Tactical Tailor

Archive for the ‘AFSW’ Category

17th STS Moves from 720th STG to 724th STG

Friday, October 2nd, 2020

The 24th SOW transitions responsibility of the 17th STS


The 24th Special Operations Wing transitioned responsibility of the 17th Special Tactics Squadron from the 720th Special Tactics Group to the 724th Special Tactics Group during a re-assignment ceremony at the 17th STS headquarters, Fort Benning, Georgia, Oct. 1, 2020.

“Today we recognize the end of a tremendous era under the 720th Special Tactics Group and the start of an exciting opportunity as part of the 724th Special Tactics Group,” said Lt. Col. Travis Deutman, commander of the 17th STS. “Reassignment is nothing new for the 17th.”

In August of 2013, the squadron, originally known as the 17th Air Operations Support Squadron, was re-designated as the 17th STS by then-Col. Robert Armfield, the 24th SOWs first wing commander. This time around, Col. Matt Allen, the current 24th SOW commander, presided over the ceremony and the presentation of the new guidon.

 “The 17th STS continues to forge its voice as one of the premiere units within Air Force Special Operations Command and the United States Air Force,” said Allen. “I want to thank the individuals within this unit who have built this legacy of honor and valor.”

The primary mission of the 17th STS is to provide Special Tactics Tactical Air Control Party Airmen to the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment for unconventional operations and the transition will provide further opportunities to continue supporting the regiment.

“We look forward to continuing steadfast fires and reconnaissance support to the Ranger mission and its objectives,” said Deutman. “Reassignment to the [724th Special Tactics Group] will realize synergies, efficiencies and unite of command to push our operational alignment with the Ranger Regiment to the next level.” 

The 724th STG is one of two subordinate groups under the 24th SOW, which provides training and technical assistance in the development of tactics, techniques, and procedures to ensure standardization across the AFSOC Special Tactics community. 

“The [17th STS] has always been part of the family, but this will put them in the right organizational construct to become even more effective,” said Col. Mark McGill, commander of the 724th STG. “It’s all about optimizing our ability to train as well as generate mission effectiveness and this is a necessary step to actualize that.”

The 17th STS is geographically separated in three locations so the unit can train and deploy alongside all five of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s 75th Ranger Regiment battalions. The squadron is headquartered at Fort Benning, Georgia, alongside the Regimental Headquarters, 3rd Ranger Battalion, Regimental Special Troops Battalion, and Regimental Military Intelligence Battalion. Two operational detachments are located at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, alongside the 1st Ranger Battalion, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, alongside the 2nd Ranger Battalion. The unit’s physical locations will remain the same through the transition. 

“While a lot might be changing, I can guarantee the commitment, professionalism and excellence of the 17th STS members will remain,” said Deutman.

Another aspect which will remain is the application process for future ST TACP candidates looking to join the 17th STS’ community of warriors. The 24th SOW will continue to host assessment and selection iterations for Special Tactics TACPs at Hurlburt Field, Florida, hand-selecting the most skilled operators to carry out the wing’s special operations precision strike mission.

“You have furthered the reach of America’s combat power,” said Allen. “You’ve held at bay violent extremist organizations and state actors as they challenge us from abroad, and you have kept a promise to Americans … especially to our joint teammates, that no matter where they are on the battlespace, they will never be outmatched.”

Air Force Special Tactics is U.S. Special Operations Command’s air-ground integration force and the Air Force’s ground force specializing in Global Access, Precision Strike, Personnel Recovery and Battlefield Surgery operations. 

For anyone wanting more information on how to join the 17th Special Tactics Squadron, email [email protected]

By Lt Alejandra Fontalvo, 24th Special Operations Wing

Quantico Tactical Announces a $950,000,000 Award for Air Force Special Warfare

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020

Aberdeen, North Carolina – September 2, 2020 – Quantico Tactical is pleased to announce the award of up to $950,000,000 as part of the United States Air Force Special Warfare – Multiple Award Contract, SW-MAC, for the Special Warfare Acquisition Group and Refresh (SWAGR) program.  The contract was approved by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center to provide a convenient contract vehicle for Air Force Special Warfare.

“We have an extensive history of supporting the U.S. Air Force with our rapid and simplified procurement processes,” said Sam Lerman, Vice President of Sales & Marketing.  “This contract award demonstrates our unwavering customer commitment and support for the varying mission requirements within Air Force Special Warfare.”

“This contract award is a result of the reputation Quantico Tactical has developed throughout the U.S. Military and federal agencies for providing on-time worldwide delivery of high-quality products from leading manufacturers.  We value our relationships with customers, suppliers, and contracting professionals,” said David Hensley, Founder and CEO.

The contract is a 10-year Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) award to provide equipment, training, and product support to approximately 3,500 Air Force Special Warfare operators, as well as authorized users in support of Special Warfare mission requirements.  The contract’s overall objective is to rapidly procure supplies, provide supply chain management, product training, and support, and integrate into larger systems in support of mission requirements.

This contract provides support in the following areas:

Assault Zones (AZ): Capabilities supporting tactical zones of action, including drop zones and fixed-wing and rotary-wing landing zones supporting the forward projection of a force by air.  AZ capabilities to be equipped under this contract include survey equipment for data collection and analysis, assessment of runway surface distress, and airfield geometrics to include obstacles and approach paths.  Also required is airfield control equipment, including airfield markings/lighting, signaling devices, airspace de-confliction tools, and navigational aids.

Fires: Equipping operators for close air support, surface-based and air-to-surface fires, communications architecture, weapons data, digital fire support, and target designation and marking.  For the contract’s purposes, this may include support to ACC-assigned Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC)s.

Weather: Equipping operators to collect, analyze, tailor, and report critical meteorological and oceanographic information.  Additional capabilities include environment analysis and forecasting, vertical atmospheric data collection, processing externally produced weather data, portable environmental observation, and unattended ground-based weather collection.

Personnel Recovery (PR): Equipping Pararescue Jumpers to prepare, recover, and reintegrate isolated personnel.  PR capabilities include, but are not limited to, PR information management, locating survivors, rescue and recovery tools, analyzing environmental conditions, mass casualty management, recovery support, and reintegration.  For the contract’s purposes, this includes the Guardian Angle Mission.

Enabling Capabilities: Common across all mission sets and career fields; include mission management, friendly force detection, geo-locating and range finding, visual augmentation, communications, unmanned capabilities, infiltration/exfiltration, and enhanced training.

Fail Forward: Lessons Learned from a Career AF Special Tactics Operator

Monday, September 7th, 2020


Editor’s note: This commentary was written by a career Air Force Special Tactics operator and expresses his personal opinions based on his experiences. 

In the Air Force Special Tactics community, we live our lives by certain immutable truths. You may have heard of them – “SOF forces cannot be mass produced”, “Slow is smooth; smooth is fast”, “Two is one; one is none.”

To the initiated, these (and many more) are repeated so often that you learn to recite them without even blinking. They become part of your own self-talking training, in mission preparation and in combat. Almost like a mantra, you find yourself repeating these things to yourself. “Calm down – when we break the plane of the door, go opposite the guy in front of you. Watch your muzzle. Protect the team. Bleeding, airway, get them out. De-conflict fires from friendly positions. Sights, slack out, press. Be aggressive.”

After nearly two decades in the Air Force, I have trained, tried and failed so many times that I’ve accumulated a near endless stream of consciousness that is simultaneously conscious and muscle memory. All of these lessons- hard learned and through both failure and victory- came to light during the After Action Report process. We commonly refer to the information gleaned in these sessions as “lessons learned”. Get done with the mission, take care of weapons, sensitive items, and reset. Then, when everything is fresh in your mind, explore what was good, bad, ugly and perfect. Formalize those lessons and most importantly, don’t allow the same mistakes you made last time.

I value that process. A saying I’ve gotten used to using is that “Our [standard operating procedures] are written in blood.” Meaning- we have lost many, and we owe it to those men and women to make ourselves better, every single rep. I’d like to share my three ‘“lessons learned”. I won’t claim to be an expert. What I can say, is that I wish someone would have taken me aside as a younger Airman and told me these things. If anything, I hope that my failures and missteps can help someone avoid my mistakes.

Failure is always an option.

While I understand the intent behind the cliché phrase, “Failure is not an option”, it’s simply false. I have failed many times in my career. I’ll fail many more. I expect my team to fail. In training and unfortunately, in combat. I wish it was different. If it was, I would have friends back, less regrets, less “I wish that day didn’t go like that” statements in my life.

In the end, you must try to avoid failure; but at the same time you have to accept and strive to train so close to your limit that sometimes you fall short. You must test and sometimes exceed your limits to know what your limits are. And sometimes you’ll fail.

What’s my lesson learned? How you lead through failure is far more valuable to me and my teams than a perfect run. How we deal with failure, with tragedy, with heartbreak and boredom and disillusionment and being unmotivated- in those times we find out what our mettle really is. If you’re going to fail, make it count. Learn from it. Avoid that failure in the future, and don’t be afraid to fail. Always learn, always grow … and always continue to push your limits for the better.

You can still be unique and part of a highly functioning team.

Air Force Special Tactics attracts the widest range of all personality types, hands down. We actually select out for individuals, capable of making individual decisions that further the mission of the team, the squadrons and entire organizations.

Tree hugging, slack lining, hackey sack playing ‘hippies’. Death metal listening, big weight moving, aggressive hyper alpha males. Quiet graduates of Ivy League schools that have diverse stock portfolios. Ultra long distance runners. Powerlifters that hate cardio. Guys and gals that sold everything they own and lived in their van prior to joining and becoming part of the ST team. We value ALL of these personalities.

Often times, people have approached me and said, “I don’t feel like I fit in” or even worse, “I’m not getting along with so and so- we are so different.”

On my first deployment, I was in exactly such a scenario. I attended two weeks worth of training with a fellow operator; we just couldn’t get along. It got heated multiple times. Months after the initial training, a very wise Team Leader of mine called me out when I was lamenting my interactions with that other operator.

He drew a small box, about 3 inches by 3 inches wide on a huge whiteboard. He then drew two dots, in opposing corners.

“So,” he said, “You’re these two dots. Couldn’t be further apart. Diametrically opposed, yeah?”

I don’t remember my exact response, but it was a pretty solid, “Exactly.”

“That box you’re both in contains all the people that have volunteered multiple times and have wanted nothing more than to support and defend the Constitution and have willingly accepted the possibility they might die doing so. Outside of this box, the entire 15 foot by 5 foot white board, represents the rest of humanity. You have more in common with this person you dislike for no good reason than you do with 99.9% of humanity. Maybe grow up.” 

What’s my lesson learned? It’s ok to be yourself and to be a valued member of Special Tactics. Whether it’s as an operator, Combat Mission Support, a surgeon on a Special Operations Surgical Team, a First Sergeant, a chaplain- we all make the team of professionals we have today, together. We value and foster our differences. Embrace that and don’t let a preconceived notion about someone else- or even worse, yourself- get in the way of what’s important. The team. The mission.

Keep an even keel.

I was about six months out of completing my two plus year training requirements to earn my beret. We were doing some training, but got the call that a Philippine sailor was gravely ill at sea, and I was going to be part of the rescue team to go get him. After multiple mid-air refuelings, I was hoisted from an HH-60 onto a moving super tanker, assessed and stabilized my patient, packaged him in a litter and we were both hoisted back up. I then cared for my patient until we transferred care to a waiting team in Ireland, about 4-5 more hours in the aircraft. My patient lived.

The sense of pride and accomplishment I had was undeniable. It was a lifetime of effort justified in one 24-hour period. The rescue was given an award that year.

Fast forward to 2015, somewhere in a combat environment.

In support of a huge operation, my team learned that a U.S. Army special forces soldier had been severely wounded by small arms fire. We immediately transferred him to the far-forward operating room- which was just a building close to the fighting- and the surgeons did everything they could do. Unfortunately, it was just one of those ‘perfect’ wounds that was unsurvivable.

My close friend and element leader and I knew what had to be done. We had to prepare this fallen soldier for his Angel Flight and it had to happen before his team came back. We placed the flag appropriately and did everything we could to honor him.

That event haunts me to this day. I can still feel that emotion and smell those smells when I think about it. I told the trauma surgeon at the time, “I think this one might have really done some damage. I’m not real sure how many more of those I got left.” I have never been so devastated; the whole team took it very, very hard.

What’s my lesson learned? This career- this life- holds the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. In order to be successful, you can’t swing too hard in either direction. hubris and complacency lies on one end of the spectrum; inescapable darkness lies on the other end. It’s not advisable to spend too much time at either end.

As it stands, I’m still learning now. While my team position has changed, so have I. Some pitfalls I can avoid thanks to a lifetime of “lessons learned”, but the reality is, there are still more to learn. More importantly, the only way we can move forward as an entire enterprise is to share these lessons learned with one another and learn from each other. Good, bad, ugly, perfect.

There is no better job in the Department of Defense than Air Force Special Tactics, I firmly believe that.

But even if you find yourself in a different career, branch, command, profession- I hope that you’re taking your own “lessons learned” and making yourself a better human, citizen, or member of your team.

“First There, That Others May Live.”

Commentary by Special Tactics operator, 24th Special Operations Wing, 24th Special Operations Wing

Photo by TSgt Sandra Welch

Female Aviator Joins Special Tactics Leadership Team

Sunday, September 6th, 2020

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. — Air Force Special Operations Command’s 2020 Strategic Guidance called for a change in developing and providing unique capabilities valuable to the broader joint force while remaining an integral part of the joint special operations forces team.

Those priorities brought an aviation background into the Special Tactics ranks.

Earlier this summer, U.S. Air Force Col. Allison Black made history as she joined the Special Tactics leadership team and became the vice commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing.

“With any leadership team, you want to have people that cover each other’s blind spots and are able to bring the best out of the organization,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Matt Allen, commander of the 24th SOW. “Not only does Col. Black have a rich history as an aircrew member within AFSOC, but she also has key insights working on staffs within U.S. Special Operations Command and she is a female colonel, which provides really good insight as we look at our diversity and inclusion aspects of the force to make sure that we’re making good organizational decisions on bringing in the first wave of female operators onto the line.”

Black’s commissioned background entails being a navigator on the AC-130H Spectre gunship. She was known as “The Angel of Death” as she was the first female Spectre navigator in combat operations during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.

“When I was in Afghanistan, she was certainly popular because she was the only female voice you would hear when you’re out in the field as a [joint terminal attack controller],” said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Jeff Guilmain, former command chief of the 24th SOW.

Black credits working on the gunships supporting the ground forces, to her gaining a better understanding of the Special Tactics community and their mission.

“When you talk about diversity of thought, I think it’s great having an individual come in with a long standing, very successful career in AFSOC, who has been around Special Tactics and worked with us as joint partners forward in Afghanistan directly in the fight,” said Guilmain. “It’s powerful to have her experience as an outsider looking at us both operationally and in garrison to help us look at hard problems to build the force of the future.”

When asked how she felt toward this milestone position, Black said she was “honored, humbled and little-kid excited.”

“It’s a great honor to serve the Special Tactics community as their vice wing commander,” said Black. “I’m now a direct part of the machine that I’ve directly supported my entire aviation career from the air. I couldn’t ask for a better teammate than Col. Matt Allen. He’s a dedicated leader and consummate professional who deeply cares about our people. As Col. Allen’s vice, it’s my role to follow his lead and drive the organization toward a successful future.”

The Long Island, New York, native enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1992, originally expecting a job in radiology.

Little did Black know what the next 28 years would entail.

During the first week of basic military training, all of the flights were briefed on what is now called Special Warfare career fields. Survival, evasion, resistance and escape caught Black’s attention – a predominantly male career field.

SERE specialists train Airmen on how to survive in the most hostile and remote environments.

“For me, overall, it was the challenge,” Black said. “As hard as it was going to be, I just wasn’t going to quit.”

Breaking through barriers, Black graduated and became a SERE specialist where she excelled for the next six years.

In 1998, Black sought out yet another challenge and commissioned through Officer Training School and became a navigator on the AC-130H Spectre gunship with the 16th Special Operations Squadron, which landed her at Hurlburt Field in early 2000 where she would remain for the next decade.

As a navigator, now known as a combat systems officer, Black acted as the eyes for the ground forces below her. In communication with Special Tactics operators, Black also assisted bringing airpower down on the enemy.

As Black advanced through the ranks, she took a brief break from the AFSOC community and headed on to be the Chief of the Operational Integrated Communications Team at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, from 2010-2012.

She quickly returned to Hurlburt Field and was integrated as the Director of Operations into the 319th Special Operations Squadron, an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance unit that operates U-28s, which she later commanded from 2015-2017.

Black then moved to USSOCOM headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, before returning to Hurlburt Field as the vice commander for the 24th SOW.

Black’s unique background, involving SERE and navigating a gunship, has left her with an extraordinary knowledge set to bring to the Special Tactics community.

“Let’s just make a difference. Let’s exploit what I have learned throughout my career on operations, risk management, and regulations,” Black said. “Let’s uncover all of that and let’s roll up our sleeves and use that to make our community stronger and more effective. Let’s exploit technology and work to define what the future holds. We need to determine what niche capabilities our current Special Tactics force must bring to the future fight.”

Black is hopeful that her presence makes a difference and inspires others to “work hard and continue to take the risk to try.”

“I hope that my perspective makes our team stronger,” Black said. “Even though I look different than most of our force… and even though I don’t wear a beret, I’m confident that my background in AFSOC, and in the Air Force, will be seen as a positive.”

By SSgt Rachel Williams, 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

17th Special Tactics Squadron Surpasses 6,900 Days in Combat in Middle East

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020


In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks which marked the beginning of the Global War on Terrorism, U.S. service members saw an increased spike in deployments that has ultimately sustained its high tempo for nearly two decades.

For the men and women of the 17th Special Tactics Squadron, since their initial response to the GWOT in October 2001, there have been no breaks in deployments and combat operations for over 6,900 days in support of Operations IRAQI FREEDOM, ENDURING FREEDOM, FREEDOM’S SENTINEL and RESOLUTE SUPPORT.

Day in and day out, members of the unit can be found scattered around the globe, bringing the fight to the enemy’s front door. These never-ending actions are one of the many that directly reflect the testament of the heritage, courage and sacrifice of the unit that can only be foreseen to continue.

“The 17th STS members have single handedly removed [thousands] of [high value targets] from the battlefield and therefore severely degraded terrorist networks that pose a threat to U.S. interest,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Travis Deutman, the commander of the 17th STS. “Most importantly, our operators are consistently providing desperately needed close air support at the most critical times in combat, while also coordinating insertion, extraction, and medical and casualty evacuation lift for critically wounded teammates.”

The 17th STS is unique within the Air Force Special Tactics community in several ways.

The squadron, instead of residing in one location, is geographically separated in three locations so that the unit can train and deploy alongside all five of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s 75th Ranger Regiment battalions. Headquartered at Fort Benning, Georgia, alongside the Regimental Headquarters, 3rd Ranger Battalion, Regimental Special Troops Battalion, and Regimental Military Intelligence Battalion. Two operational detachments are located at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, alongside the 1st Ranger Battalion, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, alongside the 2nd Ranger Battalion.

Consisting of primarily tactical air control party Airmen, the unit’s primary mission is to provide Air Force Special Operations Command’s Special Tactics TACPs to the 75th Ranger Regiment, pairing the Department of Defense’s most lethal joint terminal attack controllers with the most premiere direct-action raid force. Essentially, the 17th STS operators are directing precision strike munitions and delivering destructive ordnance on enemy targets in support of the Ranger ground scheme of maneuver.

Aside from TACPs, the unit also provides special reconnaissance Airmen, combat controllers, Special Tactics officers and combat mission support Airmen to the 75th Ranger Regiment to enhance its precision strike and global access capabilities.

“No other unit in the [United States Air Force] offers the opportunity to close with and destroy enemies of the United States like those of us selected to support the Ranger Regiment,” said an ST TACP operator with the 17th STS. “The Ranger Regiment is its own legend-generator and the opportunity to serve alongside one of the most lethal light infantry forces on earth is humbling.”

The bond between the 17th STS and the 75th Ranger Regiment is inimitable due to the respective units being geographically located together and conducting entire training cycles with the exact team that they will be deploying with.

“The 17th STS promotes what I would argue is the foremost example of joint service relationships,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Aaron Inch, an ST TACP operator with the 17th STS. “This unit has an extremely proud lineage and comes with the responsibility for each member to uphold and/or surpass the standard that has been set by those before us.”

With ongoing involvement in combat comes valor, and the Special Tactics community has just that. It is the most highly decorated community in the Air Force since the end of the Vietnam War with the 17th STS having a large hand in that statistic, seeing its members receive more than 80 high valor medals for courageous actions in combat.

“The foundation of this unit is the heritage of warriors that distinguished themselves in combat before we walked these halls,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Steve Reedy, the 17th STS operations superintendent. “Every member of this organization earns their right to be a member every day in keeping with that heritage.”

One of the latest examples of recognition that the 17th STS has been awarded was in April 2019 when U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cam Kelsch, an ST TACP operator with the 17th STS, was awarded the Silver Star Medal for actions while deployed with the 75th Ranger Regiment to Afghanistan in 2018. With this presentation, Kelsch became the first TACP to be awarded a Silver Star for actions in combat during the last seven years.

“Getting to lead people for whom undertaking such dangerous missions are just another day is inexplicable,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Evan Serpa, the 17th STS Senior Enlisted Leader.

For the quiet professionals of this prestigious squadron, it is common to hear throughout the unit for one operator’s battlefield successes to be credited to his entire team. They spend days, weeks, and months training alongside each other to forge trust and competency to take downrange.

“The training that we provide simply adds different layers and different [tactics, techniques, and procedures], seeing that the Ranger Regiment conducts operations in a very specific way,” said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Evan Patoray, 17th STS, Detachment 2 flight commander. “All of our training is fast paced and complex, and although the basics do not change, the level and repetition at which we do the basics is what sets us apart. As a team, we push each other beyond what we have all seen in combat. We do this because we understand that if this training does not save their own life, it will allow them to save the lives of the Rangers around them.”

The physical and mental challenges the operators undergo for at least 275 days out of the year equips them for the demanding environment they will face downrange.

“Technical competency matters, professionalism matters, but your mental fortitude and intellectual flexibility might be the most important attributes,” said an ST TACP operator with the 17th STS. “The training to get here and working with [the Ranger Regiment] prepares you for the realities of combat.”

The high-speed operations tempo can be brutal and toxic to the operator and their home life if they do not have the proper training and decompression time, according to U.S Air Force Staff Sgt. Ryan Duhon, an ST TACP operator with the 17th STS.

The Special Tactics Airmen aren’t alone with their sacrifices; their families have also sacrificed immensely for over 6,900 days in support of their loved ones. They’ve missed birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, and much more, to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

“A lot of personal sacrifice has to happen to make a unit like this one so effective and professional,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Ferguson, squadron flight chief. “We do not take breaks. We operate alongside our 75th [Ranger Regiment] brothers.”

In order to be welcomed into the Special Tactics community, aspiring conventional TACP Airmen undergo a harrowing week-long assessment at Hurlburt Field, Florida. The assessment is designed to test the candidates limits and determine if they have what it takes to join the ranks within ST. Candidates are then are hand-selected into the 17th STS.

“The team will push you to be the best version of yourself on and off the battlefield,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joey Hauser, an ST TACP operator with the 17th STS. “The missions you will be of have impact felt at a national strategic level, and the legacy you will be of, will be some of your proudest accomplishments in life.”

If you asked members of the 17th STS what it means to be a part of the combat-proven unit, one common answer would stand out – humbling.

“We fight, bleed and laugh beside [the Rangers]. We win as a team or fail as a team,” said Duhon. “When we are downrange, there is no deviation or segregation between Air Force and Army. We are one team fighting daily together to overcome adversaries.”

For anyone wanting more information on how to join the 17th Special Tactics Squadron, email [email protected]

Story by SSgt Rachel Williams, 24th Special Operations Wing

Photos by TSgt Sandra Welch and SrA Rachel Yates

Fifteenth Air Force Activates, Consolidates Air Combat Comand’s Conventional Forces – Includes Significant Amount of AF Ground Forces

Saturday, August 29th, 2020


Fifteenth Air Force activated Aug. 20, integrating wings and direct reporting units from Twelfth Air Force and Ninth Air Force to form a new Numbered Air Force responsible for generating and presenting Air Combat Command’s conventional forces.

ACC’s conventional capabilities include fighter, remotely piloted aircraft, command and control, and rescue flying units plus Air-Ground Operations Airmen who integrate Air Force capabilities in combined arms operations, the Air Force’s dedicated base defense group, RED HORSE, or Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operations Repair Squadron Engineers, and the agile combat support units that open and operate our bases. In addition to organizing, training, and equipping ACC’s conventional forces, this new NAF will also present a deployable joint task force-capable headquarters that can provide command and control of integrated ACC forces.

“Consolidating these forces into the Fifteenth Air Force is another step toward implementing the Air Force’s new force generation construct and will enable the delivery of dynamic and agile combat airpower as directed by the National Defense Strategy,” said Gen. Mike Holmes, commander or ACC. “This reorganization will streamline and improve the way we present our conventional forces as part of the new USAF construct, while honoring our history and the dedication of our Airmen.”

Following this transition, Twelfth Air Force will focus on its component role for U.S. Southern Command as 12 AF/AFSOUTH. Meanwhile, the existing Ninth Air Force will be inactivated and U.S. Air Forces Central Command will be re-designated as 9 AF/AFCENT.

The creation of the new NAF is part of a larger force optimization effort within ACC, which began with the stand-up of Sixteenth Air Force, a dedicated information warfare NAF, last fall.

Maj. Gen. Chad Franks received the guidon from Holmes, assuming responsibility for leading the more than 45,000 Airmen assigned to the new NAF.

“When I took command of the Ninth Air Force in June 2019, I stated we would focus on getting even better, so we could continue to deliver unmatched lethal fires for our joint and coalition partners wherever it is required,” Franks said. “Through our joint task force-capable mission and the advocacy for our units, we have done that. As the Fifteenth Air Force, we will continue to progress further toward that vision and provide a lean and agile mission command and control of forces to enable us to protect, deter, and deploy against emerging threats. Thank you for allowing me the great honor to be the commander of the Fifteenth Air Force and I look forward to visiting all of the units in the near future.”

The Fifteenth Air Force was first established in 1943 as the Mediterranean theater’s air force. After World War II, it served as one of the primary NAFs in Strategic Air Command deterring Cold War Soviet aggression before transferring to Air Mobility Command in 1992 as an expeditionary task force.

No units will be physically moving and the majority of affected Airmen will not experience changes in their day-to-day operations.


By Staff Reports, Air Combat Command Public Affairs

ATAC Wins Air-to-Ground Training for Air Force

Wednesday, August 19th, 2020

Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC) to Deliver JTAC Training to Air Force Special Operators

Washington, DC — August 13, 2020 — Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC), part of the Textron Systems segment of Textron Inc (NYSE: TXT), announced today that it has been selected to provide live contract close air support (CCAS) training for Joint Terminal Air Controllers (JTACs) under the U.S. Air Force’s Combat Air Forces Contracted Air Support program.  

A team flying ATAC’s L-39 Albatros and Valkyrie Aero’s A-27 Tucano aircraft will support Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) JTAC training at numerous bases and locations throughout the continental United States.  The contract calls for approximately 900 sorties and more than 1,100 flight hours on tactical ranges annually, with flight operations commencing in the summer of 2020.  This is the first CCAS award the Air Force will grant the contracted air services industry for what could be up to 10 locations under the Combat Air Forces Contracted Air Support program.

“ATAC is proud to support the training of AFSOC JTACs, the gold-standard in their field”, said Scott Stacy, ATAC General Manager. “This work expands on ATAC’s previous air-to-ground training and positions the company for future growth in this important training area”.

The ATAC-Valkyrie team also supports JTAC training under the U.S. Navy’s Terminal Attack Controller Trainer (TACT) program, and recently completed an evolution for the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center (NAWDC) on the Fallon ranges. The ATAC-Valkyrie team was competitively selected to participate in the TACT program in April 2019.

ATAC is the global leader of tactical airborne training, having pioneered much of what are now contracted air services industry standards with a fleet of over 90 aircraft, over 60,000 flight hours, and 20 years of operating experience.  ATAC has provided a wide range of contracted air support capabilities to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) in locations world-wide, including the continental United States, Hawaii and the Western Pacific region. ATAC has helped train crews from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps and regularly operates out of as many as 25 different air bases per year.

Special Tactics Airman Awarded Silver Star Medal

Sunday, August 16th, 2020

POPE FIELD, N.C. – A Special Tactics Airman was awarded the nation’s third highest award for valor, the Silver Star Medal, during a ceremony at Pope Field, N.C., Aug. 14, 2020.

Master Sgt. John Grimesey, a Special Tactics combat controller with the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing, was recognized for his efforts in Afghanistan in 2013. He not only saved the life of a fellow special operations troop, but called in multiple airstrikes while being under attack by the enemy.

It was supposed to be a routine mission. Then again, no mission in Afghanistan in 2013 was “routine.” The objective was to clear and secure a village in Ghazni Provence to establish local Afghan police presence without the threat of opposition forces. Grimesey and his team partnered with the local Afghan police and together they set out to clear the area. Until one of the teams encountered a large band of Taliban fighters.

“Our Afghan team got separated and started to take on enemy fire,” said Grimesey. “Myself and an Army Special Forces Solider maneuvered to provide assistance and quickly found ourselves engaged with the Taliban.”

When Grimesey peered around the wall to gain situational awareness, he noticed the wounded and dead Afghan police officers, to include the police chief. It was then Grimesey was struck by a rocket propelled grenade. “I remember the ringing in my ears,” recalled Grimesey. “I knew I was concussed from the blast because of the ringing, my vision was blurry and I was fatigued.”

Despite suffering a concussion and shrapnel wounds, Grimesey was able to drag his Army Special Forces teammate away from the immediate danger zone and assess the situation. “I snapped into a problem solving mode,” he said. “The situation was dire and the only way to solve it was to rely on my extensive training and attempt to break down the large problem into small chunks. I had to prioritize with what I was being faced with.”

The Special Tactics combat controller was able to call in additional support from other Army Special Forces units, and from aircraft for close-air-support; all the while engaging in a fire fight with opposition forces. “Eventually we were able to gain control and eliminate the Taliban resistance while also finishing the mission to secure the village,” he said.

Grimesey said it was later discovered there was a Taliban training team who had made their way to the village thus drastically increasing the number of fighters they encountered.

Lt. Gen. James Slife, commander, Air Force Special Operations Command, presided over the ceremony and remarked on Grimesey’s actions.

“You may not call yourself a hero Master Sgt. Grimesey, but I do,” said Slife. “Because of your actions that day, families and friends did not experience loss. The men whose lives you saved will continue to positively impact those around them creating a chain of reaction that ripples across generations.”

“I think about it every day. I even dream about it,” reflected Grimesey. “It’s an event that left an impression on me. While it was a harrowing experience, I look back with great pride and believe that my team and I were able to save lives and help ensure the security of the village.”

Grimesey’s Silver Star Medal was upgraded from an Army Achievement Medal. During the ceremony he also received the Bronze Star Medal, second oak leaf cluster with Valor for another battle in the Middle East in 2017.

As Grimesey looks ahead to start his medical retirement process, he remembers his time in the Special Tactics community fondly, “If there are any other young men and women out there looking for a community with a sense of purpose and opportunity to make a positive impact on the world at large, they don’t have to look any further than Air Force Special Tactics.”

Special Tactics Airmen are U.S. Special Operations Command’s tactical air to ground integration force, and AFSOC’s special operations ground force, leading global access, precision strike, personnel recovery and battlefield surgery operations. Since 9/11, Special Tactics Airmen have received one Medal of Honor, 11 Air Force Crosses and 49 Silver Star Medals making Grimesey’s the 50th.

By Capt Katie Spencer