Archive for the ‘AFSW’ Category

Special Tactics Airmen Support Vital Training, Maintain Readiness Through COVID-19

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

Special Tactics Airmen from the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron filled in to conduct interoperability training with the 14th Weapons Squadron assigned to the U.S. Air Force Weapons School detachment at Hurlburt Field, Florida for a Special Operations Force Exercise on April 22, 2020.

“The recent training event was done in conjunction with the 14th Weapons Squadron as part of their curriculum to produce Weapons Officers from various aircraft in [Air Force Special Operations Command].,” said Maj. Blake Jones, director of operations for the 23rd STS. “Their scenarios and full mission profiles necessitate the role of ground force as they train to conduct and support airfield seizures, non-combatant evacuations, hostage rescues and counter weapons of mass destruction operations. The 23rd STS picked up this great training opportunity after COVID-19 travel restrictions prevented other units from participating as planned.”

The exercise is a part of the 14th WPS’ demanding five and a half month syllabus exposing students to a wide range of joint special operations and combat air force capabilities. Being able to move forward with the training allowed the iteration of Weapons School students to stay on track with their training timeline.

“Our students require close interaction with skilled ground forces throughout their training to graduate them as the recognized experts in [Special Operations Forces] and [Combat Air Forces] integration,” said. Lt. Col. Jacob Duff, 14th WPS director of operations. “Our planned training partners, a different Special Tactics Squadron and multiple Army Special Forces units, were unable to travel to Hurlburt and the 23rd STS immediately stepped in to fill that gap. Without them, it would have been significantly more difficult to meet our training objectives and graduate the newest class of SOF Weapons Officers and enlisted Advanced Instructors.”

The SOFEX also provided a unique opportunity for local Special Tactics Airmen to conduct multifaceted training with a volume of aviation assets otherwise not easily replicated outside of a larger exercise. 

“Our recent participation allowed us to evaluate individual personnel and conduct training in mission planning, tilt-rotor assault, airfield seizure, landing zone establishment and control, terminal attack control, close quarters combat, personnel recovery and battlefield trauma care,” said Jones. “This was important because it gave many junior enlisted and junior officer [Special Tactics] personnel a crucial repetition mission planning with some of the best aviators in AFSOC as well as the opportunity to execute, work through contingencies and lead in a high-fidelity scenario.”

The units not only trained on the necessary skill sets needed to conduct a wide-range of special operations missions, increase lethality and maintain joint warfighting capabilities, but they were also tested on their ability to plan complex missions amidst COVID-19 preventative measures.

“The combat capabilities we are tasked to provide are not changing, but the constraints are different now so we must adapt,” said Jones. “We are adapting how we train, but also adapting how we resource and plan that training over teleconferences and web-based planning applications.”

In addition to reducing in-person mission planning, Special Tactics Squadrons have implemented several techniques to maintain readiness while keeping health of operators at the forefront, including sanitizing equipment, using face coverings when needed, conducting internal evaluations on prioritization of missions, staffing smaller training groups and taking advantage of local training opportunities.

“Stopping all training is not a feasible course of action because the second and third order effects months down the line are far too costly in terms of readiness,” said Jones. “Our squadron commits and deploys personnel operationally year-round, so we focused on ensuring we are still on track to field combat ready forces on time.” 

Special Tactics is U.S. Special Operations Command’s tactical air and ground integration force, and the Air Force’s special operations ground force, leading global access, precision strike, personnel recovery and battlefield surgery operations.

Story by 1st Lt. Alejandra Fontalvo, 24th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

Photos by Staff Sgt. Rose Gudex

ISAF TACP – From the Battlefield to the Ring, the Mission is to Win

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea —

With piercing blue eyes and unwavering confidence, a man walks into life’s arenas and envisions success. Whether exchanging blows in an octagonal ring or climbing snowy mountains to call in airstrikes, his visions of prosperous outcomes cancels out the deafening noises.

Being distracted can be the difference between life and death, or standing upright versus tumbling down. Knowing the severity of a miscalculated move, his passion and professionalism keeps him in the fight – one that parallels the worlds of MMA and being a U.S. Air Force TACP.

“Being in the ring and being a TACP are very similar,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Bunkley, 607th Air Support Operations Group tactical air control party (TACP). “The feeling I get going into the ring, is the same feeling I felt when I stepped out of my vehicle for the first time in Afghanistan and charged my weapon.”

Bunkley continued to explain the butterflies deep in his stomach from the uncertainty of what’s going to occur, which were flooded over by the trust he had in himself and the troops by his side.

“In combat, you don’t know if you’re going to hit an improvised explosive device or if you’re going to start taking contact,” Bunkley said. “You have to be on your toes the whole time. Same with in the ring, you don’t know what your opponent is planning. All you know is that they’re trying to defeat you.”

Whether Bunkley is observing his opponent from a higher terrain or is face to face with them, his goal is to be victorious. The amount of hours, days, months, and years of training can make or break him.

Life as a TACP

“As a TACP, you have to be able to multi-manage, which is something that doesn’t come naturally,” Bunkley said. “It’s not natural to talk to you, this guy over here and then three different people on the radio. You have to train a lot to obtain the ability to multi-manage in these situations. You have to be able to take information given and act in a quick manner that’ll make sense to get effects on the battlefield.”

His mission is to supply multilateral communication between aircraft and ground troops in the battlespace. He’ll either give the “cleared hot” order to aircraft for close air support or receive a bigger picture of the battlefield from intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.

“The challenges of being a TACP drew me to the career field,” Bunkley said. “I was 18 years old going through the schoolhouse and all I wanted was to do something that would be meaningful and make a big impact on my life and others.”

Going into the initial stage of TACP training, Bunkley doubted whether he would make it through to graduation. He knew in the back of his mind there was an incredibly high attrition rate for special warfare Airmen.

Now after nine years of service, Bunkley has become extremely well versed in his job. He has deployed and has had the opportunity to be an instructor in the special warfare pipeline.

“Sometimes I think to myself, ‘I can’t believe I get paid for this,’” Bunkley said. “We get to call in airstrikes, shoot guns, go skydiving and experience many different combat courses. But with all that comes the sucky moments, like hiking up a snowy mountain to get a good observation point. You can stay in the field for days at a time in extreme heat or cold; it can be wet or dry.  Through the good or the suck, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”

Bunkley’s two worlds meet

In January 2020, the Las Vegas native was one of nine U.S. Air Force special warfare and combat support Airmen to receive an opportunity to visit the Ultimate Fighting Championship Training Center. During this visit he was able to meet and train with some of the top UFC fighters.

“It was totally awesome to get the opportunity to go out to the UFC Training Center and train with Dustin Poirier, Forest Griffin and Stephen Thompson,” Bunkley said. “We were able to hear their stories of past fights, how they came up and some of their challenges they’ve faced.”

The goal from this opportunity was for the U.S. Air Force Recruiting Service to strengthen their partnership with the UFC, which provided the Airmen and fighters a look into each other’s worlds.

“I’m definitely not able to be a top UFC fighter and be a TACP at the same time.” Bunkley said. “Being a MMA fighter is a full-time deal. My plan is to continue fighting amateur and get my experience up and hopefully fight at the pro level in the future.”

Bunkley’s experience in the ring includes three amateur MMA fights, more than 80 jiu jitsu competitions and a couple of Army combative matches.

“I grew up wrestling and didn’t get into MMA until my deployment to Africa,” Bunkley said. “I had a group of friends who trained a few times a week and started to join them. I got addicted to it. I started training once a week, then twice a week and later found myself training almost every day.”

“Took my first fight on a seven hour notice”

“I was back home and a buddy of mine, who helps promote amateur and pro-level fights, noticed me competing in jiu jitsu,” Bunkley said. “He called me and said, ‘Hey man, I know you do jiu jitsu but do you want to fight in the cage tonight.’”

Bunkley surprised and confused, ended up agreeing to the fight.

“I just went for it,” Bunkley said. “I took my first fight on a seven hour notice in Las Vegas on the strip.”

At this point in Bunkley’s experience, he had primarily done ground combatives and only two or three sessions of striking.

“The whole feeling of having my music played while walking up has no comparison,” Bunkley said. “The adrenaline and excitement overcomes you before you start throwing fists. And it’s all very real. These dudes are straight up trying to knock your head off.”

As soon as the bell rang, Bunkley’s nervous feeling faded away. His focus was on how he could defeat his opponent.

“Very quickly, I realized this guy’s striking was a lot better than mine,” Bunkley said. “I was getting hit over and over, but I just kept watching him looking for my edge. When I got the chance, I took him to the mat. It was over. I knew that’s where I had him. From there, every round I took him down.”

The years of high school wrestling and jiu jitsu payed off for Bunkley in this match, which came down to the very end.

“I played my strength,” Bunkley said. “I was tactical about the fight and it all came down to the judge’s decision. Standing there felt like forever for them to announce the winner. And with a unanimous decision, they raised my arm in victory.”

Story by By SSgt Ramon A. Adelan, 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Photos by SrA Denise M. Jenson

In Memoriam – SMSgt Ron Kellerman (USAF, Ret)

Monday, March 30th, 2020

We just received this tragic news from our friends in the Grey Beret Association. What a senseless loss of a great man who served for many years in the Special Tactics community. He will always stand as a shining example for present and future members of Air Force Special Warfare.

May He Rest In Peace

Brothers & Sisters ~

With great sadness I am informing all of you about the recent death of our Special Tactics/SOWT Friend, Teammate, Mentor, Leader and true BROTHER

Ron Kellerman – RHK

RHK was killed on 29 March 2020 at his home on Roatan island in Honduras – Details are still being compiled

Ron was a key leader in SOWT for many years, serving at Fort Bragg, Rhein-Main, and Hurlburt Field. He was a Master Parachutist, Military Freefall Jumpmaster, and recognized communications expert. He was a plank holder Detachment and Team NCOIC with the 10th Combat Weather Squadron, and later served at both the 720th Special Tactics Group and HQ AFSOC. Following a full and illustrious military career, he transitioned to a civilian GS position at AVTEG and served the nation in a highly critical role there for over 15 years until recent retirement just a few months ago.

It’s fair to say he directly influenced everyone in the SOWT specialty. The tributes we are seeing to him are overwhelming. The word “Mentor” is woven in to nearly every single post. I’ve known him since 1986 and I have never heard even one negative word said about him. He was one of the nicest guys you’d ever meet and was loved by all who knew him.

Ron’s influence and expertise extended far beyond the borders of the SOWT community, and his significant accomplishments and contributions to Air Force Special Operations as a whole were recognized in 2005 when he was inducted into the Air Commando Hall of Fame.

His wife Maria is currently in Spain with her Mother – Efforts are in progress to get all the pieces and parts squared away with her movement, security of their house, etc. I have spoken with Maria, and I let her know we loved Ron and we love her – And will do everything we can to assist her however possible.

More to follow as we learn it – This is a very sad day for all of us.

-USAF Grey Beret Association

Special Tactics Airman Involved In Fatal Swim Training Incident Identified

Saturday, March 21st, 2020

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. – Airman First Class Keigan Baker, 24, an Air Force Special Tactics combat controller assigned to the Special Tactics Training Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing, was found unresponsive after he went missing during a surface training swim at Naval Support Activity Panama City, Florida, Thursday.

Baker was taking part in the Air Force Combat Dive Course run by Air Education and Training Command’s Special Warfare Training Wing headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

“This is devastating loss to the entire Special Tactics community,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Matthew Allen, commander of the 24th SOW. “We are very grateful for Keigan’s willingness to serve our nation and vow to honor his memory.”

The agencies that contributed to the search and recovery efforts include: The Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center, U.S. Coast Guard Station Panama City, Bay County Sheriff’s Office, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and other sister service dive units.

Baker enlisted in the United States Air Force in June 2018 and was recognized as an Honor Graduate at Basic Military Training. After BMT, he immediately entered the two-year combat control training program. Shortly after being assigned to STTS he left to attend the Special Warfare Pre-Dive course at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, followed by the Air Force Combat Dive Course at Naval Support Activity Panama City, Florida.

The Air Force Combat Dive Course teaches students diving fundamentals through open circuit self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) training and closed circuit underwater breathing apparatus (UBA) training. Students learn basic diving, advanced rescue diving principles and advanced combat diving fundamentals. Upon completion of the course, students are certified Special Operations Command (SOCOM) combatant divers.

“Keigan’s loss is felt across the entire training wing, where the safety of our trainees is our top priority,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Parks Hughes, commander of the Special Warfare Training Wing. “We are grateful to all the agencies that assisted with the search and recovery effort.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Keigan’s family, friends and teammates.”

The Longview, Washington native was a graduate of Mark Morris High School. He then received his Bachelors of Arts Degree in Business Administration from Eastern Washington University. 

His awards and decorations include: Air Force Good Conduct Medal, Air Force Basic Military Training Honor Graduate Ribbon, The Air Force Training Ribbon and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

As a Special Tactics combat controller apprentice, Baker was training to deploy into combat zones to conduct reconnaissance, global access, precision strike and personnel recovery operations.

The incident is currently under investigation. For further queries on the incident and training please reach out to the Special Warfare Training Wing at [email protected]

The AFSOC Air-Ground team in action: How Precision Strike turned the tide of battle against ‘ISIS-K Pentagon’

Saturday, March 7th, 2020

The aircrew of Spooky 41, an AC-130U “Spooky” gunship from the 4th Special Operations Squadron, was awarded medals for their role in a nine-hour mission over Nangarhar, Afghanistan. These medals included two Distinguished Flying Crosses and 12 Air Medals.

Maj. Wright, an Air Force Special Tactics officer, led a seven-man Special Tactics Team (STT) in support of the Army Special Forces company conducting the operation on the ground.

The following is his account of the mission from his perspective on the ground.

Vignette by Maj Jeffrey Wright, 24th Special Operations Wing (Air Force Special Tactics)

I served as the lead joint terminal attack controller and fire support coordinator for a major assault against a notorious Islamic State – Khorisan (ISIS-K) stronghold in Nangarhar, Afghanistan. This operation took place from 1 April through 6 April 2019, and the events below took place on the night of 3-4 April.

It would be inaccurate to describe this target as a village. Rather, this was a military installation literally dug into the side of the mountains, with a single path through which friendly forces could assault. The enemy consolidated their forces here in a warren of interconnected command and control nodes, operations centers, staging areas, and ‘on-base housing’ for ISIS-K leaders. This was no low-level commander and his men: this place was ‘ISIS-K’s Pentagon.’

I am aware of at least three previous assaults against this position that were quickly defeated by virtue of the enemy’s elaborate defense, high degree of training and commitment, and skillful application of firepower against friendly forces.

In my 20-plus years of training and experience in the art of attacking and defending ground objectives, I have seen few more formidable defensive positions – or ones more daunting to attack. I would have to reach for examples like Normandy, Iwo Jima or Hamburger Hill to appropriately convey the degree to which the enemy were prepared and ready for our assault.

The enemy stayed hidden until the assault force drew close. The result was an intense firefight where the lead elements found themselves under fire from not only all sides, but also three dimensions. The enemy had prepared apertures in floors and ceilings, and used barricaded shooters to devastating effect. By using networks of subterranean passageways, the enemy would re-appear behind our forces even after they’d cleared buildings.

Despite our numerical superiority, the situation was dire. From my support-by-fire position, I could do little to help. The safe evacuation of the growing numbers of wounded was up to my Special Tactics teammates in close-range gun battles with the enemy – literally fighting room-to-room. During the fight, the combat controller with the lead element of the assault force reached out for help, and got Spooky41 on the radio.

In short order, I heard the bark of the AC-130U’s guns. I distinctly remember wondering whether they were shooting at the right target, given the speed of their reaction – in 10 years as a JTAC, I’d never seen any kind of fire support as responsive. Sure enough, the first rounds were right on target – a good thing, because the enemy was so close to the assault force.

The enemy now had a problem on their hands. They had probably figured that their proximity to friendlies would mitigate our ability to bring fires to bear on them. Now, they were being heavily attacked by the AC-130U’s weapons.

The precise application of fires allowed friendly forces to establish a defensive perimeter and turn to the task of evacuating the wounded. The terrain prohibited the helicopter from landing, so they performed hoist lifts of the most critical patients. This entailed coming to a hover within machine gun range of dozens, if not hundreds, of enemy fighters keen to press home their advantage.

I watched this unfold with a sense that ‘this is how it happens…this is how aircraft get shot down.’ Yet, the enemy wasn’t able to get a single shot off as the patients were extracted, one by one. The reason there will be no memorials for three separate medical evacuation aircrews is because Spooky 41’s fires were so responsive and so precise that the enemy was effectively neutralized.

At least three members of my team were relaying information on two different nets in an effort to coordinate air and ground movement. Looking back, I am amazed that Spooky41 managed to track everyone so effectively. Even with my high degree of situational awareness as the man on the ground and with my degree of experience, I had a hard time keeping it all straight. At several points they were engaging different targets simultaneously and on different nets. I had one net in each ear – I watched and listened as they delivered salvo after salvo of fires with zero error.

A co-located teammate directed a few F-16 strikes during this time and I worked with Spooky41 to integrate the fires. It felt almost like a weapons school exercise, in that the degree of difficulty was so high and the number of assets so numerous that it far exceeded normal training scenarios.

I don’t know exactly how many of the wounded would have died without immediate medical evacuation, but I can say with certainty that the medical evacuation aircrew would have been among the casualties if it weren’t for the fires provided by Spooky 41.

I personally took fire the following day and the enemy’s expert gunnery put the bullets within arm’s reach. Had they been allowed to get a shot off at the MEDEVAC helicopters, we’d have lost aircraft. But again – after the initial gunshots and IED blast injuries, no further harm befell Americans or our Afghan allies that night.

Spooky 41’s legendary airmanship is the reason why – period.

I resolved that the first thing I would do upon getting back to Bagram was to seek each of them out and thank them for what they did for us that night. I’ve been to far too many memorials and seen far too many folded flags. I didn’t have to do that on this trip because instead of Americans giving their lives for their country that night, Spooky41 made the enemy die for theirs – on time, on target, and in the most complex environment I’ve ever seen – training, or combat.

1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Joseph P. Leveille

Welcome to Chapman Training Annex, Home of Air Force Special Warfare Training

Friday, March 6th, 2020


A parachute slid off the wall, revealing the text behind it, “Welcome to Chapman Training Annex, home of Air Force Special Warfare Training.” The life and legacy of a Special Tactics combat controller will forever be cemented into history with an installation renaming that serves to inspire not just Special Warfare trainees, but all Airmen that come through the gates of the annex.

The Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Medina Training Annex was renamed the Chapman Training Annex in honor of Special Tactics combat controller Master Sgt. John A. Chapman March 4, 2020. The ceremony, held on the 18th anniversary of his death, was attended by family, friends and fellow Airmen.

In August 2018, Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor nation’s highest honor for his selfless actions in Afghanistan during the Battle of Takur Ghar on March 4, 2002 in support of Operation ANACONDA.

“With the renaming of this training annex, the Air Force will fittingly memorialize Master Sergeant Chapman at the location where all Air Force enlisted Airmen receive their initial combat skills training and all Air Force Special Warfare Airmen begin their journey,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Michael Herrera, squadron superintendent of the 350th Special Warfare Training Squadron.

Chapman paid the ultimate sacrifice when he selflessly sacrificed his life to fend off a rocket-propelled grenade attack on an incoming MH-47 Chinook helicopter carrying a quick reaction force of U.S. Army Rangers and Air Force Special Tactics Airmen.

In a valiant attempt to rescue U.S. Navy SEAL, Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts, Chapman and the team voluntarily reinserted themselves into immediate danger. Upon exiting the helicopter, Chapman immediately charged uphill through the thigh-deep snow, directly engaging enemy combatants, clearing the position.

With no regard for his own life, Chapman intentionally moved from cover and was struck by enemy machine gun fire. Despite severe, mortal wounds, Chapman continued fighting relentlessly before paying the ultimate sacrifice.

Chapman was posthumously promoted to the rank of Master Sergeant on Aug. 22, 2018 by General David Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force.

“John Chapman was a great warrior, a steadfast friend, a selfless patriot, and above all—a man of unquestionable character,” said U.S. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, General Stephen W. Wilson. “I think it’s important to never forget his sacrifices, so that this Chapman Annex might stand as an enduring reminder to all about the ideas of selfless service—about an unwavering commitment to duty, and to fellow men, so that we can aptly characterize what John Chapman did and his service to our nation.”

Chapman is one of four enlisted Airmen in the U.S. Air Force to have been awarded the Medal of Honor.

“The heroism and valor of the number of special operators are particularly well chronicled. While there were a number of extremely high awards presented in the aftermath of this battle, the story of John Chapman’s gallantry simply stands above them all,” said U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Education and Training Command. “All Airmen who pass through this gate, for BMT as well as Special Warfare, will gaze upon this welcome sign to the Chapman Annex, and know that they may be called upon to be the next Chappy.”

Chapman’s family members attended the ceremony including his wife, Valerie Nessel and his daughter Brianna Chapman; his mother, Terry Chapman; sister Lori Longfritz and brother Kevin Chapman.

“During training, there will be days when one is pushed beyond physical limitations. Days of little sleep, cold, hunger, pure exhaustion. You’ll feel defeated, and thoughts of quitting creep in often. The operator has to want with every fiber of their being to become an operator,” said Ms. Valerie Nessel, spouse of Master Sgt. John Chapman. “This is where John’s story of heroism and legacy come into play. When doubts enter, one must remember John on that mountain top. You will learn about him through this annex training facility.”

“There is a quote by Arthur Ashe that defines heroism and that is the one word that defines John to the fullest. The quote goes like this, ‘True heroism is remarkably sober, at times undramatic. But it is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.’ I wish all the trainees the best in their pursuit and challenge them to train and operate as John lived and died. Thank you for always remembering John,” Nessel said.

Following the ceremony, Chief Master Sgt. Jaime Clark, command chief of the Special Warfare Training Wing, led Airmen, teammates and family members in performing memorial push-ups in honor of Master Sgt. Chapman, a Special Tactics tradition to honor fallen comrades.

The Special Warfare Training Wing selects and trains the Air Force’s conventional and special operations ground combat forces to meet the demand of the future battlefield.

The Special Tactics community was well represented with leaders from the 24th Special Operations Wing including former 24th SOW commander, U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Claude Tudor and U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Jeff Guilmain, 24th SOW command chief.

“We’re welling with pride seeing this dedication that will cement John Chapman’s valor and sacrifice for future generations of Special Tactics Airmen following in his footsteps,” said Guilmain.

Special Tactics is U.S. Special Operation Command’s tactical air-ground integration force and the Air Force’s special operations ground force, leading global access, precision strike, personnel recovery and battlefield surgery operations.

Story by Bridget Donovan , 24th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

Photos by photo by Sarayuth Pinthong

Fallen Special Tactics Airman Honored with Hometown Bridge Dedication

Friday, March 6th, 2020

ROCHESTER, Pa. – The Special Tactics community will forever honor the lives and legacies of the fallen and ensure their names will not die twice.

Family, teammates and local community members commemorated the life and legacy of U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, a Special Tactics combat controller, with a bridge dedication at the Veterans of Foreign War Post 128, Rochester, Pennsylvania, Feb. 29, 2020.

The Vanport Bridge traversing the Ohio River was renamed, “USAF Combat Controller Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin Memorial Bridge.”

Elchin, while deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation FREEDOM’S SENTINEL, gave the ultimate sacrifice on Nov. 27, 2018, when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device.

Ron Bogolea, grandfather of Elchin, and local community leaders unveiled the USAF Combat Controller Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin Memorial Bridge.

“On Nov. 11, 2012, Veterans Day, [Dylan] wrote on Facebook, ‘I want to thank all of those who pay for our freedom, which some take for granted.’ Little did he know, six years later, he would pay that price,” said Bogolea. “Dylan’s life of duty, courage, sacrifice, and love of country reminds us what is good in ourselves and it teaches our children what is great about America.”

Pennsylvania State Senator Elder Vogel Jr. and other local representatives spearheaded the efforts in introducing the bill to have the bridge renamed in Elchin’s memory.

“Legacy is what gathers us here today.” said Vogel. “It is my hope that this bridge will encourage future generations to emulate the manner in which Dylan lived. Live for others as Dylan lived for his brothers in arms, his family and his community.”

Elchin was a recipient of the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, the Army Commendation With Valor, the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Air Force Combat Action Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the NATO Medal.

 “Today this community gets to honor Dylan in a bridge renaming ceremony” said U.S. Air Force Col. Matt Allen, commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing. “It’s my fervent hope that those who pass across this bridge next week, next month, and in the years to come, to take a moment to remind themselves and reflect on the extraordinary service, sacrifice and commitment of one of the sons of this community, Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin.”

Members of the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, attended the ceremony to honor their fallen teammate.

“No matter what training we were doing he was always smiling and having a great time,” said Tech. Sgt. Adam Lollar, member of the 26th STS. “Whether it was a 1,600 mile off-road trip through the New Mexico backcountry or 100 plus degrees in the Nevada desert shooting.”

“I find it amazing to have the opportunity to witness the legacy and memory of Dylan being carried on, especially by his local community…seeing Dylan’s hometown uniting through his memory, especially someone like Dylan who gave everything for that community and this nation, is awesome,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Marty Bouma, a flight commander with the 26th STS. “Dylan was one of the most selfless individuals I’ve met, but I know the way the community has come together in this would make him proud.”

As a Special Tactics combat controller, Elchin was specially trained and equipped for immediate deployment into combat operations to conduct global access, precision strike, and personnel recovery operations. He was skilled in reconnaissance operations, air traffic control and terminal attack control operations.

Special Tactics is U.S. Special Operation Command’s tactical air-ground integration force and the Air Force’s special operations ground force, leading global access, precision strike, personnel recovery and battlefield surgery operations.

By 1st Lt. Alejandra Fontalvo 

24th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

USAF Rescue Squadron Athletic Trainer Rehabilitates Airmen

Thursday, March 5th, 2020


The 41st Rescue Squadron executes a physically demanding mission of personnel recovery, in doing so, rescue members require a recovery of their own.  

Lori Uretsky, 41st Rescue Squadron athletic trainer, provides these Rescue Airmen with preventative care and treatment for injuries to keep them mission ready.

“[Uretsky] does preventative maintenance,” said Tech Sgt. John Rosenberg, 347th Operations Support Squadron special missions aviator. ”She keeps minor injuries from becoming major injuries and sustains chronic injuries. Taking care of [injuries] on a regular basis keeps them from becoming major issues, which could take me off the flying schedule and have a direct impact on the mission.”

Uretsky has been working with the 41st RQS since October 2017 and has had more than 2,200 appointments and tended to 3,112 injuries.

“I see a lot of neck pain, upper back and lower back pain for the pilots and the special mission aviators usually have shoulders and knee pains because of their job duties,” Uretsky said.  “When I say neck and back pain that can range from muscle tightness to herniated disks to stress fractures in their back. I will say for the most part, a lot of neck pain [comes] from wearing helmets and night vision goggles because it adds weight to their head.”

Rosenberg, a patient of Uretsky’s, has been being seeing her for a leg injury for about a year.

“I’ve been having problems with scar tissue in my ankle” Rosenberg said. “We’ve been working on physical therapy with the ultrasound and sticks on my leg. It’s helping break all that stuff up. Yes, it hurts, but at the same time, I can actually feel it getting better. The prevented maintenance that she does is what enables me to still fly.”

In addition to treating injuries with dry needling, cupping and physical therapy, Uretsky provides annual and post-surgery rehabilitation services that help get wounded Airmen back in the game.

“I was unfortunately fortunate that we had someone get hurt downrange and sent back early for surgery,” Uretsky said. “I say unfortunate, because I never want that to happen, but I was able to do his rehab with him here in-house and get him cleared to return to fly. So, what we thought was going to be career ending, wasn’t. He’s back flying. So, I mean, that is really rewarding to see that.”

According to Uretsky, she has only had to deny seven Airmen from flight, which is lower than numbers seen in previous years because Uretsky is, not only on hand to provide her services here, but has the ability to travel with the unit.

“I’m going to the red flag exercise next month. This will be my second TDY,” Uretsky said. “This red flags a little shorter last year. [It lasted for] five to six weeks. They’d fly three, four times a week, have all their issues, then have to wait for when they come back [for treatment]. So even though I’m not there the whole time, I go in the smack dab of it, treat them and [which should] last until they can come back and see me again.

“I am able to do teleconferences if [Airmen] have issues. I’ve sent things downrange so that they would be able to take care of [issues] the best they could before they had to go to a major base to get treated.”

Uretsky believes being embedded in the squadron also makes a big difference in the relationships between her and her patients.

“I love my relationships with the patients,” Uretsky said. “I joke all the time and tell them that they’re a tad bit crazy for going into a bad scene probably getting shot at to go save others. Most people would go away from that kind of stuff. So, I think they’re very special. To be able to take care of them is awesome. My dad and my grandfather are vets. So, working with the military is my way of giving back.

“If I help one person and keep them in their career, then that makes me happy,” Uretsky said.

By Airman Azaria E. Foster, 23d Wing Public Affairs