Training Operations Suspended

The Air Force’s special operations division in Florida, where Senior Airman Roger Fortson was stationed before his fatal police shooting on May 3, suspended its training operations on Monday, May 13th. This pause allowed the unit members to mourn their deceased colleague while preparations for his upcoming funeral were underway.

Fortson, who worked as a gunner on the AC-130J Ghostrider with the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field near Fort Walton Beach, Florida, died after being shot multiple times by a deputy from the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. The deputy confronted the 23-year-old at his off-base residence following a disturbance call. Fortson was shot seconds after opening the door, a legally owned firearm by his side.

Col. Patrick Dierig, commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing, emphasized the importance of supporting one another in a message to the troops that was leaked to Squadrons and work centers will have resources made available to have difficult conversations, vent, cry, laugh, yell, and support each other,” Dierig stated. I want all of you to know your voices matter, and we all need to be connected in our grief. It’s OK not to be OK.”

Dierig encouraged his airmen to use the day to engage in small group dialogues and access support resources at squadron centers. He also urged them to seek guidance from commanders, senior enlisted leaders, and chaplains during this challenging period.

Quick Use of Deadly Force

The quick use of deadly force by the deputy, especially since Fortson, who was Black, did not brandish his weapon, has sparked significant controversy and concern, not only within the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field but also among the broader military community. The incident has prompted responses from congressional members as well.

Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, leader of Air Force Special Operations Command, sent a message last week to the special operators, expressing sorrow over “the untimely and tragic loss of a fellow air commando” and called for support for Fortson’s family and colleagues.

“We will all see this event through varying lenses, informed by our journeys and our perspectives,”