As with the recent revamp of its enlisted Special Operations career fields, the Air Force created a new specialty code that will now encompass its three officer SOF jobs.
Combat Rescue, Special Tactics, and Tactical Air Control Party officers will now fall under the same Air Force Specialty Code (19ZXX), which is the Air Force equivalent of the Army’s Military Occupation Specialty (MOS).
According to the Air Force, the move to the new specialty code has been made in order to increase resourcing, improve talent management, and enhance deployment capabilities.
Air Force Colonel Thomas Palenske, director of the Air Force Special Warfare Directorate at the Pentagon, said in a press statement “the creation of a cadre of officers steeped in joint leadership and trained to lead the full spectrum of AFSPECWAR conventional and special operations missions will streamline accession, selection and common skills training. These officers will share a common assessment and selection standard with a heightened benchmark for leadership capabilities to prepare them as next-generation leaders for the AFSPECWAR enterprise.”
In an essence, with the new specialty code, the Air Force has created a house that contains three different rooms: Combat Rescue Officers (CRO), Special Tactics Officers (STO), and Tactical Air Control Party Officers (TACPO).
CROs are primarily responsible for leading and coordinating search-and-rescue (SAR), combat search-and-rescue (CSAR), and personnel recovery (PR) operations. They are found in both Rescue and Special Tactics squadrons but more often in the former. It is the enlisted Pararescuemen who are conduct the actual mission, but it is CROs who manage it.
STOs lead and coordinate global access, precision strike, and personnel recovery operations. They are found in Special Tactics squadrons.
TACPOs lead and coordinate precision strike, joint fires, and command and control operations. Enlisted TACPs are attached to conventional and Special Operations units and coordinate fire support missions.
“The Department of the Air Force is modernizing to connect the joint force so we can more seamlessly integrate as a joint team,” added Col. Palenske. “This transformation strengthens the connective tissue between AFSPECWAR Airmen enabling them to integrate the unique capabilities of the Air Force into an even more lethal, joint all-domain fighting force.”
A career as a Special Operations officer in the Air Force is difficult but also comes with its perks. Air Force SOF officers are fairly well compensated. A fresh-out-of-the-pipeline First Lieutenant (O-2) can earn up to approximately $7300/month if he is a CRO or STO and $6500/month if he is a TACP officer. As with all military pay grades, the compensation scales with the years in service and rank. CRO and STO Majors (O-4) with 12 years of service can earn up to about $12800/month and TACP officers around $10300/month. All the above sums are before taxes.