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Archive for the ‘Battlefield Airman’ Category

Thunder Challenge 2023: Combat Weather Airmen Showcase Battlefield Skills

Friday, October 27th, 2023


Seven teams of combat weather Airmen competed in Thunder Challenge 2023 at Fort Liberty, North Carolina, Oct. 15-17, 2023.

Thunder Challenge is an annual competition between combat weather Airmen which tests their core weather competencies and battlefield skills to analyze readiness and share best practices throughout the career field. Units from the 5th Combat Weather Group, 1st Combat Weather Squadron, 7th Combat Weather Squadron, 607th CWS and 23d Special Operations Weather Squadron competed in the event.

“Getting together with other combat weather squadrons, learning from them and sharing best practices is critically important,” said Lt. Col. Tyler West, 7th Combat Weather Squadron commander headquartered in Wiesbaden, Germany. “Overall, it’s going to contribute to more combat-ready forces, starting with the teams that competed here and then spreading across the entire community as competitors take the capabilities and drive gained here back to their units.”

During the challenge, competitors manually forecasted weather, operated tactical weather sensing equipment, provided weather impacts in a simulated chemical attack, completed weather knowledge tests, reacted to simulated enemy small arms and explosives attacks, performed base defense, conducted tactical combat casualty care, navigated through forests, conducted a 10-kilometer weighted ruck and completed a course of fire after exercising in gas masks and body armor.

“This is a way for them to really improve their readiness as it requires them to complete these key tasks while under high pressure. We don’t want the first time they do these tasks under that pressure to be when they’re in combat,” said West. “We never know exactly when we’re going to be called upon, so we need everyone to be ready at all times.”

Evaluators aimed to create a high-pressure environment to recreate stressors these Airmen may experience in operational scenarios.

“Having seen these Airmen in the fight today, and the sheer willpower and warrior spirit these Airmen displayed was absolutely phenomenal,” said Col. Patrick Williams, Headquarters Air Force Director of Weather. “It really shows that these guys can do the mission, and I’m proud to call these Airmen warriors.”

Throughout the exercise, senior leaders conducted career field discussions to strategize how to best operationalize weather forces to create battlefield advantages.

“We looked at how we gain opportunities and shape the battlespace to create opportunities for our forces,” Williams said. “Weather operators can forecast the weather to create precision out of chaos, and they soften the battlespace for superiority of all sorts.”

Tech. Sgt. Brandon Hutchinson, Staff Sgt. Hunter Haggerty and Staff Sgt. Nicholas Schlabach from the 23rd SOWS took first place in the competition and will receive an Air Force Achievement Medal for their accomplishment.

“It’s really an honor for us to come here to Fort Liberty and get to participate with all the combat weather teams across the Air Force and showcase our skills and training,” Schlabach said. “We have people coming from around the world here to compete against each other, it really showcases that all our units are training toward the accomplishment of being a combat-ready Airman.”

By 1st Lt Christian Little, Combat Weather

34 Vendors To Exhibit at WEPTAC Industry Nights 2020

Saturday, January 11th, 2020

Come join us January 15-16 at Nellis AFB, NV for WEPTAC Industry nights and the AF Special Warfare tents. This year we’re hosting 34 manufacturers of kit specifically for the AFSW community. We also will have three distributors to answer questions: Quantico Tactical, TSSI, and Darley Defense.

Air Force Improves Efficiencies for Special Warfare Airmen

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019


The Air Force recently consolidated and moved enlisted members of Air Force Special Warfare to new Air Force specialty codes to encompass AFSPECWAR operator, enabler and support specialties.

“The Air Force is invested in ensuring ready and lethal special warfare Airmen who operate primarily from the land domain to achieve air, space and cyberspace dominance for the joint force,” said Under Secretary of the Air Force Matthew P. Donovan. “These Airmen will provide the connective tissue to conduct multi-domain operations, even in the most difficult scenarios.”

As of Oct. 31, 2019, the new special warfare career field (1Z) includes the following AFSCs: pararescue (1Z1X1), combat control (1Z2X1), tactical air control party (1Z3X1) and special reconnaissance (1Z4X1). The special warfare enabler career field (1T) includes Airmen who train, integrate with and accompany operators and teams to enable additional capabilities, such as survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist (1T0X1). In addition, a special warfare mission support reporting identifier (9ZXX1) was created for Airmen in specific positions that provide consultative leadership on all special warfare mission support enlisted matters.

The Air Force special warfare enterprise includes special tactics officers, combat rescue officers, TACP officers. It also includes enlisted combat controllers, pararescuemen, TACP, special reconnaissance, SERE specialists and combat mission support Airmen.

Changes for special warfare officer AFSCs are expected to go into effect in April 2020.

“The Airmen who choose these specialties are ordinary Americans with extraordinary grit and determination. Through incredible hard work and unparalleled discipline, they’ve forged themselves into teams of exceptional physical and mental strength. They are trained for the toughest missions in the most unforgiving environments,” said Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson. “Their skills are more in demand today than ever. This movement to new AFSCs is just one of the ways that AFSPECWAR is responding to the evolving mix of threats that the Air Force confronts today and will in the future.”

In addition to the AFSC changes, Headquarters Air Force stood up an Air Force Special Warfare Directorate on Oct. 3. This new directorate is the focal point on the air staff that will provide senior-level integration and management to better organize, train, equip and employ special warfare Airmen on the battlefield through resourcing requirements and providing overarching career field guidance and direction. Previously, special tactics, Guardian Angel and TACP Airmen were spread out across seven major commands with different sources of funding, training and operational requirements.

“These communities have a long record of success on and off the battlefield. AFSPECWAR will continue to build on that legacy while aligning with the National Defense Strategy and evolving for future threats,” said Col. Thomas Palenske, director of the new Air Force Special Warfare directorate at the Pentagon. “Special warfare Airmen need to focus on acting as sensors, communicators and human weapons systems, enabling enhanced multi-domain command and control and air superiority from the ground in anti-access area denial environments. They will be better able to do that with the help of this new directorate as we develop and streamline career field management processes, policy and guidance to make their jobs easier.”

Within the last year, special warfare initiatives included the activation of the Special Warfare Training Wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, and the 330th Recruiting Squadron at JB San Antonio-Randolph. The 330th RCS focuses solely on recruiting Air Force special warfare operators and enablers while the SWTW centralizes training to meet the demands of the future battlefield.

“AFSPECWAR delivers ground-based access and placement to conduct preparation of the battlefield operations to the advantage of the Air Force to counter (anti-access/area denial) threats. Our Airmen’s unique capabilities enable air, space and cyber dominance from the ground,” Palenske said. “To be successful, the Air Force must leverage special warfare to execute its mission on an increasingly complex and contested battlefield.”

By Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

Air Force Research Labs Enhances Safety of Survival Specialists Through Wearable Health Monitoring Technology

Friday, December 6th, 2019

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio –An Air Force Research Laboratory team recently delivered version 2.0 of the Survival Health Awareness Responders Kit (SHARK) to U.S. Air Force instructors at Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA)-Lackland Camp Bullis, a 28,000-acre site in Texas, used to train Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) specialists.

With SHARK, sensors embedded in shirts transmit key metrics including heart rate and estimated core temperature from smartphones to a server. As students undergo physical endurance tests during extended periods of isolation, the system allows instructors to monitor this data in real-time, and issues alerts for heart rate spikes and significant increases in temperature. Since the device identifies the user’s location, medical personnel can quickly respond to those in need of care.

2nd Lt. Matthew Dickinson, a biomechanical engineer within AFRL’s 711th Human Performance Wing (HPW), says that SHARK 2.0 is user-friendly and more secure. He explains that instructors and students alike are pleased with the streamlined setup process and the new web interface.

The commander of Detachment 3, 66th Training Squadron, Maj. Toby Andrews, said he appreciates that SHARK “gives [instructors] real-time alerts on the health and well-being of students.” The system “truly eases my mind as a commander,” he said since it “allows us to provide preventative care [in cases] that could otherwise lead to serious medical situations.”

Prior to SHARK, instructors checked on trainees at regular intervals to ensure their well-being. In certain cases, they administer ice baths to students with elevated body temperatures, said Tech. Sgt. John Garcia, a SERE instructor. However, since the introduction of this monitoring technology, zero ice baths have been required because the system alerts instructors before students reach what they call “the danger zone.”

To develop version 2.0, the SHARK team enlisted the help of Cedarville University students majoring in computer science. Loren Baum, who now works full-time in 711HPW, improved the code for his senior design project.  He optimized the software, added functionality, enhanced the security measures and streamlined the startup process.

Baum explains that the team moved SHARK from the mobile app arena to the web to make the system useable in a wider variety of scenarios. With the new approach, instructors simply log into a website from any computer to monitor students’ health status instead of launching an application, which requires installation and manual upgrades.

The team simplified the startup process with Quick Response (QR) codes that automatically input students’ information when scanned, Baum said. This measure reduced the total setup time from one hour to five minutes, and makes it easier for students and instructors to begin a new session.

In June 2019, the team traveled to JBSA-Camp Bullis and conducted initial tests with version 2.0. Once the team integrated additional software improvements, SERE instructors officially launched the upgrade in September.

The SHARK team continues to work with other squadron key leaders to address related needs. One such application involves using the included heart rate variability measurement to provide real-time feedback regarding students’ reactions to various training stressors.

This data would enable instructors to evaluate the effectiveness of interrogation techniques and determine the extent to which they affect individuals, said 1st Lt. David Feibus, a former software team lead, who is now a student at the Air Force Institute of Technology.

While SHARK is useful in various situations, Air Force instructors currently rely on this tool to offer “strenuous exercises in the safest manner possible,” said Ted Harmer, a 711HPW engineer who also leads a medical readiness personnel recovery training research team. When administering physical tests, instructors must achieve the purpose of the training and minimize negative impacts, whether they be physical or emotional, he explains.

Leadership from AFRL’s 711th Human Performance Wing originally learned about this need for additional safety measures during a visit to the USAF Survival School at Fairchild Air Force Base. School personnel explained that they needed a more proactive solution to monitor students’ health and performance during their rigorous training missions. Due to the ongoing research and development of wearable monitoring technologies in the 711HPW, experts decided the SERE training environment was another place this monitoring technology could improve the safety of SERE students and enhance their training program.

“Going in, we knew we needed a broad range of skillsets,” said Dr. James Christensen, a product line lead within the 711HPW. He explains that to produce an effective system, the team relied on expertise in wearable devices, electronics, software development, communications, human factors and physiology.

“We pulled together capabilities from several different parts of the organization to assemble the sensors, develop the software to pull sensor data together, and then build the communications capability to then send that data and be able to monitor it continuously and remotely.”

Following the initial design and development, the team arranged field tests with end-users. Several team members lived with JBSA-Camp Bullis instructors for one week to test SHARK 1.0 in 2018. Now, a year later, an upgraded system is in the field.

In the meantime, the SHARK team is also working with other groups who are interested in acquiring this technology including firefighters, NASA scientists and U.S. Army Special Forces. Members are currently exploring a version of the system that the Department of Defense Fire Academy can use under fire protection gear to prevent heat injuries.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Randall Moss and U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. William Davis, loadmasters assigned to the 16th Airlift Squadron, sort through survival equipment during a survival, evasion, resistance, and escape exercise August 21, 2019, in North, South Carolina. SERE specialists assigned to the 437th Operations Support Squadron conducted this exercise in order to identify potential areas of improvement in both SERE training and equipment provided to aircrew in case of a potential isolating event. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

822nd Base Defense Squadron K9 Teams Train Fast-Rope Insertions

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

Members of the 822nd Base Defense Squadron fly in a HH-60G Pave Hawk from the 41st Rescue Squadron to conduct fast-rope training with their military working dogs (MWD) Nov. 20, 2019 at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Fast-roping allows the MWD teams to quickly access a rugged location where an aircraft is not able to land and start conducting base defense as soon as they are needed.

By 1st Lt. Faith Brodkorb, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing Public Affairs

Special Tactics Airman Identified, Recovery Efforts Ongoing

Sunday, November 10th, 2019

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. – The Special Tactics Airman who had an unplanned parachute departure from a C-130 aircraft, November 5, 2019, over the Gulf of Mexico, south of Hurlburt Field, has been identified. 

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Cole Condiff, 29, was a Special Tactics combat controller with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing, Air Force Special Operations Command.

“Cole was a man with deep-rooted beliefs who dedicated himself to God, our freedoms, peace, and his family. He was a devoted family man within our squadron, focused on teaching his girls to be adventurous like he was,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Steven Cooper, commander of the 23rd STS. “This is a tragic loss to the squadron, the Special Tactics community and our nation. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and teammates at this time.”

The Dallas, Texas native was a graduate of Sachse High School. He attended Utah Valley University and later served a two-year mission with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Spokane, Washington. Condiff then enlisted in the United States Air Force in 2012 and immediately entered the two-year combat control training program. Upon completion of the pipeline, he was assigned to the 23rd STS at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

            Condiff was a static-line jumpmaster, military free-fall jumper, combat scuba diver, air traffic controller, and a joint terminal attack controller. As a Special Tactics combat controller, Condiff was specially trained and equipped for immediate deployment into combat operations to conduct reconnaissance, global access, precision strike and personnel recovery operations.

            Condiff completed deployments to Africa and Afghanistan in support of national security objectives.  His awards and decorations include an Air Force Achievement Medal and an Air Force Commendation Medal with a combat device.                                                                         

Recovery efforts by a combined U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy team are ongoing. The Air Force is actively investigating the incident. To preserve the integrity of the investigation, no additional details will be released until further notice.

Condiff is survived by his wife and their two daughters as well as by his parents, sister and two brothers.  The 24th SOW would like to emphasize the family’s request for privacy.

Statement provided by the Condiff family:

“Cole loved his country and was honored to serve to protect the freedoms we enjoy.

Cole had a deep faith in God. Although we mourn, it is through our faith that we take comfort in knowing we will be with him again.

He loved his family. He was a devoted husband, father, son, brother and friend. He will be greatly missed by all.

We would like to express our deepest and unending gratitude to those that have searched so diligently.

We would also like to thank those who have been and continue to stand at the ready to help serve the family in this time of crisis.

We ask for continued prayers as his wife and daughters move forward without their beloved husband and daddy.

Please pray for all of our military men, women, and families.”

24th SOW Update: Recovery Efforts Begin For Special Tactics Airman

Saturday, November 9th, 2019

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. – As of 6 p.m. Friday, the U.S. Air Force has taken the lead role as the search transitions to a recovery effort for the Special Tactics Airman who had an unplanned parachute departure from a C-130 aircraft November 5, 2019, over the Gulf of Mexico, south of Hurlburt Field.

              The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended their search efforts at this time.

              “We would like to extend our gratitude to all of the federal, state and local units that have aided in the search for our Airman, especially the U.S. Coast Guard,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Matt Allen, commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing. “We will continue our recovery effort as long as circumstances and resources allow to bring our Airman home.”

              Recovery teams are currently refining and adjusting the search area as efforts continue.

              To respect the privacy of the family and teammates of the individual, we will be releasing the name of the Airman following next of kin notification. 

              The Air Force is actively investigating the incident. To preserve the integrity of the investigation, no additional details will be released until further notice. 

Search Ongoing for Special Tactics Airman After Training Jump

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

As of 6 a.m. Wednesday, a search remains underway for an Airman who exited a C-130 aircraft November 5, 2019 over the Gulf of Mexico approximately 4 miles south of Hurlburt Field. The incident is ongoing and under investigation.

Search and recovery crews were immediately called to aid in locating the Airman from the 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field at approximately 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Units participating in the efforts include:

– 24th Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field Air Force Base

– 1st Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field Air Force Base

– Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans MH-65 Dolphin Helicopter aircrew

– Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircrew

– Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile MH-60 Jayhawk aircrew

– Two Coast Guard Station Destin 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boat crews

– 96th Test Wing, Eglin Air Force Base

– U.S. Army 7th Special Forces Group, Duke Field

– Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office

– Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

24th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs