From my 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, I spent four years with a unit responsible for actions not attributed to them in newspapers or magazines. The men and women of this unit did their jobs with a quiet professionalism romanticized (usually fictionally) in movies and stories. Operations carried out by this unit were discussed in secure rooms, accessible only by a select few. Situation reports released to the public were heavily sanitized to protect those involved. Stories of their exploits were minimized, details were blurred, and recognition was generic. These men, however, were responsible for some of the most dangerous, effective, and heroic actions that have occurred since the start of the War on Terror.

The origins of today’s Air Force Special Operations units trace back to World War II. The units were not founded in ceremony or some general’s desire to have a legacy. They were founded in cooperation. Cooperation between members of the Army Air Forces who needed to make an impact on Axis forces without the bureaucracy involved in normal operations.

The “Carpetbaggers” of the Air Force

Two men, John Alison and Phil Cochran, clandestinely worked with British forces in the Pacific theater to conduct operations behind Japanese enemy lines. The British forces learned that these Americans could take their aircraft behind the lines, destroy their targets, and get back out. If they were not successful the first time, they would take whatever equipment they had at their disposal and make it work to complete their objectives. These men conducted operations unheard of in the war. While they operated against Japanese targets, others like them were harassing Axis forces in Europe. These men became known as the “Carpetbaggers.”

Green eyes, black rifles, July 18, 2014. Transformed – Drdruxen

The men who fought with the Carpetbaggers possessed skills unknown to the men they fought for. With the ability to somehow attack and harass the enemy from the rear, they struck fear into the minds of the Axis.