A few months ago, the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) announced its intent to establish a new Special Operations career field. Special Reconnaissance (SR) would replace the existing Special Operations Weather Technician (SOWT) military occupation specialty.
The rationale behind the decision to renovate the SOWT career field stemmed from the advanced meteorological systems the Air Force possesses. The primary function of SOWT operators is to provide accurate and timely meteorological data in support of other special operations forces (SOF) units. Essentially, they were high-speed weathermen. But with the introduction of new forecasting systems, SOWT operators were becoming redundant.
Here’s the Air Force description of the SR’s intended capabilities and mission tasks:
“Capable of rapid deployment during day or night, to any environment, including permissive, hostile, denied, or politically and/or diplomatically sensitive locales. Conducts Preparation of the Environment activities utilizing indigenous sources, organic equipment, and remote-controlled technology. Integrates SR into Military Decision-Making Processes and Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Environment channels to maximize combat power.”
SR operators will also be trained to operate in all six geographic conditions: arctic, desert, jungle, maritime, mountain, and urban. Their pipeline will closely resemble that of Combat Controllers (CCT) and Pararescuemen (PJ). It’s a long and extremely demanding physical and mental process. Following basic training, prospective candidates will attend the following courses and schools:
- Special Warfare Preparatory
- Special Warfare Assessment and Selection
- Special Warfare SOF Common Skills
- Special Warfare Pre-Dive
- Open and Closed Circuit Dive
- S. Army Basic Airborne (Static-Line Parachutist)
- Military Free Fall (MFF Parachutist)
- Level C Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape training
- Water Survival
- Underwater Egress training
- Special Reconnaissance Apprentice
The Special Reconnaissance Apprentice Course is where candidates learn the core skills of the SR job. The primary focus of the course will be on reconnaissance, surveillance, target interdiction, and long-range precision engagement. There will still be training on the gathering and analyzing of environmental and meteorological data—a residue from the SOWT career field—but to a much lesser extent.
AFSOC now includes the following career fields: PJ, CCT, SR, and Tactical Air Control Party.
In addition to the above, the Air Force also has the Survival Escape Resistance and Evasion and Explosive Ordinance Disposal career fields, which fall under the battlefield airmen designation but are considered combat support and not SOF.