Archive for the ‘AFSW’ Category

US, NATO Forces Showcase Tactics, Integration During Astral Knight 2024

Wednesday, May 29th, 2024

GDYNIA, Poland (AFNS) —  

NATO’s exercise Astral Knight 2024 concluded May 18 in Gdynia, demonstrating joint force interoperability and strategic readiness between U.S. forces and NATO allies. The exercise allowed the incorporation of the Special Warfare Teaming Concept, involving the 2nd Air Support Operations Squadron from Vilseck, Germany; the 57th Rescue Squadron from Aviano, Italy; and members of Polish special forces.

The exercise emphasized United States Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa’s commitment to agile combat employment strategies, integrating advanced sensor technology and refining multinational tactical operations designed to enhance movement, maneuverability and security across NATO territories.

Throughout the training in Gdynia, the special warfare teams, comprising of tactical air control party members and pararescuemen, demonstrated the effectiveness of their combined operations. These operations are aimed at ensuring aircrews and Airmen are well prepared to deliver lethal combat power and conduct precise recovery operations in contested environments.

“Our presence here at Astral Knight 24 aimed to refine and test the Special Warfare Teaming strategy,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Phonchai Hansen, 2 ASOS flight chief of Alpha Flight. “By combining our TACP capabilities with the expert medical and recovery skills of the PJs, we’ve created a dynamic force capable of addressing multifaceted threat scenarios effectively.”

The exercise featured simulated, dynamic targeting missions and personnel recovery drills, during which TACPs and PJs executed coordinated responses to simulated threats. One of the scenarios included a pilot emergency ejection from an F-16 Fighting Falcon and required immediate extraction from a hostile environment, testing the cohesion and interoperability of the newly formed teams.

“The integration of TACPs and PJs into a cohesive unit allows us to leverage our respective strengths,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. John Miller, 2 ASOS flight commander of Alpha Flight. “This exercise effectively assessed the current state of Air Force Special Warfare Teaming, allowing us to inform the development of the special warfare enterprise.”

This year’s Astral Knight also focused on testing and improving joint operational tactics, involving not only U.S. forces but also enhancing cooperation with Polish military units and other NATO partners. The seamless collaboration forged stronger alliances and demonstrated NATO’s capability to defend its members against any threat.

The Special Warfare Teaming Concept not only showcased tactical abilities but also strategic foresight in preparing NATO forces for future challenges.

“The gives us the ability to operate with our NATO allies in some pretty complex scenarios,” said a PJ participant. “This greatly improves our collective security and ensures we are always ready to respond to threats swiftly and efficiently.”

The lessons learned and relationships built in Gdynia will help future NATO exercises and operations. Furthering the success of the Special Warfare Teaming Concept — marking a pivotal advancement in military operations, enhanced cooperative capabilities and strategic deployment readiness across NATO.

By Capt Jacob Murray, 86th Airlift Wing

Special Warfare Training Wing Airman wins Lance P. Sijan Leadership Award

Tuesday, May 7th, 2024


U.S. Air Force Capt. Marc Esposito, 350th Special Warfare Training Squadron flight commander, was presented with the Lance P. Sijan Award at the Pentagon, Apr. 8, 2024.

The Lance P. Sijan Leadership Award recognizes Airmen who demonstrate the highest qualities of leadership in the performance of their duties and conduct of their lives. The award is one of the U.S. Air Force’s most prestigious awards and is named after U.S. Air Force Capt. Lance P. Sijan, a Vietnam War pilot who received the Medal of Honor posthumously for his courage while evading capture and during his captivity as a prisoner of war.

“It is a tremendous honor to be personally recognized as a 2023 USAF Sijan recipient,” said Esposito. “This award to me reflects teamwork: investments from my leaders, my team’s grit, and our collective dedication to the mission. I am thankful for the constant challenge while accomplishing our mission, and thankful to be in the presence of greatness everyday.”

As a flight commander at the 350th SWTS, Esposito is responsible for AETC’s most operationally diverse flight, leading 54 active duty, civilian and contract instructors, managing a budget of $3.6M, resulting in the assessment of over 900 Airmen for entry into Air Force Special Warfare career fields.

“Captain Esposito has been instrumental in the success of the mission here at the 350th Special Warfare Training Squadron,” said Lt. Col. Robert Effler, 350th SWTS commander. “His tireless work ethic, remarkable character and experience have been key to the leadership and mentorship of his flight and the countless students that he has developed.”

Esposito entered the USAF in 2004, immediately assessing for and entering the combat control career field. Right away, the unique character and mission set of CCT spoke to Esposito.

“I was drawn to the journey being a part of high functioning teams, the adventure, the inherent dangers, and the autonomy to tackle our nation’s most complex problems that impact the course of history. It’s the kind of job I always dreamed of as a kid.”

In 2009, Esposito was caught in a firefight, simultaneously controlling close air support, and firing a machine gun while in the back of a Humvee when the vehicle hit a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan, catapulting him through the air before slamming him to the ground. Esposito was unconscious for several days before waking up at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where he was treated for extensive injuries that included severe burns, broken bones in his legs, feet and back, as well as a traumatic brain injury.

“After being blown up, my life, the teams I worked with and everything I worked for was ripped from my hands”, said Esposito. “I lost control of who I was in that instant. Going to war, I knew death was a possibility, and always something I could accept, but living with disabilities was never part of the plan. My attitude and motivation were still intact, so I refused to accept the new reality; we learn on day one in AFSPECWAR that quitting is not an option.”

After a long road to recovery spanning almost 18 months of rehabilitation and having to re-learn how to walk, Esposito was eventually declared fit for duty. It didn’t take long before the itch to do more hit once again and Esposito decided to assess for the special tactics officer career field.

“Special tactics officer selection and the combat rescue officer selection [both often referred to as Phase Two] is no joke; a snapshot of the 18-24 month pipeline the candidates will go through if selected,” said Esposito. “From the moment I was notified I’d be going, I started training deliberately for extended periods of physical stress. Already an established Combat Controller and instructor, it was actually nice to be the ‘nail’ once again and it served as a humbling reminder that regardless of who you are or what you’ve been through in AFSPECWAR, you must push yourself every day.”

After becoming a STO, Esposito remained in AETC where he became the executive to the commander of the then-new Battlefield Airmen Training Group that would set the groundwork for the future Special Warfare Training Wing. Following that assignment, he was assigned to the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, where he deployed to Korea and Germany, serving as a flight commander and operations deputy.

In 2021, Esposito transitioned to his current role as a flight commander at the 350th SWTS, where he credits his teammates with the success that they have experienced.

“What is most fulfilling is to see my team succeed in our mission and be recognized at such high levels. I am fortunate to have the some of the top distinguished leaders in AFSPECWAR embedded in my flight, where we maintain a high-trust environment. It’s a good place to be when you’re in the business of developing humans into the most effective rescue and weapons systems in the world.”

As a flight commander, Esposito has mentored and molded future Air Force Special Warfare operators while also finding time to serve the community and leading high-visibility projects. He led specialized training for military and civilian teams by establishing networks with San Antonio’s local Special Weapons and Tactics teams and the NASA buoyancy lab while also serving as the lead for a three-year, $2.3M USAF RAND study that identified actionable items for AFSPECWAR’s first-ever Assessment and Selection course for prospective candidates.

“Marc represents the best of us and it’s only fitting that he is recognized as one of the best in the Air Force,” said Col. Nathan Colunga, SWTW commander. “We are incredibly proud of all of his accomplishments that have led up to the Sijan Award and look forward to everything else he will achieve in life.”

When asked what it was like receiving the Lance P. Sijan Leadership Award, Esposito stated that it was a full-circle moment for him and his family.

“After being injured in 2009, I was pushed into the Pentagon in my wheelchair to be honored. Almost 15 years later, it was surreal to be walking in with my whole family, proudly wearing my uniform. What means a lot to me is that I can give my family this experience. In the footsteps of Lance P. Sijan, this honor carries with it a solemn pledge to continue pushing boundaries, overcoming challenges, and serving with honor and distinction. Receiving this honor is a humbling experience, knowing that it symbolizes the trust and respect of peers and superiors alike. It serves as a reminder of the responsibility to continue striving for excellence and to serve as an inspiration to others.”

If you are interested in pursuing a career in AFSPECWAR, please visit

By Special Warfare Training Wing Public Affairs

Special Warfare Training Wing

Special Warfare Training Wing Unveils Maltz Special Warfare Aquatic Training Center

Wednesday, April 17th, 2024


The Special Warfare Training Wing hosts the grand opening of the Maltz Special Warfare Aquatic Training Center at Joint Base San Antonio, Lackland-Chapman Training Annex, Apr. 2, 2024.

“This is a historic day for the Special Warfare Training Wing and the Air Force Special Warfare community as we come together to honor Master Sergeant Mike Maltz”, said U.S. Air Force Col. Nathan Colunga, SWTW commander. “Our ceremony today represents the culmination of years of work from countless individuals who turned the Maltz Special Warfare Aquatic Training Center from an idea into reality.”

The aquatic training center is named after U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Maltz, a fallen pararescueman who made the ultimate sacrifice on Mar. 23, 2003 alongside five other crewmembers of an HH-60G helicopter when it struck a mountain during an aerial refueling attempt on the way to rescue two injured children near Ghazni, Afghanistan, living up to the pararescue motto, “That Others May Live”.

Maltz enlisted in the Air Force in 1978, serving as an apprentice cable splicer before successfully cross-training into the pararescue career field. Maltz earned his maroon beret in December 1985 and was recognized as the class Honor Graduate for his superb leadership qualities and academic excellence.

“Mike was a legend in the pararescue career field, he was admired and respected by all”, said U.S. Air Force Col. Edward “Tre’” Irick, a combat rescue officer and current SWTW deputy commander. “He was the face of pararescue recruiting and became one of the most revered Indoctrination Course instructors of my generation. He forged many of the Special Warfare Airmen who prosecuted the Global War on Terror and I can personally attest to his commitment to develop Airmen because he taught me water confidence skills when I was a young lieutenant. We honor him today by continuing to share stories about his commitment to excellence as we forge the next generation of Special Warfare Airmen.”

First initiated in 2010 and championed by the 21st Chief of Staff of the Air Force, U.S. Air Force Gen. David Goldfein (ret.), construction on the Maltz Special Warfare Aquatic Training Center began in mid-2021, finishing in early 2024. The construction was a collaborative effort between the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, the Fort Worth District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the 802nd Civil Engineer Squadron, the Special Warfare Training Support Squadron and various contractors.

“We would like to thank all the stakeholders who came together to build the Maltz Special Warfare Aquatic Training Center,” said Colunga. “Your professionalism, speed, and tenacity in helping us build this facility is deeply appreciated. This facility will be used by countless Special Warfare trainees on their journeys to become Air Force Special Warfare operators.

The Maltz Special Warfare Aquatic Training Center is 76,000 square feet, consisting of two enclosed, climate-controlled indoor swimming pools of varying depths geared to meet the training needs for the Air Force’s global combat operations. The aquatic training center will also feature classrooms, restrooms, locker rooms, showers, various medical spaces for treatment and rehabilitation, and a human performance center.

“Today’s ceremony marks a major milestone towards realizing Chapman Training Annex as the home of Air Force Special Warfare training,” said Colunga. “The Maltz Special Warfare Aquatic Center will undoubtedly be a force multiplier in our mission set, and it is only fitting that all of our trainees who will come through this facility must aim to live up to the character of Mike Maltz.”  

By Special Warfare Training Wing Public Affairs

Special Warfare Training Wing

Dedication Ceremony Honors SrA Daniel Sanchez

Sunday, April 14th, 2024


Members of the Special Tactics community past and present, and the family of Senior Airman Danny Sanchez gathered for a dedication ceremony of the Special Tactics Training Squadron Schroeder Building auditorium, Apr. 8.

The 720th Special Tactics Group commander, Col. Matthew Psilos, presided over the ceremony.

“This dedication ensures Danny will never be forgotten and that we will always keep his family close,” said Psilos. “He chose to stand between the enemy and all the people he loves and respects, and every American citizen that day.”

Sanchez was killed-in-action in the vicinity of Kajran District, Afghanistan, when his team came under enemy insurgent fire within the Afghan National Army partner force. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with Valor while engaged in ground combat from Aug. 4, 2010, to Sept. 16, 2010.

A large plaque donning his scarlet beret, Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals, and name were unveiled before Special Tactics leaders, and friends and family members of Sanchez, including his mother and half-brother.

“It is a duty and privilege to honor his sacrifices,” said Psilos. “May the next generation understand that obligation and carry it on for years to come.”

A native of El Paso, Texas, Sanchez enlisted in the Air Force on Jun. 27, 2006. After graduating Basic Training, he successfully completed the Combat Control training pipeline and reported to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron. Sanchez’s military decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, Purple Heart, Air Force Combat Action Medal, and Afghanistan Campaign Medal.

By Capt Savannah Stephens, 24th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

CardoMax Energy Drink Sponsor for WEPTAC

Tuesday, January 9th, 2024

Make sure you grab your CardoMax Sample packs at WEPTAC. There will be 8 energy packets, plus a $10 gift card in every sample pack. 

Then swing by MATBOCK at table 221.


Thursday, December 28th, 2023

January 10-11 at the Nellis Club.

Developing the Next Generation of Air Force Special Warfare Cadet Programs

Tuesday, November 21st, 2023

By Headquarters Air Force A3 Air Force Special Warfare Directorate

Air Force Special Warfare (AFSPECWAR) continues to refine its academic year and summer programs to help AFROTC and USAFA cadets prepare to be Special Tactics Officers (STOs), Tactical Air Control Party Officers (TACPOs), and Combat Rescue Officers (CROs).

Now in year three, USAFA’s formalized “Special Warfare Club” (SWC) academic year materials benefit two areas — first, they are available for AFROTC Detachments to download and develop or refine their own SWC; second, they are used in the 2, two-week Special Warfare Orientation Courses (SWOC) official summer programs.

The information and exposure will help cadets prepare physically and mentally prior to attending a selection for Special Warfare, called Phase II.  The 19Z Special Warfare Officers (STO/TACPO/CRO) are the only officer specialties which require successful selection at a pre-commissioning screener to begin their respective training pipelines, according to Col. John M. Graver, individual mobilization augmentee to the director of AF/A3S Air Force Special Warfare.

“With no previous experience, many cadets do poorly, negatively impacting unit readiness. Now, we provide them a safe introduction to the events and evaluation criteria,” said Graver. “Without a formalized method to prepare, cadets have proven to develop unsafe habits.”

Currently, filling commissioning slots for the 19Z AFSC is a challenge shared by both AFROTC and USAFA.

“We want cadets to be successful. Our program includes over 30 academic and physical lesson plans, risk management, and templates to organize their SWCs, along with opportunities to learn from contracted coaches, thereby mitigating risk for Detachment commanders,” added Graver.

The last SWOC was held in June and July 2023 at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. where 80 AFROTC and USAFA cadets participated; with more than 20 cadets-in-charge and over 20 uniformed and civilian staff from USAFA, AFROTC, MAJCOMs, and Air Force and Army flying units assisting with the training.

SWOC involves over 40 events to prepare cadets for the “Phase II” pre-commissioning screener. These included land and water fitness sessions, troop leading procedures, small unit tactics, decision making, as well as planning and executing global access, precision strike, and personnel recovery missions.

Additionally, AFROTC cadets can participate in AFRS-led Special Warfare AFROTC Weekend (SWAW) events, which are conducted 8-10 times throughout the academic year at various detachments hosting these weekend events around the country.

“We want to provide interested cadets as many opportunities as possible to prepare,” said Maj. Eric Atchison, Air Force Recruiting Service. “Between these SWAW events, the 2-week SWOC opportunities in the summer, and an increased number of Special Warfare Clubs at Detachments, we can prepare as many cadets as possible to succeed as leaders in the Special Warfare community. It’s an extremely challenging and rewarding career like no other, and we are looking for the right young men and women who have what it takes to succeed, no matter the odds.”

AFROTC detachments with interest in developing or refining their cadet Special Warfare Club should expect to receive another message this fall on these opportunities, and may reach out to Maj. Atchison for additional information at

Special Warfare Training Wing: Five Years of Advancing Ground Combat Forces Training

Friday, October 20th, 2023


Five years ago, the U.S. Air Force took a significant leap forward in combat preparedness by establishing the Special Warfare Training Wing (SWTW), an evolution that addressed decades of training shortfalls and operational demands. The SWTW marked a paradigm shift, assuming control over an extensive network of squadrons and detachments. Notably, the wing superseded the former Battlefield Airman Training Group, extending its legacy of ground warfare specialization. Official establishment at JBSA-Lackland was green-lit by SECAF Heather Wilson and materialized on October 17, 2018.

The term “Battlefield Airman” had become somewhat of a misnomer, not fully encapsulating the range of expertise within the unit. The rebranding to “Special Warfare Training Wing” sought to rectify misconceptions, focusing on a collective warrior identity, irrespective of Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSCs). This new identity was also strategic, positioning the Air Force competitively in the quest for robust recruitment and aligning with joint terminology familiar within military echelons. The change acknowledged the unique needs of these Airmen, from recruitment to combat deployment.

A critical component of this new wing was the Human Performance Support Group (HPSG), tasked with optimizing the ‘human weapon system.’ “Much like the wing, this group is one of a kind and was built upon the lessons of two decades of sustained combat operations,” said Col. Nathan Colunga, Special Warfare Training Wing commander. “The Air Force acknowledged that the harsh nature of ground combat requires a level of care for Special Warfare Airmen not unlike that of high-end weapons systems across our force.” The HPSG provides research, development, testing and evaluation of human performance techniques and tools that can translate into the operational community and more broadly, the rest of the Department of Defense.

Senior Master Sgt. Gregory Navickas, Human Performance Support Group senior enlisted leader, emphasized the power of this integrated approach. The group’s success, according to Navickas, is due to its expert staff, who are “committed to the mission” and excel in their respective fields. Its multidisciplinary team, encompassing medical professionals, physical therapists, coaches, nutritionists, dieticians, and additional combat support staff, who work cohesively across the training enterprise. Their unified vision transcends traditional roles, working collaboratively to preemptively address issues before they escalate. This holistic approach ensures Airmen are comprehensively prepared for combat and receive thorough care afterward, extending into post-military life.

A poignant moment in the young wing’s existence, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Medina Training Annex was officially renamed Chapman Training Annex in March 2020. It is now a tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of Medal of Honor recipient Master Sgt. John A. Chapman, an Air Force combat controller who gave his life fighting to save his teammates’ lives in Afghanistan in 2002. This annex was the beginning of establishing San Antonio, Texas as the “Home of Air Force Special Warfare.” Since making Chapman home, the wing has developed and begun an expansive campus plan that includes the Senior Airman Bradley Smith fitness facility, Forbes Hall renovations, and a monumental new aquatic training center scheduled to open in Spring 2024.

Now five years old, the wing has shown profound progress. “We have attained more consistency and efficiency in the pipeline’” said Michael Delsoldato, Special Warfare Training wing historian. “What we are training our Airmen to do has inherent dangers both in training and in the real world. Although there is always room to improve, the creation of the wing allows full concentration on the holistic production of the Airmen.”  

As warfare evolves in the face of rapid technological advancements, the SWTW stands as a testament to the Air Force’s commitment to adaptability and the continuous pursuit of combat excellence. Its establishment not only signifies the evolution of specialized combat training but also underscores the irreplaceable value of human resilience and adaptability in modern warfare.

“Our mission is the same,” Colunga says. “Prepare these Airmen for the physical and psychological load of close combat. This mission is simply stated, yet as I’ve witnessed, difficult to execute. This load is not theoretical, it is real, well established, and these Airmen make a professional choice to shoulder it. And in doing so they accept the personal risk and sacrifice that goes with it. Therefore, we must prepare them and care for them accordingly – and that is the charge of the Special Warfare Training Wing.”

By Jennifer Gangemi, Special Warfare Training Wing