The Air Force’s Only Special Tactics Wing
Hurlburt Field, Fla.
The easiest way to think about it is “Special Tactics” is to Air Force, as “SEALs” is to Navy, and "Special Forces” and “Rangers” are to Army.
More specifically, in the 1970s, a small number of highly skilled men were brought together to provide the U.S. military a unique special tactics capability. That teamed was coined “Brand X.” Over the years, additional capabilities were added to this group and have grown into what we call Air Force Special Tactics.
Today, Special Tactics is a special operations ground force comprised of highly trained Airmen who solve air to ground problems across the spectrum of conflict and crisis. We’re U.S. Special Operations Command’s tactical air/ground integration force and the Air Force’s special operations ground force to enable global access, precision strike, personnel recovery, and battlefield surgery operations.
We currently reside in 29 total operating locations and have 16 geographically separated units. There are nearly 1,000 ST operators within AFSOC; approximately 2,500 members make up the Special Tactics community with almost 1,500 assigned to the 24th Special Operations Wing, the Air Force’s only ground special operations wing. Special Tactics Airmen are the Air Force’s ground special operations forces, and U.S. Special Operations Command’s premier tactical air-to-ground integration force.
Their motto, “First there, that others may live,” defines the Special Tactics Airmen’s ability to deploy whenever they are needed into restricted environments by air, land or sea to enable air power on the frontlines, to save lives and ensure mission success.
➢ What does Special Tactics bring to combat and crises?
➢ ANYWHERE, ANY PLACE: Special Tactics teams can assess, open, and control major airfields to clandestine dirt strips in either permissive or hostile locations, providing strategic access for our nation’s military. Special Tactics ensures U.S. and allied nations can access man-made and natural contested, degraded and operationally-challenged environments, enabling options for assault, maneuver and power projection.
➢ AIRPOWER ON THE GROUND: Special Tactics Airmen are highly-trained in kinetic and non-kinetic precision strike, coordinating with aircraft to direct accurate munitions as well as humanitarian aid drops from the ground.
➢ BEHIND ENEMY LINES: Special Tactics teams have the ability to conduct personnel recovery missions, from rapid mission planning to technical rescue, treatment and exfiltration. With in-depth medical and rescue expertise, along with their deployment capabilities, ST Airmen are able to perform rescue missions in the world's most remote areas.
➢ SAVING LIVES AT THE FRONTLINES: Special Operations Surgical Teams’ proximity to the fight and ability to conduct high-level surgical operations in austere environments saves lives, builds relationships with the local populace and provide psychological stability for joint and allied forces combatting the enemy.
➢ What kind of ground special operators are in Special Tactics?
Pararescue (PJ) – pararescuemen (PJs) are expert combat medical professionals capable of providing life-saving measures in hostile areas.
➢ Personnel recovery is the primary mission for our pararescuemen (PJs) and can be tailored to any SOF mission. This combat rescue capability protects high-risk special operations missions and is Special Operations Command’s personnel recovery action-arm. About 50 percent of PJs belong to AFSOC, while the others belong to Air Combat Command.
Combat Control (CCT) – along with pararescuemen, combat controllers (CCTs) are some of the Air Force’s most highly trained Airmen. As Federal Aviation Administration certified air traffic controllers who are di, CCTs are capable of infiltrating via sea, air or land and controlling assets in the skies above.
➢ Airfield assessment and control is a capability put to use by our combat controllers (CCTs) for combat missions or humanitarian relief. Our units can assess, open, and control major airfields to clandestine dirt strips in either permissive or hostile locations. This ability provides strategic access for our nation’s military.
Special Reconnaissance (SR) – Special Reconnaissance Airmen are among the most highly trained personnel in the U.S. military, capable of working side-by-side with America’s most elite special operators on specific missions.
➢They receive training in surveillance and reconnaissance, multi-domain electronic warfare (EW), long-range precision engagement and target interdiction, small unmanned aircraft systems, preparation of the environment, personnel recovery, and advanced special tactics skills.
Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) – As network specialists, TACPs conduct close air support and control communication networks in hostile areas.
➢ Joint tactical air control is a qualification and special skill that many Special Tactics Airmen possess. It maximizes the lethal and non-lethal effects of airpower and minimizes risk to non-combatants such as medical and religious teams and civilians. This training and certification is one of the main skills of our CCTs and tactical air control party members (TACPs). About 10 percent of TACPs belong to AFSOC as Special Tactics Airmen, while the rest are assigned to Air Combat Command.
Special Operations Surgical Teams (SOST) – Medical professionals with special operations training, who deploy to provide life-saving support when needed.
➢ This team of active-duty Air Force medical professionals including trauma and orthopedic surgeons, emergency physicians, nurse anesthetists, surgical scrub techs, critical-care nurses, and respiratory techs provide life-saving surgery, anywhere, anytime. They are charged with providing far-forward medical care during combat operations wherever the U.S. military is engaged. When not on active deployment, the team trains in surgery, in trauma centers and in intensive-care units.
➢ Are JTACs in Air Force Special Tactics?
Actually, that term is frequently misused to describe an individual. The term JTAC, or joint terminal air control, is a qualification or certification that any career field can obtain by attending the school. Members in the combat control and tactical air control party career fields predominantly hold the JTAC qualification.
➢ What has Air Force Special Tactics done in recent conflicts?
Since Sept. 11, 2001, Air Force Special Tactics has been involved in almost every major operation and has seen a significant amount of combat.
In fact, ST averages a member being killed or wounded-in-action every 1.15 months dating back to 2001. Our community has received one Medal of Honor, nine Air Force Crosses, 46 Silver Star medals, hundreds of Bronze Star medals (over 250 with valor), and over 100 Purple Hearts. Special Tactics is the most highly decorated community in the Air Force since the end of the Vietnam War.
◾720th Special Tactics Group, Detachment 1, Hurlburt Field, Fla.
◾17th Special Tactics Squadron, Ft. Benning, Ga.
◾21st Special Tactics Squadron, Pope Field, N.C.
◾22nd Special Tactics Squadron, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
◾23rd Special Tactics Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla.
◾26th Special Tactics Squadron, Cannon Air Force Base, N.M.
◾720th Operations Support Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla.
The Special Tactics Training Squadron recruits, assesses, selects, trains and develops five-level combat
controllers, special operations weathermen, pararescuemen and special operations qualified tactical air
control party members for the 24 SOW, while also providing initial joint terminal attack control training to
Army, Marine Corps and Air Force special operations forces.
Col. Spencer C. Cocanour
Chief Master Sgt.
to see how Special Tactics Airmen solve ground problems with air power.