Soldiers with 2-20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) as well as other members of the special operations community prepare to conduct a mock-nighttime assault on the Grenada Dam in Grenada, Mississippi January 20, 2019. The exercise involved a simultaneous assault from multiple points, with the intent of gaining control over an insurgent-held dam. Southern Strike 2019 is a large-scale, joint multinational combat exercise that provides tactical level training for the full spectrum of conflict. It emphasizes air dominance, maritime operations, maritime air support, precision engagement, close air support, command and control, personnel recovery, aero medical evacuation, and combat medical support. Air National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy. DVIDS.
In a major development, the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) changed the Special Operations Weather Technician (SOWT) career field to Special Reconnaissance (SR).
The Air Force has debated the future of its battlefield airmen for some time. SOWTs were seen as unnecessary with the advent of weather forecasting technology. Earlier in 2018, the service released a memorandum describing the current challenges and explored possible improvement opportunities to become more effective. “Bottom line, a fully leveraged Air Force ground maneuver element eliminates the need to ask another service to do what the Air Force should do ourselves,” the memo states. This conclusion indicates a desire for more independence. The document was signed by the Air Force’s Vice Chief of Staff, Gen. Stephen Wilson.
As of now, the battlefield airmen designation includes:
- Pararescuemen (PJ)
- Combat Controllers (CCT)
- Tactical Air Control Party (TACP), which are considered Special Operations
The Survival Escape Resistance and Evasion and Explosive Ordinance Disposal career fields also fall under the battlefield airmen designation but are considered combat support and not SOF.
The SR pipeline is very similar to PJ and CCT. Candidates for all three career fields attend the same selection and assessment program at Lackland Air Force Base. Thereafter, they progress through a succession of schools:
- Pre-Dive and Dive
- Military Free Fall
- Combat Control
- Advanced Skills Training
From the available information, it appears the main mission set of the SR field is to provide environmental reconnaissance capabilities to commanders. SR operators would also specialize in ground Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance missions. Additionally, they’re still capable of combat weather forecasting operations.
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