The Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) appears to be short on active-duty operators, a report indicates.

As 2019 faded away, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report that reveals a crisis in the making for the Air Force’s elite. Like almost every other Special Operations Command, during the last years, AFSOC has been forced to call up reserve operators, either from the Air Force Reserve (AFR) or Air National Guard (ANG), to complement its active-duty squadrons, which are undermanned. This issue highlights the retention “crisis” that is common throughout the Special Operations community — it is especially pronounced in some units.

Equally troubling, however, is the fact that the process of calling up reservists is not as smooth as one would expect at that level. The GAO report found that the issue stems from “AFSOC’s limited organizational capacity to conduct the planning, coordination, and execution of involuntary mobilizations.” An involuntary mobilization is when reserve troops are being called to active duty.

Currently, there are six reserve Rescue Squadrons (RQs), also known as Guardian Angels, coming from both the AFR and ANG. RQs specialize in Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) and Personnel Recovery (PR). Additionally, there are two Special Warfare Squadrons, both belonging to the ANG.

The GAO report makes the following recommendations:

  • “The Air Force should ensure that AFSOC has the organizational capacity to effectively initiate, coordinate, and execute ARC mobilizations
  • [The Air Force] should develop a method for providing AFSOC with consolidated information regarding units available for mobilizations”

And yet AFSOC seems on the correct path when it comes to smoothing out the call-up process. According to the report, the Department of Defence (DoD) has acknowledged the issue and it’s working towards fully or partially addressing GAO’s recommendations.

The past year was momentous for AFSOC. Special Tactics — the umbrella under which the Command’s four Special Operations career fields existed — was replaced by Special Warfare. And it was more than a name change: Special Warfare reorganized and streamlined the Air Force’s Special Operations career fields. Now, Pararescue, Combat Control, Special Reconnaissance (formerly known as the Special Operations Weather Technician career field), and Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) are all different components (sub-career fields would be the most accurate description) of the Special Warfare career field. These changes allow for better coordination and opportunities on the administrative side of the job.

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