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Archive for the ‘Profession of Arms’ Category

Becoming More Agile

Monday, September 14th, 2020

Military leaders are asking their components to become more agile.

What does that mean? To be agile means adopting and accepting the agile principles, moving away from a top-down hierarchy filled with bureaucracy and individual silos, Agile promotes a ‘guiding’ leadership model surrounded by teams that are flexible and accountable.

Where did Agile come from? Agile was born out of necessity in software engineering to provide faster updates and build upon user feedback. Prior to the modern agile movement, development teams would identify the problem, create a solution, develop a product, then bring it to market, all without extensively engaging the customer. This is known as the ‘waterfall approach’. This method has proven to be slow, cumbersome, and often times, brings a product to market which does not meet the true need of the customer. In early 2000, software developers met to discuss their challenges, and later in 2001, developed what is known today as the ‘Agile Manifesto’.  The key values of which being: people over process, working product over comprehensive documentation, end user collaboration over contracts, and responding to change over following a plan. Agile is now in use by every Fortune 500 company and is utilized by more than 97% of mid-market commercial companies worldwide. Adopters of Platinum Edge’s suite of services have enjoyed a 30-40% increase in time to market with a cost savings from 30-70%.  Although the original idea was for use in the technology world, the values and principles remain true for any type of program management.

The U.S. military has a long history of being the focal point of excellence when it comes to planning and execution. Utilizing the JOPES and MDMP process is a long-proven method of planning and conducting military operations. As the Military shifts to a more business-like model, there is a need to adopt the proven agile approaches to accomplish our goals.

So, how and where does the Military adopt Agile? Like many businesses and organizations, the Military has to be open to change, both in culture and structure. In military planning, there is a hierarchy and clear chain of command. With Agile however, you must allow for the team to take ownership while leaders should act as a guide. Think in the terms of staff functions from company level, to corps, and above. The staff directorates from your S-1’s, G-2’s, J-3’s, etc., work within the confines of their ‘stove pipes’ and report to a Chief of Staff or Commander on individual efforts. In an organization using Agile, you create cross-functional teams based on products. These teams are developed based on the talent needed to complete the end product, not just with whoever is available, i.e. ‘people over process’. This lightweight team concentrates on a goal while incrementally chopping away at the deliverables. The team holds each other accountable along the way and communicates as much as possible in order to facilitate success. This model allows for self-correction and keeps the ‘customer’ involved along the way.

How does an individual, a team, a unit become more Agile? To become agile is not just a declaration or a command. To be agile means a formal adoption of principles while putting faith in the system and processes. Training is available from the basics of agile, Certified Scrum Masters of multiple levels, as well as coaching, mentoring, objective audits, and more.  Each of the courses are credentialed, and are free to the soldier via IgnitED (the Army’s new Credentialing Assistance platform). Being credentialed in agile frameworks provide opportunities for future employment as well as tools for the current scope of work. Companies like Platinum Edge provide these opportunities both virtually as well as in-person and can scale to meet the need of the individual, the team, or the unit.

SCRUM, it’s not a rugby maneuver… so, what is it? scrum is a transparency framework that helps us identify what is working in reality. It is a self-correcting model in which, even if you are wrong in the beginning, you can be right in the end because scrum gives you multiple opportunities to correct course toward the target. Tactically flexible yet strategically focused, your next move changes but your target is stable. It is also a structured learning cycle that allows you to adapt and change based off of experience. At the core of a scrum is the ‘sprint’. A sprint is the activity that drives the process. The sprint is a time-determined activity in which the major product development tasks are completed. At the end of the sprint, the scrum team conducts a ‘retrospective’ to determine what worked, what didn’t, what can move forward, and what can wait. Every level of a military unit can utilize the scrum framework, whether it’s project management, or conducting operations. It is flexible and adaptable to all situations. Many military leaders are familiar with the F3EAD process, scrum is similar however it does take training to practice scrum correctly. Having a coach or a Certified Scrum Master ensures you are playing correctly.

How does being a ‘Certified Scrum Master’ (CSM) help me?

The Scrum Master is a member of the scrum team, who is charged with making sure everyone on the team is playing scrum correctly. Think of them as a referee in a sport; an objective outside influencer that ensures the game is played correctly. The Scrum Master is a majorly critical piece in the scrum team, and the position is not to be taken lightly nor ignored. If the military is to adopt agile, identification of the right talent and promoting this position is of the utmost importance. By choosing to be a Scrum Master, you are joining a small community of individuals whose expertise can be utilized no matter the type of work. To be an objective outsider means you can walk into any type of business or organization and play scrum, no matter the type of product. As a CSM, you can move easily throughout any organization providing great value, both in the military, and post-career in any one of the 40,000 businesses currently seeking CSMs (most positions offer $100,000/ year).

How can I become a ‘Certified Scrum Master’? Becoming a CSM is easy. Platinum Edge has a 2-day (in-person) or 4-day (virtual) Certified Scrum Master course, during which you will learn the basics of being a CSM. Similar to gaining rank in the military, there are multiple levels of a CSM and you must meet certain training and experience quotas prior to advancing. The more you advance, the better you are, and the more valuable an asset you are to the team. Credentialing Assistance allows for a service member to obtain their CSM credentials as well as follow on courses. Each service member (Enlisted/Warrant) is allowed $4000.00 per year in assistance, which is more than enough to obtain their CSM, as well as propel through the levels during their career. As of August 15th, the Army has transitioned to IgnitED for all credentialing opportunities.

What else should I know? Before you dive in, I encourage you to discover more about Agile and SCRUM. The first recommended read is the Agile Manifesto. This lays out the reasoning and principles of agile and is the basis for all agile techniques. Next, the Scrum Guide, gives you an overview of the terms, definitions, positions, and events of SCRUM. The Agile Method on LinchpinSEO is a great article on traditional vs. Agile approach. You can also get deep into the weeds with the SCRUM for Dummies guide, written by Mark Layton.

Why Platinum Edge? I have mentioned Platinum Edge and Mark Layton throughout this article and for good reason. Mark is the founder of Platinum Edge and is the world’s foremost expert on transforming organizations to the agile methodology. Mark, a veteran of the US Air Force, also holds a secret security clearance and is a published author on the subject of scrum and agile. The 1st Special Warfare Training Group at the US Army Special Warfare Center and School has placed their trust in Platinum Edge to provide CSM training to their instructor corps for individual professional development, as well as to begin their change in culture. If you are an instructor at SWCS or assigned to USASOC at Fort Bragg, reach out to 1st SWTG (Project JANUS) to learn more about your training opportunities. For all others interested in obtaining credentials or information on credentialing assistance, visit your local Education center. As for everyone else, feel free to contact Platinum Edge for more information.

Tom Kerr, a retired Special Forces NCO who attended the Certified Scrum Master Course during his transition from service and now utilizes the agile methodology and practices scrum in his daily program management duties at the Strategic Advisory “Firm”, Armor Corps.

It’s Time to Develop a Skydiving Badge for US Air Force Academy Cadets

Saturday, September 12th, 2020

In spite of starting my career in the Army, I retired from the Air Force. Although I worked primarily in the intelligence business, I served on jump status during various SOF assignments in both services.

One of the easiest ways to deduce if an Air Force Officer is an Academy graduate is that they have jump wings (that is if they haven’t already told you). That’s because the AFA offers a course in skydiving.

The AFA’s Basic Freefall Parachuting course, known as Airmanship 490 (AM-490), is run by a cadre of Cadets who make up the Academy’s free fall team, the Wings of Blue. The team and course operate as the 98th Flying Training Squadron, 306th Flying Training Group, Air Education and Training Command.

The course website boasts:

Each year, over 700 cadets take the AM-490 course, “Stand In The Door”, and earn their jump wings.

Here’s an example of the instruction:

If you’re a static-line parachutist, you’ll wonder what they’re up to and how this translates into jump wings.

While it’s true that there are many members of the Army who attend Basic Airborne Training early in their service, but never jump again, many others are assigned to jump billets later on their careers and use the skills that they were taught as Privates or Lieutenants. But that’s not what happening at the Air Force Academy, because it’s impossible to serve as a parachutist after graduating form the Academy’s AM-490 course of instruction.

The most important issue at hand is that Cadets who complete the program do not learn a military skill, despite being awarded a badge which indicates otherwise.

AFI 11-410 (Personal Parachute Operations) governs management of the Air Force parachuting program. It states:

6.3.2. USAF Academy Parachutist Qualification. Members on active parachute status who are quali- fied as USAF Academy parachutists are authorized to fill validated parachute positions and student authorizations at the USAF Academy. These parachutists are not authorized to fill parachute positions elsewhere (emphasis added) unless qualified through paragraphs 6.3.1. or 6.6. This qualification requires completion of one of the following formal training programs: AM-490, USAF Academy, CO. AM-490 satisfies the qualification requirement for assignment to parachute positions and student authorizations at the USAF Academy and may be completed after assignment selection provided the member is a parachute volunteer. AM-492, USAF Academy, CO. Completion of the jumpmaster curriculum in AM-492 qualifies members to serve as jumpmasters for USAF Academy operations only.

To reference back to paragraph 6.3.1 which covers S/L training: US Army Basic Airborne Course, Ft. Benning, GA. S/L courses or programs of instruction, including Mobile Training Teams (MTTs), approved by the US Army Infantry Center (USAIS). US Navy Special Warfare Command (NAVSPECWARCOM) Naval Parachute School (S/ L Course). AM-490, USAF Academy, CO, when the diploma was earned prior to August 1994. (emphasis added)

To reference back to paragraph 6.6 which covers MFF training:

6.6.1. US Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (USAJFKSWCS) Military Free Fall School, Yuma Proving Grounds, AZ.

6.6.2. MFF courses or programs of instruction, including MTTs, approved by USAJFKSWCS.

6.6.3. NAVSPECWARCOM Naval Parachute School (MFF Course), Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, CA.

To summarize what those paragraphs mean for graduates of AM-490; to actually serve as a military parachutist, they have to attend one of the courses of instruction mentioned above.

As you can see, Cadets can’t earn advanced ratings. They aren’t filing J-coded billets. They aren’t static line parachutists and they aren’t military free fall parachutists. So what are they? That’s simple; they’re skydivers. The USAFA is creating about 700 new skydivers per year.

Although it hasn’t been the case for quite some time, over two decades ago Cadets were even allowed to earn Senior and Master parachutist ratings, based on skydives (see above). They selected their own jumpmasters and considered wearing smoke canisters or the flag during demonstration jumps as “combat equipment” jumps.

A few years ago, BG Goodwin, an AFA Commandant, wore Senior jump wings which she had been awarded as a Cadet. It caused a bit of confusion for actual parachutists who questioned her qualification, considering she had never served on jump status.

Even today, there are still a few senior officers a running around wearing badges they were awarded, but didn’t earn in the way parachutists would expect. That same argument could be made about those current and former Cadets wearing Basic wings. They aren’t qualified as parachutists.

Instead of awarding the basic parachutist badge, Cadets who complete the course should be awarded a cadets-only badge. There is already plenty of precedent for the concept. Cadets learn to fly gliders and even powered aircraft while at the Academy, but they aren’t awarded USAF pilot wings once they complete training. Why even the Space and Cyber communities have clubs for perspective members of their careerfields, but they don’t award actual careerfield badges. Instead, Cadets earn badges they only wear while at the Academy. Many of these are shared with Air Force ROTC.

Here’s a list of the many badges which can be earned by Air Force Academy Cadets:

Superintendent’s Pin: Worn only by those cadets whose name appears on the Superintendent’s list for obtaining the Commandant’s Pin, Dean’s Pin, and Athletic Director’s Pin for the previous semester.

Commandant’s Pin: Worn by those cadets whose name appears on the Commandant’s List. The Commandant’s List is reserved for cadets in the top one third in military performance by class. They will retain this status until the end of the next academic semester.

Dean’s Pin: Worn by those cadets whose name appears on the Dean’s list for obtaining a Grade Point Average of a 3.0 or above for the previous semester.

Athletic Director’s Pin: Athletic Director’s Pin: Worn by those cadets who obtain a semester Physical Education Average (PEA) of at least 3.00 during the academic year. The PEA is based on 50% Physical Fitness Test score, 15% Aerobic Fitness Test score and 35% P.E. class grade. Cadets on any probation do not qualify for the Athletic Director’s pin.

Combinations of the Commandant’s Pin, Dean’s Pin, and Athletic Director’s Pin are worn to signify attainment of placement on multiple lists the previous semester.

Soaring Instructor Pilot Wings: World War II glider pilot wings awarded to cadet soaring instructor pilots upon completion of AM-461. A star and wreath are added as cadets progress through the soaring program.

Flying Team Wings: Approved in October 2012, these wings are worn by members of the Flying Team, a select group of cadets who were selected after arriving at the Air Force Academy with a Private Pilot’s license. A star and wreath are added as cadets progress through the soaring program.

Cadet Flight Wings: Flight wings with star are worn by cadets who have soloed a USAFA glider or a powered aircraft. Wings without star are worn by cadets who have completed at least 10 flights in a USAFA glider but have not soloed.

Cadet Aviation Club Wings: Worn by cadet aviation instructors. A star is added for a senior cadet aviation instructor.

Cadet Space Wings: Worn by cadets who are involved in space activities. A star and wreath are added as cadets progress through the space program.

Cadet Cyberwarfare Badge: Worn by cadets to acknowledge the achievement of cadets who are involved in the cyberwarfare program. A star and wreath are added as cadets progress through the cyber program.

Parachutist Badge: Worn by those cadets who have successfully completed either the Airmanship 490 Basic Parachuting course taught by the 98 FTS or graduates of the US Army Basic Airborne Course, Ft. Benning, GA. Senior and Master Parachutist badges require operational experience and are awarded as authorized in AFI 11-402.

Air Assault Badge: Worn by those cadets who have successfully completed US Army Basic Air Assault School.

Bulldog Badge: Worn by those cadets who have completed the Marine Corps Bulldog program at Quantico, VA.

UAS Wings: Worn by cadets who have completed Small UAS (SUAS) certification. A star and wreath are added as cadets progress through the UAS program as instructors and evaluators/test pilots.

Here are a couple of examples.

Cadet Cyberspace Badge

Cyberspace Operator Badge

Cadet Flight Wings

Air Force Pilot Badge

The choice for a Cadet Skydiving Badge is easy. From 1956-1963, the USAF awarded a distinctive badge for Air Force parachutists. Based on the shield now worn by medical personnel, it featured a light blue background emblazoned with a white parachute.

Not only is this design distinctive, but it’s no longer used by the Air Force yet supports the service’s heritage. It’s the perfect design for our skydiving cadets. There are even Senior and master versions. The master variant is seen below.

In 1963, the Air Force switched back to the basic parachutist badge used by the other services.

As you can imagine, some AFA cadets do in fact attend the three-week BAC at Fort Benning, Gerorgia. That course teaches a military skill and graduates are awarded basic airborne wings. Just like cadets who attend Air Assault school, they earn their wings.

It’s not that the training isn’t valuable. It should continue. There’s no operational requirement to pilot a glider, but the skill does teach airmanship. Likewise, skydiving teaches Cadets about aviation and instills confidence. As an airmanship course of instruction, it should continue.

This isn’t the fault of the Airmen, but rather the institution. The Air Force is failing to prepare them for the mission. Recently, AETC attempted to set up its own MFF training program to help streamline its Special Warfare training pipelines with the eventual goal of adding S/L as well. The Air Force scrapped the project when it realized it couldn’t adequately replicate the exacting conditions and standards of the formal courses of instruction already mentioned.

Even the Academy has halted training that didn’t adequately prepare its students for operational roles. At one time, Cadets participated in Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape training run by Cadets at the Academy. When it was determined that it didn’t adequately prepare students for operational requirements, the Resistance portion of the the training was halted and Cadets who required it, received the training as part of the formal course at Fairchild, once commissioned. The Survival and Evasion training continues as part of Basic Cadet Training as it instills confidence and teaches basic outdoor living skills.

Creation of a Cadet Skydiving Badge aligns with other aeronautical programs at the Air Force Academy, recognizing unique skills taught at that institution, while reserving the parachutist badge for those who are actually qualified to fulfill operational duties as parachutists in the operational Air Force.

Very recently, the Air Force asked for feedback regarding dress and appearance, but as I am now retired, my input is understandably not wanted. However, this issue continues to affect the active force. Perhaps others who continue to serve, will make similar suggestions.

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

Monday, September 7th, 2020


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

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

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

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

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

Failure is always an option.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep an even keel.

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

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

Fast forward to 2015, somewhere in a combat environment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“First There, That Others May Live.”

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

Photo by TSgt Sandra Welch

The Baldwin Files – Leadership and Initiative

Monday, September 7th, 2020

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”

– Sun Tzu

We are all shaped by life experiences – our own, and the example of others we have the opportunity to observe or read about. In terms of leadership development, I have tried to hammer home the following point many times. There is such a thing as a temporary duty position or acting rank; however, there is no such thing as temporary, acting, simulated or provisional leadership. Either you lead or you do not. “Do, or do not. There is no try.” as the great philosopher Yoda once said. In any case, for those of us who are privileged to lead, experience forges our personal “command philosophy.” That is how we fundamentally think of and approach leadership roles and responsibilities – formal or informal. As with many aspects of leadership, developing a personal philosophy is often a complicated maturation process over time. Therefore, I am going to concentrate on just one vital leadership trait or principle in this article – initiative.

Initiative in the military is often described as a binary choice; as in soldiers “taking action in the absence of orders.” If applied literally, that simplistic statement would seem to indicate that there is no option for individual or unit initiative after orders are issued? That cannot be right. I prefer to think of initiative as opportunities for positive action that soldiers – especially leaders – constantly seek out – with or without explicit orders. Moreover, when leaders find the chance, we are duty bound to seize those opportunities. Make no mistake, in peace and war, initiative must always be SEIZED by the individual; it cannot be requisitioned, allocated, disseminated, delegated, or preordained. Initiative starts with trust and confidence. Effective leaders who want to inculcate initiative into their organizations have to know and have confidence in themselves and trust in their subordinates.

Some say – and I believe – that asking for forgiveness [works] better than asking for permission. It certainly does speak to the essence of initiative. In practice, I have rarely found it necessary to ask forgiveness for exercising my initiative – within the context of accomplishing my assigned mission. I will share one clear example that happened early in my career. In 1980, I was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry (Wolfhounds) of the 25th Infantry Division stationed in Hawaii. This was before the “Light Division” initiative of the mid-to late 80s. We were a “straight leg” outfit. I was a promotable Sergeant (E-5) and was initially a Rifle Squad Leader in Alpha Company. That did not last long, a couple of months later, a slot opened for a TOW Section Leader in the Combat Support Company. I was TOW qualified, so I was moved over to that position.

A TOW section consisted of eight soldiers in two squads (gun crews), four M151A2s, a.k.a. “Jeeps,” and two TOW systems. I have included a picture of one TOW squad for reference in the attached diagram below. Note: the picture is of the earliest version of the TOW system, circa 1974 and the vehicles are M151A1s not A2s. I had only 7 soldiers assigned but otherwise had a full complement of gear. In those days, TOW qualification was an additional infantry “skill identifier” not an MOS. There was a formal gunners’ course at Fort Benning but it never met the requirements in the field. Most soldiers, myself included, OJTed on the system at some point and were awarded the identifier after 90 days and a unit recommendation.

One day my Platoon Leader and Company Commander pulled me aside after morning formation in the Battalion Quad (Barracks Area). They told me that my Section had been “volunteered” to act as aggressors for an upcoming Battalion Command Post Exercise (CPX). I was to report to the Battalion Commander (BC) for additional guidance. I hustled over to the Battalion Headquarters and met the CSM first. He explained that the Battalion and Company level leadership would be going out to the Kahuku Training Area (KTA), in order to practice establishing CPs, troubleshoot communication systems, and work through the mechanics of issuing and disseminating tactical plans and orders. All of this was to get the Battalion C2 ready for the upcoming Team Spirit Exercise in Korea. As part of that preparation, a Rifle Platoon from Alpha Company had been tasked to provide security for the BN CP.

We went in to see the BC. He asked me if I had any questions about my mission. I asked only one question “is there anything specifically that you want me to do?” He said something to the effect that “No, the tactics are up to you. Your job is to take out the CP. Their job (the Platoon) is to stop you.” I said “Roger that,” saluted, and left. I received no additional guidance from anyone in the chain of command, nor did I seek it out. I had some thinking to do. I gathered my soldiers and we started to plan our patrol. The “patrol’ level order was about as far as any of us were familiar with mission planning. It was good enough. We had our organic assets of men, vehicles, radios, rifles (M16A1s) and even four PVS5 Night Vision Goggles for the drivers. We had no machine guns, but I could have gotten those from the arms room. I could have even scrounged up a few more men and trucks; however, I decided it was our mission and we would do it ourselves.

I knew what was expected. Everybody from the BC on down anticipated that we would drive to KTA, dismount, and “probe” the CP’s perimeter security. That was a losing proposition. The most we would accomplish would be to keep a platoon’s worth of soldiers awake for a few nights and still never get within striking distance of the CP itself. The platoon had the positional, manpower, and (overwhelming) firepower advantage in a fair fight. Moreover, although it was only a blank gunfight we were bound to take significant notional casualties. An inferior force bumbling blind into even a poorly prepared defense was tactically suicidal. I do not believe in suicide missions or training my people to get killed – even notionally. I wanted to win, I wanted to take out that CP, and I wanted my soldiers to have no doubt that we could do it. Therefore, a fair fight was out.

I pulled out the Ranger Handbook and looked up Raid first. I do not have that old 1970s version for reference, but the fundamentals have not changed much over the years. The 2011 Handbook says in part, “A raid is a form of attack, usually small scale, involving a swift entry into hostile territory to secure information, confuse the enemy, or destroy installations followed by a planned withdrawal. Squads do not conduct raids [emphasis added]. The sequence of platoon actions for a raid is similar to those for an ambush. …Fundamentals of the raid include: Surprise and speed. Infiltrate and surprise the enemy without being detected. Coordinated fires. Seal off the objective with well synchronized direct and indirect fires. Violence of action. Overwhelm the enemy with fire and maneuver. Planned withdrawal. Withdraw from the objective in an organized manner, maintaining security.”

It was obvious that a Raid in the traditional sense was out of the question. However, one of the fundamentals sounded particularly applicable to our situation, “Infiltrate and surprise the enemy without being detected.” So, I next looked up Ambush. “An ambush is a surprise attack from a concealed position on a moving or temporarily halted target. Ambushes are categorized as either hasty or deliberate and divided into two types, point or area; and formation linear or L shaped. The leader considers various key factors in determining the ambush category, type, and formation, and from these decisions, develops his ambush plan.” That was it. I had my Eureka moment. The CP was certainly a “temporarily halted target.” Therefore, if we could not successfully raid the CP, by God we would ambush it!

We did have some advantages. No one was paying attention to our planning so we were able to maintain airtight operational security (OPSEC). As the plan started to flesh out, my soldiers became more and more enthusiastic and understood the need for absolute secrecy. We also knew the enemy – well. I had been in the same company as had my Squad Leader. We knew the platoon selected and their leadership. The Platoon Sergeant was a Vietnam veteran (as almost all of the senior NCOs were). However, he was one of those guys who made it clear that he though peacetime training was bullshit and “you’ll learn the real deal when you get to combat.” Apparently that is how it worked for him in the Nam. In other words, while he probably knew how to do it right, he was a “half-stepper” who was not going to put much effort into this tasker. His squad leaders and even the Platoon Leader took their cues from him.

I was not a half-stepper and my men knew it and, unlike our enemy, we were highly motivated. A big advantage. I visited the S4 and picked up some scraps of training ammunition they had on hand. A can of 5.56 blank; about enough for each of us to have 5-6 loaded 20 Round magazines. A half dozen grenade simulators, several smoke grenades and four CS Ball Grenades. The Ball Grenades were designed for crowd control. When thrown, they broke apart and dispensed a chemical irritant in powder form. The grenade could not be thrown back, and the powder “contaminated” an area for an extended period of time. I expected to use them to deter pursuit if we had to break contact. During planning we figured out that we would need to divide into two elements. A mounted team with three vehicles and drivers and a dismounted ambush team of four. That was just enough.

Our most important advantage was that we knew where the CP was going to be established. The KTA is relatively small with highly compartmentalized terrain and thick vegetation. There was only a couple of places suitable for a BN CP and one of those was marginal at best. Therefore, because of the terrain constraints, we knew the location and the likely layout of the site. I had been there more than a few times. On one side was a guava thicket about 15 feet by 30 feet on the edge of a steep ravine (see diagram). We even knew how the platoon defense would be established in a horseshoe anchored on that ravine. Every unit that went out there for years had used the same fighting positions; including the machinegun position we expected to be sited to control the access road entrance into the CP. I had no doubt that the security platoon would take the easy way and fall into those same holes.

Our last advantage was our autonomous mobility. I could leave when I saw fit and had no requirement to make any additional checks with anybody. We left early the next Monday morning – day one of the CPX. The S-3 (Operations) shop and the S-6 (Communications) were just starting to load their vehicles when we left. I do not think anyone noticed our departure. We got to the CP site and confirmed our plan. My Squad Leader, acting as one driver, would take the vehicles one ridge line over and be prepared to support a hasty extraction of the ambush team if necessary. The vehicles moved out. The ambush team familiarized ourselves with the area (MG position, etc.) Again, refer to the diagram. I had two men crawl into the thicket and we confirmed that we would be concealed from view in that thick tangle of vegetation – even if someone got into the prone and looked.


We then rehearsed our ambush actions twice before crawling into the guava and establishing our Objective Rally Point (ORP). We were ready. Around mid-morning, the first people to arrive were the communicators and the NCOs from the S2 (Intelligence) and S3 sections. They went completely admin and stripped down to t-shirts to put up the tent and antennas. They surrounded the tent with one strand of concertina wire. Not for security, but just to keep people from running into the tent’s guy lines. They decorated the concertina with white cloth engineer tape to make the wire visible and to guide people to the single entrance. The security platoon arrived sometime around lunch. They were just as admin as the first crew. No one systematically cleared the objective area. They meandered out to their defensive positions a few at a time – and out of our sight. Then apparently, rather than improve their fighting positions, everyone took a late lunch of C-Rations. We could tell from the clanging of cans and the chatter. No noise discipline in effect until the BC, CSM, and S3 arrived around 1500 hours.

We waited quietly. No chow for us. The sound or the smell might give us away. We sipped water, took turns watching and slept. Just after dark, around 2130, all the Company Commanders arrived from their CPs for the Battalion Operations Order. It was time. They had walked themselves precisely into the kill zone of our ambush. I led the team out of the guava. We had put our ammo in our jungle fatigue shirts and left our LCE in the brush. We did not want to risk being hung up going out or back in. We lined up directly in front of the entrance and initiated the ambush with full auto fire from our M16s. A PFC by the name of Teague was the last man in the line. He had a special job. We had made up a dummy demolition charge and he was going to deliver it inside to complete the destruction of the CP.

Teague ran into the tent and then did some adlibbing. He told us later that he was startled when he went in because everyone was looking at him in shock. So he sprayed them with his remaining rounds and put the “demo charge” on the field table in front of the BC. We could hear clearly outside the tent as the BC asked, “Are you done, son?” Teague replied “No Sir, I’ve got a whole nother magazine!” So, he reloaded and gave them another 20 rounds before running back out. In the meantime, we had thrown smoke grenades behind us to block the view of anyone near the MG position or road and a couple more towards the vehicle parking area in case the drivers were looking. We finished with two grenade simulators for the demo charge detonation and then did a right face and crawled back into the guava. The ambush took less than 90 seconds. We waited for the reaction and the possibility we might be found out and have to run for it or slide on our asses down the side of the ravine behind us.

Not much happened for a while. The sounds had echoed among the trees and, unless one was looking in the right direction and saw the flashes, it would be unclear where the attack had originated. Indeed, standard procedure would be for soldiers on the perimeter to remain in place and scan their immediate sectors. Again, knowing my enemy, I had been certain that there would be no sentinels at the CP entrance or any quick reaction force (QRF) to respond. The platoon leadership would be trying to figure out what was going on before coming back to the CP and reporting to the BC. In the interim, the BC, Company Commanders, and the Staff had pushed on to issue the operations order. The S3 was a particularly loud talker and we could hear most of the plan as he presented it. After all, we were only about 35 feet away.

Eventually the briefing broke up and the S3 and Alpha Company Commander came out, actually moved next to our guava hideout, and yelled for the platoon leader. He showed up with the platoon sergeant for his ass chewing. He confessed that he did not know how we got past his people or got back out. But, he assured them, he would keep the platoon at 100% security for the rest of the night and it would not happen again. None of them considered for a moment that the aggressors might not be doing the expected or fighting fair. Without any immediate threat, we again started to take turns sleeping for the rest of the night. During the night there were several bursts of fire from the perimeter as the platoon stayed awake and engaged shadows.

We were not done. The next day we continued to rest and observe. I did not expect another big meeting on the second night, but I wanted everyone to know that the first night had not been a lucky fluke. We waited until about 0300 this time. Again, there was the occasional burst of random fire from the perimeter throughout the night. We crawled out in the same formation as the first time – this time with all our gear. It was time to leave. We initiated the ambush with our M16s and threw our remaining ordinance: simulators, smoke, and three of the CS Grenades right at the entrance of the CP. Then we faced left and moved deliberately to the road and downslope with me in the lead. I had the last CS grenade in my hand and was prepared to throw it at the MG position if necessary. I expected that the MG would be on the tripod and the crew would not be quick to turn it back toward the CP in any case. The CS powder would certainly distract them until we could get away.

As we came up to the position, someone – the gunner presumably – whispered, “What’s going on?” I whispered back, “The aggressors hit the CP again! Stay Alert! And, for God’s sake don’t fire us up when we come back!” “Roger that” came the reply. We kept moving at a walk. Fifty meters and less than a minute later we were entirely out of their sight and line of fire. We kept walking and, although I did not expect it, I threw the last grenade behind us on the road to deter any pursuit. I had carried one of our radios in my ruck for contingencies but had kept it off in the ORP. We turned it on and sent the codeword for extraction. The vehicle team had heard the explosions and the trucks got to the link up intersection just as we arrived. A 30 second accountability check and we were on our way back to Schofield Barracks. My soldiers were hungry but morale was sky high. We got back in time for breakfast at the Messhall. We spent the rest of the day cleaning up and slept that night in our own beds.

The next morning I was crossing the Quad after PT when the security platoon came back in. One of the Squad Leaders I knew pretty well stopped me. He told me that he was impressed how we got past them for two nights, but last night they had shut down every one of our attempts to infiltrate thru them. I could see that the guy was exhausted after 72 hours without sleep so I told him “good job” and went on my way. It appeared that not only had we taken out the battalion CP twice – killing most of the leadership the first time – but had also simultaneously managed to harass the rifle platoon and keep them awake for three nights without ever engaging them. I was proud of my men and how they handled the mission. No one had even fired a shot at us so we had zero compromises or casualties. Mission success in my book.

I cautioned my men to go with the “official story” that we had slipped stealthily through twice and did not get inside on the third try. I did submit some security suggestions to the BC a few days later including having the security element always go in first and clear the objective thoroughly, posting sentries at the CP itself (with night vision), and having some form of QRF. He asked me directly how we did it. Did we climb up and down the sides of the ravine he wondered? So, I told him. He said “I’ll be damned.” Then he looked at me and said, “I could have done without the CS. We had to move the CP entrance to the other side and they still haven’t gotten the smell out of the canvas.” I said, “Yes, Sir. We won’t use it next time.” As far as I know, the BC never shared that story with anyone else. I was never asked to aggress against the CP again either.

I suspect that the BC also made a mental note to himself to be more explicit in his instructions the next time he gave someone like me a mission. It is true that I had not given him exactly what he expected. In fact, I had given him something better than he originally wanted from me. I gave him what he actually needed – an honest and complete evaluation on the security posture of his CP. Simply probing the perimeter would have provided little useful feedback. The BC went on to validate our work by having his people apply my recommendations during Team Spirit and incorporated them into the CP SOP.

When it comes to initiative, there are a couple of “rules” leaders need to follow. If you are the subordinate, never ask for more guidance then you absolutely need to understand the mission and the commander’s intent. Always leave yourself some room for initiative. If you are the senior, never give any more guidance than you absolutely have to. That usually means only those essential constraints and limitations required to synchronize actions between units. Give your subordinates as much time and space as possible to exercise their individual initiative. Imagination, audacity, and initiative are always value added and powerful force multipliers. A wise leader encourages and harnesses that power. Good units develop bold soldiers at all levels who are never afraid to carpe diem.

De Oppresso Liber!

LTC Terry Baldwin, US Army (Ret) served on active duty from 1975-2011 in various Infantry and Special Forces assignments. SSD is blessed to have him as both reader and contributor.

US Army Ranger to Receive Medal of Honor for Hostage Rescue Mission

Monday, September 7th, 2020

WASHINGTON — An Army Ranger who risked his life to save dozens of hostages facing imminent execution by ISIS fighters will be awarded the Medal of Honor, the White House announced Thursday.

Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne, who is assigned to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, was part of a joint task force that assisted Iraqi security forces Oct. 22, 2015, in raiding an ISIS prison near Hawija in northern Iraq.

Payne and his teammates liberated 70 hostages — many of whom were captured Iraqi security forces personnel — after a request by the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Soldiers had to quickly rescue the hostages amid heavy enemy gunfire and suicide-vest detonations during the contested nighttime operation, which left one U.S. Soldier and at least 20 insurgents dead.

“Time was of the essence,” Payne said in an interview. “There were freshly dug graves. If we didn’t action this raid, then the hostages were likely to be executed.”

After being infilled by CH-47 Chinook helicopters, Payne and members of the task force climbed over a wall into the prison compound. Payne, an assistant team leader at the time, helped lead his team as it cleared one of the two buildings known to house hostages.

Once inside the building after light resistance from the enemy, Payne said his team used bolt cutters to pierce through the locks of a prison door, freeing nearly 40 hostages.

Payne and others then heard an urgent call for help over the radio from other task force members engaged in an intense firefight at the second building.

Payne and his team maneuvered about 30 yards to the heavily-fortified building, which was partially on fire.

Once there, he and others scaled a ladder onto the roof of the one-story building as a sustained rate of enemy machine-gun fire shot out from below. From a vantage point on the roof, they engaged the enemy with hand grenades and small arms fire.

At that point, enemy fighters began to detonate their suicide vests, causing the roof to shake. Payne and others then moved off the roof to an initial breach point on the ground level.

With barricaded enemies firing rounds toward him, Payne entered the structure to open another fortified door. After he managed to cut the first lock, he had to run out due to the heavy smoke and handed off the bolt cutters to an Iraqi partner. After the partner came out for fresh air, Payne took the tool again to sheer off the last lock and kicked open the door.

Still being engaged by the enemy, Payne and others escorted about 30 more hostages out of the burning building, which was about to collapse.

“We had to use speed to our advantage,” he said.

With disregard for his own safety, Payne then reentered the building two more times to ensure every hostage was out. One of those times he had to forcibly remove one of the hostages who had been too frightened to move during the chaotic scene, he said.

For his actions, Payne was initially given the Army’s second-highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross, which was later upgraded to a Medal of Honor.

President Donald Trump will present the medal to Payne on Sept. 11.

Originally from Batesburg-Leesville and Lugoff, South Carolina, Payne joined the Army in 2002 as an infantryman with hopes of becoming an Army Ranger.

Since then, he has deployed several times to combat zones as a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment and in various positions with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

He earned a Purple Heart medal after being wounded in a separate 2010 mission in Afghanistan. And as a sergeant first class in 2012, Payne won the Army’s Best Ranger Competition, representing USASOC.

He is married with three children and is currently stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

For more information about Sgt. Maj. Thomas P. Payne’s heroic actions, visit Medal of Honor: Sgt. Maj. Thomas Payne.

By Sean Kimmons, Army News Service

Female Aviator Joins Special Tactics Leadership Team

Sunday, September 6th, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TacJobs – JSOC Intelligence Brigade

Saturday, September 5th, 2020

The Joint Special Operations Command Intelligence Brigade (JIB) is looking for service members in the Intelligence career fields to join a selectively manned joint organization that drives the JSOC’s targeting enterprise.

Applicants must be motivated and ready to help illuminate the enemy with unfailing precision. If interested, please email [email protected].

US Air Force Seeks Dress and Appearance ideas Through New Crowdsourcing Campaign

Saturday, September 5th, 2020

The Department of the Air Force launched a new crowdsourcing campaign to solicit ideas for dress and appearance improvements on the Air Force Ideation Platform, IdeaScale.

Airmen and civilians are invited to submit ideas beginning Sept. 3.

“If we want an environment in which Airmen feel valued, we need to create transformative opportunities to foster a culture of innovation and then listen to their ideas,” said Lisa Truesdale, Air Force military force policy deputy director. “Additionally, wearing the uniform and having pride in your personal appearance enhances esprit de corps.”

Dress and personal-appearance ideas submitted to IdeaScale may be presented to the Air Force Uniform Board after review by Air Force personnel subject matter experts. The uniform board will make recommendations to the Air Force chief of staff.

All CSAF-approved ideas will be implemented within AFI 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel. If an idea does not meet the Air Force Uniform Board, a notice with rationale will be sent to the submitter.

“We want our dress and appearance guidance to be inclusive,” Truesdale said. “We are committed to considering the views of all members. Individuals contribute their highest levels of creativity when they are cared for and feel a sense of belonging.”

The following categories are available for idea submission:

GROOMING AND APPEARANCE STANDARDS (e.g. hairstyles, beards, shaving, etc.)

DRESS UNIFORMS (Service Dress, Mess Dress and accessories (e.g. hat, shoes, shirt, belt, tie, ribbons, medals, insignia, etc.))

UTILITY UNIFORM (Operational Camouflage Pattern Uniform and associated accessories (e.g. hat, boots, belt, T-shirt, insignia, etc.))

ACCESSORIES (e.g. jewelry, earrings, rings, purses, backpacks, gym bags, phone, headphones, etc.)

OUTER GARMENTS (e.g. pullover sweater, cardigan sweater, lightweight blue jacket, fleece, etc.)

PHYSICAL TRAINING GEAR (e.g. shorts, pants, jacket, shoes, socks, shirt, etc.)

FLIGHT DUTY UNIFORMS (Two-Piece Flight Duty Uniform, Flight Duty Uniform, Desert Flight Duty Uniform and associated accessories (e.g. hat, boots, T-shirt, patches, insignia, etc.))

BADGES AND SPECIALTY INSIGNIA (e.g. organization badges, unit patches, duty identification patches, tabs, etc.)

MATERNITY UNIFORMS (e.g. Service Dress, Utility, accessories, etc.)

To submit an idea or engage in this campaign visit

If you are new to the platform, register using your Common Access Card. From the homepage, scroll to the “Dress and Appearance” tile to submit your ideas.

Previous dress and appearance ideas submitted to the Airmen Powered by Innovation campaign will be transferred to this new campaign.

Story by Secretary of Air Force Public Affairs

Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong