Launched this past October, Special Warfare is comprised of the Pararescue (1Z1), Combat Control (1Z2), Tactical Air Control Party (1Z3) and Special Reconnaissance (1Z4) Air Force Specialties. Previously these were separate career fields, and technically they still are — a Combat Controller and a Special Recon operator aren’t going to be the same.
The Special Warfare designation is an administrative term that groups together relevant jobs. Before Special Warfare launched, the four jobs were scattered across the Air Force’s vast career fields list. Bringing them together under one umbrella ensures a more streamlined administrative experience for the operators (for example, promotions, qualifications, training, funding, etc.).
“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 Donovan. “These Airmen will provide the connective tissue to conduct multi-domain operations, even in the most difficult scenarios.”
In addition to the four Special Warfare specialties, there is the Special Warfare Enabler career field (1T), which includes the Survival, Evasion, Resistanc, and Escape (SERE) job. Special Warfare Enablers are direct or indirect support personnel who can also, if required, accompany operators on missions.
Colonel Thomas Palenske, the director of the new Air Force Special Warfare directorate, said that about the new career field:
“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. To be successful, the Air Force must leverage special warfare to execute its mission on an increasingly complex and contested battlefield.”
When it comes to the new Special Reconnaissance (SR) specialty — it changed from the previous Special Operations Weather Technician (SOWT) — former SOWT operators will get retrained in SR. AFSOC ran the first beta SR course last month in an attempt to ascertain the quality of the training material.
There was also a strong rumor that the launch of the new career field would translate into a new common beret and flash for all four specialties. The rationale was that it would ensure cohesion and esprit de corps. This has proven to be inaccurate: Pararescuemen will continue to proudly wear their maroon berets, Combat Controllers their scarlet, Special Recon operators their grey, and TACP operators their black.