kinetic battlespace of the future.

“Hosting the SOF Training ‘Shura’ is important for SW culture because we are a learning organization,” said Col. Dula. “Like the operational forces inside Air Force Special Operations Command, the SWTW has a responsibility to ensure that we understand and anticipate changes inside the joint SOF community and adjust our training pipelines accordingly to produce graduates ready to execute the nation’s special operations immediately upon arriving to operating forces.”

Members of the Special Warfare Training Wing provide initial training for all U.S. Air Force Special Warfare training AFSCs, to include, Combat Controllers, Pararescue, Special Reconnaissance, and Tactical Air Control Party Airmen.

To learn more about SW Airmen or other U.S. Air Force Special Warfare career opportunities, go to: https://www.airforce.com/careers/in-demand-careers/special-warfare.

By 1st Lieutenant Xiaofan Liu, Special Warfare Training Wing

Lightning Challenge 2021 Showcases TACP Capabilities for the Future Fight

Thursday, October 28th, 2021


The 93d Air Ground Operations Wing hosted Lightning Challenge 2021, a world-wide Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) competition, at Camp Butner, North Carolina, Oct. 18-22, 2021.

Most people think TACP Airmen are solely responsible for communicating with pilots through a handheld radio, however Lightning Challenge demonstrated otherwise.

Teams of two TACP specialists from Air Support Operations Squadrons (ASOS) across the globe assembled at Camp Butner, North Carolina, to put their vast range of expertise to the test. They were tested through challenges of agile combat employment, physical strength, and marksmanship skill, in order to identify the most outstanding multi-capable Airmen in the world.

“The last four days have been not just grueling physical and mental tests, but it is a glimpse of what we are going to be doing in the future,” said Col Danielle Willis, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing Commander. “We know that our focus is pivoting to great power competition and what we need in the force is to have Airmen who can go out and execute.”

The TACP Weapon System does not just de-conflict, but integrates Airpower with ground force maneuver elements to achieve multi-domain superiority in combat. TACP Airmen are the critical node in the tactical implementation of Joint All-Domain Command and Control, which is necessary to prevail in future contested and congested environments.

“There is some expectation here for every single one of you [competitors], and that is what is going to happen in the near-future,” said SEAC Ramón Colón-López, Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “The reputation of America really is in your hands because your actions are going to have strategic effects…at the end of the day, you are going to be the lethal arm of everything that we do for the nation.”

Sharpening lethality was a key theme in this year’s competition, along with highlighting TACP skills, joint competencies, and geographically integrated capabilities through events fully focused on hastening adaptability, applying Dynamic Force Employment, accelerating threat-based execution from combatant command requirements and facilitating contested degraded environment operations.

“The tests this week were not just designed to challenge your physical prowess and physical strength, but your mental ability to figure out problems,” said Willis. “To think critically and to get stuff done when it needs to happen is the absolute value and heart of the TACP weapon system.”

On a larger scale, Lightning Challenge exemplified four of the five key requirements of a modern near-pear fight according to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown’s “Accelerate Change or Lose” action orders: warrior culture, credibility, capacity and capability. The capabilities displayed at Lightning Challenge prove the value of the TACP weapon system to not only the Air Force, but the joint force as a whole.

SEAC Colón-López expanded on the role of TACP in the modern near-peer fight and the advantage that TACP brings to future conflicts. “You had a great time conducting this exercise, you had a great time showing your peers on how far you are willing to go to be the best of the best, but every single one of you will get that opportunity to show the enemy exactly who they are messing with,” said Colón-López. “It will be you going forward to carry on this fight.”

This year’s champions are Staff Sgt. Benjamin Conaway and Senior Airman Seth Gaines from the 15th Air Support Operations Squadron, located at Fort Stewart, Georgia. They embody the capabilities and expertise that TACP brings to the Air Force and joint force overall. As the battlefield evolves, TACP is ready to adapt alongside it. “We know that this capability in the TACP weapon system is absolutely vital to how we are going to fight our wars in the future,” said Willis.

For more information and visuals about Lightning Challenge visit: www.dvidshub.net/feature/lightningchallenge2021

And follow us on social media at:

Instagram= @93d_agow

Facebook= @93d Air Ground Operations Wing

For information about previous year’s Lightning Challenge visit:




Story by 1st Lt Katie DuBois Tamesis, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing

Photos by SSgt Charlye Alonso

Special Warfare Training Wing Dedicates New Tactical Training Facility to Fallen Special Warfare Airman

Tuesday, October 19th, 2021


The Special Warfare Training Wing at Joint Base San Antonio dedicated their newest tactical training facility to fallen teammate Maj. Walter David Gray at the JBSA-Chapman Training Annex Oct. 8, 2021.

”We are honored and touched that the TACP community remembers him in this way,” said Maj. Gray’s oldest daughter, Nyah, when offering remarks about the event. “While we will never forget him or the example he led, it can often feel as if we are the only ones left who do remember.

“The TACP community has been so kind to us; they have put together event after event and have given us every opportunity to learn about the man they knew through the stories spread amongst the brotherhood,” she added. “We are ever thankful for their contribution to the continuance of his legacy, and are, once again, honored to be cared for so well.”

Gray, a Tactical Air Control Party air liaison officer, who was assigned to the 13th Air Support Operational Squadron at Fort Carson, Colorado, was killed in action Aug. 8, 2012, during Operation Enduring Freedom. He was killed that day by the second of two suicide bombers in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. After the first blast, Gray and his team rushed to the scene to help when the second blast went off.

“If Dave were sitting here today, he would say this is silly … and would be embarrassed that we are making such a fuss over him,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Matthew McMurtry, 353rd SW Training Squadron commander. “That’s how humble he was. So, in typical TACP fashion, let’s make a big fuss over Dave! Remember him today, celebrate him, and honor the legacy he left within our community!”

The 353rd Special Warfare Training Squadron requested the dedication of the facility and Lt. Gen. Marshall B. Webb, commander of Air Education and Training Command, approved the memorialization of the SWTW Tactical Training Facility, now the Gray Tactical Training Facility in March 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused delays in scheduling the ceremony.

“This facility is central to the migration of Special Warfare training to the JBSA-Chapman Training Annex. It’s already used extensively by our TACP candidates,” said Col. Mason R. Dula, SWTW commander. “Looking to the near future, it will enable training events for all Special Warfare candidates as our preparatory and assessment and selection courses will shift from JBSA-Lackland to JBSA-Chapman Training Annex.”

The outdoor tactical training facility is made up of an athletic field, strength and conditioning areas, sandpits and restrooms. It supports JBSA Special Warfare training, including courses of initial entry, non-prior service enlisted Pararescue, Combat Control, Special Reconnaissance, and Tactical Air Control Party students.

Additionally, it supports the Pararescue Phase II selection course and multiple Special Warfare officer courses to include Air Liaison Officer, Special Tactics Officer, and Combat Rescue Officer courses for themselves and their Guard/Reserve/prior service counterparts.

The wing commander reiterated the importance of honoring the fallen during his remarks.

“Events like these are part of the cultural bedrock of the Special Warfare community. We are committed to honoring our fallen teammates, lost in combat and training,” Dula said. “We are convinced the best way to keep them from becoming just pictures on the walls of our buildings, or names etched in stone on unit memorials, is to tell stories to do our best to keep the memories of our teammates alive in our formation.”

“While his memory lives on with us, it is an entirely different feeling altogether when others join in on our remembrance,” Nyah said. “No matter the circumstances, it always means the world to us to see that others still care, that they loved him too.

McMurtry, Gray’s best friend, spoke of the dedication it takes to become a TACP.

“Most Airmen don’t consider volunteering for TACP and attempting the 106 TACP training days. ’Dave’ completed this schoolhouse as an enlisted Airman in 1996, and became an officer, he repeated the schoolhouse and graduated a second time in 2011 with Raptor Zero One,” he said. “I’ve served 16 of my 20 years in the Air Force as a TACP, enlisted and officer. Through all the stories and the people that knew Dave, I have yet to hear someone say anything negative about him.  He was the TACP everyone wants to be!”

An Air Force Tactical Air Control Party Airman is part of Air Force Special Warfare which consists of ground combat forces specialized in airpower application across hostile, denied, or diplomatically or politically sensitive environments. Special Warfare members provide global access, precision strike, and personnel recovery capabilities across the spectrum of conflict and the multi-domain battlefield.

By Andrew C. Patterson 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

NASCAR Visits Air Force Special Warfare at Pope Army Air Field

Thursday, October 14th, 2021


NASCAR driver, Erik Jones, visits the 352nd Special Warfare Training Squadron to better understand how Special Warfare Airmen are trained and developed at Pope Army Airfield, September 29, 2021. The visit is part of the U.S. Air Force Recruiting Service’s sponsorship of Richard Petty Motorsports with a presence on the NASCAR Cup Series (NCS) No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, established early January.

“This is my first time coming around Special Warfare, I met some great men and women, here [352nd SWTS],” said Jones. “It’s cool to see the history of the program, where it started from, and how it was built into what it is today.”

The 352nd SWTS trains, mentors, and develops Special Tactics Officer (STO), Combat Control Team (CCT), and Special Reconnaissance (SR) students in foundational skills to prepare for global employment across the range of Special Warfare.

Jones toured the Chief Master Sgt. “Bull” Benini Heritage center and Museum, training facilities, and donned AFSPECWAR gear used by STOs, CCTs, and SR Airmen, to include weapons and protective vests used in combat operations.

“We’re proud to showcase the history and capabilities of the 352nd SWTS to Erik Jones,” said Maj. Nate Smith, 352nd SWTS commander. “In the SW training community we train Airmen to project Airpower for the USAF. We project our nation’s capability around the world, anytime, anyplace for global access, personnel recovery, precision strike, and humanitarian missions.”

Jones met with Human Performance Squadron strength coaches and took part in an operational-stress workout that incorporates functional fitness into SW Airmen’s fitness skillsets. Events like this combined workout and stress shoot test SW Airmen’s ability to move, shoot, and perform tactical skills in a simulated high-stress environment. It consisted of a warm-up, a five-exercise circuit followed by firing a M249 light machine gun loaded with paint-simulation rounds, and executing a simulation course of fire with an M4 and 9mm pistol for time.

“The coolest part was taking part in the physical training and shooting. Obviously the PT was tough, but just getting a small glimpse of what these guys go through in physical training, but also just getting to be part of it side-by-side with these guys was really cool,” said Jones.

Lastly, leaders, instructors, students, and Jones gathered at the fallen hero memorial outside of the squadron building to conduct memorial push-ups honoring the 11th anniversary of Senior Airman Mark Forrester’s death and other fallen SW Airmen. SrA Forester was killed in action while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Uruzgon Province, Afghanistan, September 29, 2010 and posthumously awarded a Silver Star and Purple Heart for his actions.

“We do memorial pushups as a unit together sounding off, loud and proud, to honor our fallen and remember them,” said Smith. “Jones participated in the event where we told Mark Forester’s story by reading his medal citations and telling his story to the team and students so we can always remember his legacy and sacrifice for liberty, and our nation.”

Jones will have a Special Warfare inspired paint scheme at his next race in the Superspeedway held at Talladega, Alabama, Oct. 3, 2021.

“Number one, thank you for your service,” said Jones. “It’s brutal. It’s not something every person can do. I respect anybody that gets in the [SWTW] pipeline and completes the training and comes out the other side. That’s a huge honor and something that I don’t think anyone can take lightly, so thank you.”

Additionally, AFRS will deploy the Activate: Special Warfare, a virtual reality trailer, during the race to give users an opportunity to experience an intense firefight in a deployed location between Special Warfare operators and enemy combatants. The trailer features five identical user bays, each equipped with technology for the visitors to use, that assess the user’s composure, observation, reaction and effectiveness while playing the game.

Candidates interested in learning more about U.S. Air Force Special Warfare career opportunities, can go to: www.airforce.com/careers/in-demand-careers/special-warfare.

By Nicholas J. De La Pena, Special Warfare Training Wing