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Archive for the ‘AFSW’ Category

Fall 2022 Special Operations Center for Medical Integration and Development

Tuesday, November 29th, 2022


U.S. Air Force Pararescuemen executed the Fall 2022 Special Operations Center for Medical Integration and Development culminating field training exercise in Birmingham, Alabama, Nov. 17, 2022. 

Training provided the pararescuemen various controlled scenarios to enhance medical readiness, whether in day-to-day operations or in austere, resource-limited locations.

The culminating FTX was the capstone to a two-week-long certification course where students applied skills learned in civilian hospital care to tactical scenarios.

SOCMID is embedded with the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital. Their vision is to establish the premier trauma skills, sustainment and recertification platform for pararescuemen and Special Operations Independent Duty Medical Technicians. 

The partnership with UAB Hospital is beneficial to students as it is a level one trauma center, allowing them to conduct clinical rotations in operating and emergency rooms. 

“The civilian-military partnerships are important to our sustainment program,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Clayton Rabens, 24th Special Operations Wing command surgeon. “Some of these skills are perishable, so having partnerships like we do with UAB allows us to replicate scenarios and solve problems hands-on, then apply them to tactical scenarios for students to practice.” 

Some of the other training was completed with virtual reality headsets. Specific VR training helps students refine cognitive skills in approaching medical problem sets.

Additionally, prolonged casualty care scenarios allowed pararescue teams to work through casualty care with new skillsets learned while attending SOCMID real-time with wounded mannequins. 

“We want to ensure they’re prepared to meet real-world missions,” added Rabens. “The high stress environment they encounter during the FTX ensures we are able to meet that goal.” 

By 1st Lt Victor Reyes, 24 SOW Public Affairs

“Force Plate Vertical Jump Scans are Not a Valid Proxy for Physical Fitness in US Special Warfare Trainees”

Sunday, November 27th, 2022

Members of the Air Force Special Warfare Human Performance Support Group’s Research Flight recently published an article in a peer-reviewed journal, “Force plate vertical jump scans are not a valid proxy for physical fitness in US special warfare trainees.”

The Research Flight is the only embedded research team in the DoD, tasked with supporting the Special Warfare Training Wing with data driven decisions to identify trends, maximize the effectiveness and reduce injuries within the pipeline.

Read the full article here.

New Air Force Combat Dive Badges Approved

Wednesday, October 19th, 2022


Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. approved new Air Force combat dive badges and associated wear criteria for Airmen who have been wearing the Navy scuba badge.

Airmen who have graduated the Air Force Combat Dive Course are now authorized to wear the new Air Force-specific qualification badges for divers and diver supervisors as soon as they become available in Army and Air Force Exchange Service stores. 

“Air Force combat divers are essential to both combat and austere rescue situations,” said Maj. Gen. Charles Corcoran, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations. “Having our own service-specific qualification badge accurately represents our unique capability to augment missions with any sister service component, and most importantly, highlights our member’s heroic actions to conduct rescue and retrieval operations to ensure no one gets left behind.”

The Air Force Combat Dive Course was established in January 2006 at Naval Support Activity Panama City, Florida. Prior to the establishment of the AFCDC, Air Force personnel had to attend the U.S. Army Combat Diver Qualification Course or U.S. Marine Combat Diver Course to earn combat diver qualifications.

Upon graduation, graduates were awarded the Navy Scuba qualification and badge, even though the Navy-designed badge does not accurately represent Air Force combat diver capabilities.

The Air Force Combat Diver badge is pictured. (U.S. Air Force graphic)

The Combat Dive Supervisor badge is pictured. (U.S. Air Force graphic)

“Navy scuba divers are trained for submarine and salvage diving,” said Senior Master Sgt. Christopher Uriarte, Air Force Command Dive Program manager and diver. “In contrast, U.S. Air Force combat divers are trained in the fundamentals of underwater tactical diving for insertion, extraction, and maritime rescue and recovery operations.”

These fundamentally different qualifications drove the requirement to establish a separate and distinct qualification badge for Air Force members and follows the precedent of other military branches replacing the Navy scuba badge with their own.

The new badges were developed by 350th Special Warfare Training Squadron Detachment 1 personnel. Two levels are authorized: Air Force Combat Diver, with a closed-circuit rebreather and Air Force Combat Dive Supervisor, identified by a traditional star and wreath on the badge, positioned on the rebreather.

Eligibility for wear of the respective badges is approved for graduates, both officer and enlisted, who have completed a Combat Diver or Combat Dive Supervisor course authorized in accordance with AFI 10-3504, Air Force Dive Program, paragraph 3.7.

The Air Force combat dive badges will be worn in accordance with AFI 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel, guidance for wear of Miscellaneous Badges.

The textile badges are expected to be available in AAFES by the end of October 2022. The metal badges are currently in pre-production development.

Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

Special Warfare Training Wing Strengthens Inclusion

Friday, September 16th, 2022

Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. —  

Those who go to war together must live and train together, according to the philosophy behind the Air Force’s Special Warfare Training Wing here, which prepares operational Airmen in seven career specialties.

Modified facilities were built at the SWTW to ensure appropriate levels of privacy for mixed-sex cohorts of trainees at the Special Warfare Candidate Course, the course of initial entry for those who want to become Air Force Special Warfare Airmen.

These mixed-sex facilities include open-bay dormitories where male and female trainees bunk together, equipped with specially designed mixed-sex locker areas to incorporate individual shower rooms and restrooms with privacy for each trainee.

 “Fostering an environment of inclusion is an imperative for the SWTW,” said Col. Nathan Colunga, SWTW commander. “The mixed-sex facilities built at our candidate course, where we first welcome Special Warfare Airmen, are only the beginning for the SWTW. The larger strategy is to build mixed-sex facilities throughout the entirety of the SWTW footprint, across the nation where every trainee, regardless of gender, is afforded the same level of privacy.”

In 2015, the U.S. Air Force began the process of integrating women into the AFSPECWAR career fields previously closed to them. The construction of the mixed sex facilities marks a positive step in the wing’s progress.

For Air Education and Training Command and 2nd Air Force, the process of broadening the pool of recruits for instructors and trainees in the Air Force’s technical-training pipelines is a top priority.

“We continuously struggle to recruit enough people who have the potential to meet our standards in Air Force Special Warfare,” said Maj. Gen. Michele Edmondson, 2nd Air Force commander, who oversees basic military training and the majority of non-flying technical training for AETC.

“I want to leave no stone unturned,” she said.  “We need to be more deliberate about bringing in anyone who has the propensity to serve in these career fields and meets the standards it takes to graduate.”

The SWTW has graduated five female AFSPECWAR Airmen to date and continues to see the benefits of the mixed-sex integration efforts. There are currently two female trainees in the SWTW pipelines and continued efforts to fully integrate facilities for all sexes will ensure further diversity, inclusion and integration.

One of those graduates is Capt. Lauren Laffosse, a tactical air control party officer who is currently the chief of force integration at 2nd Air Force.

“My focus is not just on women in the special warfare pipelines,” said Laffosse. “I look at all under-represented groups and my job is to help remove barriers and ensure equitable processes across all career fields trained in 2nd Air Force.”

Laffosse participates first-hand in training courses to discover ways to make instructor and training opportunities available to a wider range of potential recruits.

“I go into training environments alongside students to observe and experience things personally,” she said.  “My experience as a TACP enables me to understand the operational and training requirements so that we’re not changing the standards.”

One example Laffosse cited was a lack of female restrooms or changing areas in facilities where AFSPECWAR candidates train, something the SWTW is working to rectify.

“We need to negate the unintentional barriers that prevent people from being on the team,” said Edmondson. “I believe it is a national imperative that we look at the future fight and ensure we have the right operators available to be able to assemble the proper team required to meet an evolving mission set that looks different in the future than it has in the past.

“If we don’t appeal to all demographics to join these career-fields, we are missing a huge portion of the available talent our nation has to offer,” she said. “We need to entice anyone who can meet the community’s standards.”

For the SWTW, the future of training will be completely mixed-sex integrated.

The SWTW aquatics training center set for completion in August 2023 will be fully equipped for mixed-sex training. When complete, the $66.6M aquatics training center will accommodate training for more than 3,000 AFSPECWAR trainees annually by incorporating a full range of special operations training scenarios.

The 76,000 square-foot center will feature mixed-sex restrooms, locker rooms, and showers, as well as two enclosed climate-controlled indoor pools of varying depths geared to meet the training needs for the Air Force’s global combat operations.

 “The foundation we set today at the SWTW will produce the operators of the future who will compete, deter, and win the future high-end fight against peer and near-peer adversaries,” said Colunga. “We must ensure that these operators, who begin their careers in our pipelines, are able to reach their full potential and are not limited by the barriers of the past to then form the lethal and inclusive APFSPECWAR teams we need.”

Members of SWTW provide initial training for all U.S. Air Force Special Warfare training specialties, to include combat controllers, pararescue, special reconnaissance and tactical air control party Airmen.

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

By 1st Lieutenant Xiaofan Liu

Special Warfare Training Wing

How the New Special Warfare Branch at Air Force Recruiting Service is Making a Difference

Thursday, September 8th, 2022


Historically, recruiting Airmen for Special Warfare career fields has been as tough as the Airmen who fill its ranks. So when Air Force Recruiting Service entered fiscal 2022, it organized a team in its Operations division here to inspire, engage and recruit future SW Airmen.

That team, called the SW branch, is reporting some progress despite headwinds that have characterized one of the toughest recruiting years in Air Force history for all career fields.

The selection process and relatively small size of the Air Force Special Warfare community compared to other career fields make members an elite class of warriors. So AFSPECWAR is lesser known compared to its counterparts in the Army, Navy and Marine Corps.

“We needed to share the story of our community, its feats of heroism and no longer be ‘quiet professionals’,” said Lt. Col. Joe Lopez, SW branch chief. The former Army Ranger and current Air Force combat rescue officer by trade, designed the 2022 plan to recruit aspiring Airmen for AFSPECWAR from within the Air Force as well as non-prior service future Airmen.

Unlike most branches at the AFRS headquarters, SW branch members visited universities and military installations where they met with all demographics while local Air Force recruiters focused on traditional recruiting methods. Overall, SW branch is searching for people with grit and determination who have the aptitude, mentality and physicality to endure the requirements of entering the SW career fields.

Those career opportunities include Combat Rescue, Special Tactics, and Tactical Air Control Party officer career fields as well as Pararescue, Combat Control, Special Reconnaissance, and Tactical Air Control Party enlisted career fields. In addition, the branch also supports recruitment for enabler Air Force Specialty Codes such as Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape, along with Explosive Ordnance Disposal enlisted career fields.

Specific to enlisted career fields, qualified applicants will enter the Special Warfare Operator Enlistment vectoring program designed in 2020 to streamline the enlistment process. This begins in the pre-accession phase where recruiting development teams identify potential SW candidates and begin the process to prepare them for the rigors of the Special Warfare training pipeline and later, their designated career field.

AFRS and the AFSPECWAR community aim to create a competitive model in the SWOE “Development Pool” where interested civilians strive to be sufficiently mentally and physically fit so they can be the next AFSPECWAR operators.

Part of the need and desire to move out more aggressively than before is because the Air Force has struggled to meet its goal for enlisted and officer ranks in AFSPECWAR.

“The intent of these outreach efforts is to establish rapport with interested applicants, give them insight on how to train smartly, and expose them with introductions to some of the physical challenges that they may experience while being screened and assessed so they’re better prepared mentally to overcome adversity during those trying times,” Lopez said. “All too often, we hear ‘I didn’t know the Air Force had this capability,’ so we are working to inspire, connect, develop and recruit future candidates into AFSPECWAR before they ship to Basic Military Training.”

Lopez’s team includes veteran recruiters who are familiar with the challenges of recruiting SW Airmen. “Recruiting special warfare Airmen for the Air Force is very difficult, because most civilians have only heard about Navy SEALs and Green Berets,” said Master Sgt. Kenneth Babb, SW branch superintendent and former SW recruiting flight chief. “Few have ever heard about this very small community of elite warriors inside the Air Force. We know that there are people out there who want to serve in the military as a ground combatant and we need them to know that there are opportunities for them in the Air Force.”

Circumstances dictated the need for a new, innovative approach and plan that synchronized the worldwide effort to recruit SW Airmen.

“This is the very reason AFRS stood SW branch up and we hit the ground running,” Lopez said. “In our first year alone, we engaged with almost 1,300 cadets in 42 different Air Force ROTC detachments to recruit potential special warfare officers,”

The SW branch also visited 10 different Air Force bases and met with more than 200 Airmen to conduct in-service recruiting for enlisted Airmen and officers.

Simultaneously, Lopez and his team supported initiatives to elevate public awareness and engage new enlistees. The SW branch helped AFSPECWAR obtain trademark approval for a new logo and was involved in the Air Force’s decision-making process to increase SW initial enlistment bonuses from $15,000 to $50,000.

“Our main goal is to streamline the process from recruiting America’s highly talented applicants to enter the Air Force and begin their journey, in the hopes of becoming an AFSPECWAR Airman,” Lopez said. “We truly believe that if we can improve AFSPECWAR’s brand awareness and promote the opportunities special warfare careers offer, then recruiting will be much easier.”

SW branch members said that, overall, AFSPECWAR’s most difficult challenge is recruiting SW Open Enlistment candidates. SW recruiters are spread throughout the U.S. where they need to bring in roughly 1,000 non-prior service recruits each year.

“I was blown away by the effort a recruiter puts into shipping a SWOE candidate,” said Master Sgt. Matthew Voss, a SERE specialist assigned to the SW branch. Before Voss was assigned to AFRS, he served as a flight chief for the SERE Specialist Orientation Course at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland’s Chapman Annex. He is the first SERE specialist assigned to AFRS.

“The Airmen of AFSPECWAR are absolutely critical when a conflict kicks off and we need to ensure that we have sufficient Airmen ready for the next conflict,” Voss said. “That all starts with recruiting.”

By Air Force Recruiting Service Public Affairs, Air Force Recruiting Service

TACP Test Future Capabilities During Exercise “Gunslinger 22”

Thursday, August 18th, 2022


Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) Airmen from the 10th Air Support Operations Squadron (ASOS), 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing (AGOW), participated in Gunslinger 22, a joint Expeditionary Air Base Operations exercise with Marine Corps operators and aircrews, at Fort Riley, Kansas, June 13-14.

Gunslinger 22 was a joint, dynamic force employment exercise that integrated Marine Corps Air Command and Control System capabilities with Air Force Agile Combat Employment techniques. The 10 ASOS seized this as an opportunity to test the utilization of customer agnostic TACP strike teams, reconnaissance mission concepts and advanced infiltration training with joint-service partners.

The training consisted of air-to-ground synchronization as well as support functions necessary to combat operations.

“2d ANGLICO Marines provided the 10 ASOS TACP strike team with a small unmanned aerial system sensor operator to add standoff reconnaissance capability, and provided a Corpsman for medical support on the ground,” said Major Ralph Johnson, 10 ASOS director of operations. “Lt Hilvers, a TACP officer, had lead for mission execution and was tasked to conduct target acquisition of any threats that were in the vicinity of a planned forward area refueling point location, their purpose was to enable Expeditionary Air Base Operations.”

As the TACP weapon system (TP WS) continues to advance their capabilities for the future fight, Gunslinger 22 demonstrated TACP abilities to enable advanced options for Air Force Lead Wings via Agile Combat Employment (ACE) that other weapon systems are unable to provide.

“Gunslinger gave 10 ASOS the opportunity to conduct advanced infiltration techniques, and test a strike team’s ability to detect, positively identify, and pass targeting data to a supported commander in order to close a kill chain and gain an operational advantage” Johnson said. “TACP strike teams can develop an operational environment for commanders and facilitate engagement of targets in an area that is contested where others cannot operate.”

Along with the ACE capabilities that TACPs bring to the battlefield, as part of accelerating change, the TACP enterprise is transforming from an Army support focused force to a multi-role, customer agnostic, capabilities-based, and threat relevant weapons systems.

“Although TACP has traditionally supported the Army as its main customer, through proper application of the tools, equipment, qualifications, and delegated authorities, the TACP WS can be customer agnostic, and threat focused to solve a supported commander’s problems,” Johnson said.

The TACP enterprise as a whole provides Joint Force Commanders with expertise on the integration of air power while extending Theater Air Control Systems specifically for the Joint Forces Air Component Commander. Gunslinger 22 validated these proficiencies and improved TACP skills necessary for joint, adaptive operations in the future.

By 1stLt Katie Tamesis, 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing

Kentucky Air Guard Special Tactics Rescue 19 After Floods

Thursday, August 11th, 2022

HAZARD, Ky. (AFNS) —  

Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron rescued 19 stranded residents and two dogs in the aftermath of historic flooding last week that claimed at least 28 lives in eastern Kentucky.

The Airmen, assisted by Callie, the only certified search-and-rescue canine in the Department of Defense, rapidly deployed to the region July 28 to conduct rescue operations via boat and helicopter for four days, said Maj. Ian Williams, 123rd STS commander. The team of 23 special operators also coordinated 29 rotary aircraft missions, recovered four bodies, and helped direct operations that led to the rescue or assistance of 40 additional people.

“We found out about the situation Thursday morning at approximately 8:10 a.m.,” Williams said. “Before we had our tasking to respond, we started having our initial team show up to the squadron to prepare gear in the event that we would have to push out and support. We were officially told to support around 9 and were out the door by 10 o’clock.”

Once given the green light, 17 STS members deployed over the road with boats and trucks, while another six operators and Callie departed via helicopter transport provided by the Kentucky Army Guard’s 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade.

“Local, state and federal agencies all have search and rescue dogs, but what we bring to the table is the ability to get a dog, with its incredible capabilities, to normally inaccessible locations potentially faster,” said Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, 123rd STS pararescueman and Callie’s handler.

“Callie is able to travel via helicopter, boat, non-standard vehicles, rope systems and can even insert via parachute with her handler in order to bring a high-level capability to accelerate life-saving measures in situations where minutes matter,” Parsons said.

Although Callie is trained in live-find detection — searching for living or missing people — “she also did a great job of telling us specific locations to investigate more thoroughly to recover fatalities, to help bring closure to those individuals’ families.”

Williams noted that the entire mission was a team effort.

“Our success at the 123rd STS wouldn’t be possible without our mission support folks. They’re the first to arrive at the unit when something happens because they know that the vehicles, boats, communication equipment and resupply coordination are make-or-break elements of this sort of mission.”

Master Sgt. Joshua Busch, a combat controller with the 123rd STS, noted that homeland disaster response is a unique task for members of the Air National Guard, who have a dual mission of supporting domestic emergencies as part of the state militia while also supporting global military operations as a component of the U.S. Air Force.

“Unique to the Guard, we aren’t just preparing for war, we are preparing for domestic operations too,” said Busch, who served as a rescue and recovery team leader for the flood response. “I’m most proud of how many guys volunteered to be a part of this mission, to help the community and state start to put this natural disaster behind us.”

The rescue mission was a joint effort involving multiple agencies and civilian volunteer groups, including the Kentucky State Police and Army National Guard troops from Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Two Kentucky ANG medevac crews left the state capitol July 28 to augment Kentucky aviation assets already in the area, while Tennessee guard units sent five UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and crews, and West Virginia guard units contributed two Black Hawk helicopters, two UH-72 Lakota aircraft with hoist capability and 14 Soldiers.

“Our relationships with the Army aviation units has been fantastic,” Williams said. “We train with them often and have been in real-world missions with them many times. We couldn’t have a better relationship with the Frankfort 60s and other aviation crews.”

By SSgt Clayton Wear, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Special Warfare Training Wing Physical Medicine Technician Embeds with NASA

Saturday, July 23rd, 2022


From advancing force development of future Air Force Special Warfare Airmen to working with astronauts, life has been far from boring for the SWTW’s Staff Sgt. Emily Valdovinos.

Valdovinos was hand-selected to assist the NASA Astronaut Strength, Conditioning and Rehab Group to help develop personalized strength, conditioning, and rehabilitative plans for NASA astronauts with Crew-3 after they returned from the International Space Station for their 45-day reconditioning period.   

“Emily was specifically selected based on the skillset she has worked so hard to achieve for herself,” said Maj. Danielle Anderson, musculoskeletal medicine and rehabilitation lead, ASCR Group. “With her passion for human performance, dedication to ensuring the highest quality of service is delivered, and her energetic professionalism, Staff Sgt. Valdovinos was the perfect NCO to support our team.”

The mission of the ASCR Group is to optimize the performance and physical readiness of the astronaut corps by utilizing an interdisciplinary team approach, evidence-based practice, and emerging science and technology throughout an astronaut’s lifespan. The team focuses on optimizing the astronaut’s physical performance as he or she prepares for, lives in, and returns from the ISS.

At the SWTW, Valdovinos serves as the non-commissioned officer in charge of performance rehabilitation for the Special Warfare Candidates Course and Pre-Dive Course, where her experience working with SWTW trainees directly transfers to working with NASA astronauts.

“In [both the SWTW and NASA], I work hand in hand with a multi-disciplinary team to provide the best possible care to our caseload,” said Valdovinos. “I work directly under a physical therapist alongside a strength coach and athletic trainer to help develop personalized strength, conditioning, mobility, and rehabilitative plans for each person who needs assistance; we do ruck marches every week, throw sandbags, and are on a very strict workout schedule at NASA, just like the SWTW.”

In addition to working with astronauts, Valdovinos has also been afforded many unique opportunities available only at NASA while embedded with the ASCR Group.

Valdovinos joined in a live call to the ISS with Crew-4, toured NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab where astronauts train for extravehicular activities (space walks), visited the Apollo Mission Control Center, learned about the various exercise equipment available to astronauts while in space, and much more.

When asked what she will take away from her time working at NASA, Valdovinos stressed the importance of the multi-disciplinary team and its ability to work seamlessly together to provide the best level of care for the individual, regardless of whether that individual is an astronaut, SWTW trainee, or AFSPECWAR operator.

“Personally, I have grown in many ways as a professional and as a person,” said Valdovinos. “I feel incredibly humbled to have even been considered for this position as it has been my dream to train astronauts and support the Space Exploration mission ever since I was young.”

Members of SWTW provide initial training for all AFSPECWAR training specialties, including 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 www.airforce.com/careers/in-demand-careers/special-warfare.

By 1st Lt Xiaofan Liu

Special Warfare Training Wing Public Affairs