Operation UNIFIED RESPONSE-Haiti Earthquake. The Haiti earthquake was a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake, with an epicenter near the town ofLeogane, approximately 25 km (16 miles) west ofPort-au-Prince-Haiti's capital. On 13 Jan 2010, 17 Special Tactics (ST) personnel from Hurlburt Field, FL, arrived on the first military aircraft into Port au Prince, Haiti, eighteen hours after the earthquake. For twelve days, the airfield team ran the international airport in Port au Prince for 24 hours a day. They ensured the safe and effective control of over 4,000 takeoffs and landings (up to 165 aircraft per day), an average of one aircraft sortie generation every five minutes, and enabled the delivery of four-million pounds of humanitarian relief to the people of Haiti. The STS survey team began assessment ofDZs and LZs within the first few days of the relief effort to enable increased access to remote areas via airdrop and air land operations. They leveraged rotary-wing lift assets to send survey teams out to over 50 potential sites all across Haiti, resulting in 30 formal DZ and LZ surveys. The teams then planned and controlled four humanitarian aid drops, resulting in the successful delivery of 150,000 bottles of water and 75,000 Meals Ready to Eat (MRE). They provided medical treatment to 17 critically injured personnel, and they treated countless other less severe injuries with -tailgate medicine from the back of a Highly Mobile Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV). The STS in Haiti concluded rescue operations after eight days and survey/airfield operations after 12 days.
The editors of Time magazine named Chief Master Sergeant Antonio D. Travis one of the 2010 Time 100-the magazine's annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world for his effort during the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.
Captain Barry F. Crawford, Jr., was awarded the Air Force Cross for extraordinary heroism against an enemy of the United States near Laghman Province, Afghanistan. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen Norton A. Schwartz pinned the AF Cross on Capt Crawford during a ceremony on 12 April 2012.
SSgt Shaun Meadows became the first active duty double amputee in Air Force history to successfully perform a personnel drop from a C-17 Globemaster III, while assigned to the 22 STS, Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Pakistan experienced massive flooding driven by unprecedented monsoon rains that left one-fifth of the country submerged.
In response to a massive flood in Pakistan, the 21 ESTS dispatched a survey team to assist with the arrival of international aid to the region. The team included Capt Rodger Jennrich, 1Lt Blake Luttrell, MSgt Eric Gorski, SSgt Matthew Richardson, SrA Jonathon Spillman, A1C Christopher Baradat, and A1C Timothy Nielsen.
Senior Airman Daniel R. Sanchez was killed-in-action in the vicinity of Kajran District, Afghanistan, when his position came under fire from an enemy insurgent within the Afghan National Army partner force-he was assigned to the 23 STS and will never be forgotten.
Senior Airman Mark A. Forester was killed-in-action by enemy fire in Oruzgan Province, Afghanistan, when his team encountered 30 armed insurgents-he was assigned to the 21 STS and will never be forgotten.
Operation TOMODACHI was a United States Armed Forces assistance operation to support Japan in disaster relief following the 2011 Tohoku 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami. The quake-one of the largest in recorded history-triggered a 23-foot tsunami that battered Japan's coast, killing hundreds and sweeping away cars, homes, buildings, and boats. 320 STS deployed nine CST, eleven CCT and ten PJs in support of airfield operations at two locations, Matsushima and Sendai, Japan. Operations focused on survey, obstacle clearance, FARP, and airfield control. PJs integrated with the 33 RQS and flew in support of rescue operations.
The 724th Operations Support Squadron (724 OSS) activated at Pope AFB, N.C., and was assigned to 724 STG. In this process the 24th Special Tactics Squadron (24 STS) was relieved from its assignment under the 720 STG, Hurlburt Field, FL, and was re-assigned to the 724 STG, Pope AFB, N.C.
Technical Sergeant Daniel L. Zerbe, Technical Sergeant John W. Brown, both pararescuemen, and Staff Sergeant Andrew W. Harvell, a combat controller, assigned to the 724th Special Tactics Group, 24th Special Tactics Squadron, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were killed when their coalition CH-47 Chinook helicopter, call sign Extortion 17, was shot down in Maiden Wardak Province in eastern Afghanistan. They, along with 22 Naval Special Warfare, seven Afghan Commandos, five aircrew, one interpreter and one military working dog, were seconds from infiltrating a target to capture enemy personnel.
The U.S. military mission in Iraq officially ended. The almost nine-year war claimed nearly 4,000 American lives.
First Lieutenant David A. Burk and Staff Sergeant Jair M. Matis, assigned to the 21 ESTS/AZRT, officially became the last 720 STG Special Tactics members to leave Iraq. They flew to Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) on Torque 30 and assessed the area as a potential site for a FARP. After spending approximately 20 minutes on the ground, they deemed the site useable as a temporary FARP. They returned to Ali Al Salem and produced a temporary FARP survey. Both Lt Burk and SSgt Matis flew back to BIAP on Torque 30 and supported distinguished visitors for approximately seven hours that earned them the distinction. With the end of combat operations in Iraq - the Expeditionary Special Tactics Squadron (ESTS) again became operationally focused on Afghanistan.
The USAF activated the 24th Special Operations Wing (24 SOW) at Hurlburt Field, Fla., per Special Order GS-16, dated 15 March 2012. Colonel Robert G. Armfield relinquished command of the 720 STG and became the first commander
The 720th Special Tactics Group (720 STG), the 724th Special Tactics Group (724 STG), and theSpecial Tactics Training Squadron (STTS) were relieved from their present assignments under AFSOC and the Air Force Special Operations Training Center (AFSOTC), respectively, and assigned to the 24 SOW.
Taliban fighters carried out a complex and well-executed attack at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan attack resulting in two U. S. killed-in-action, nine wounded, six Marine AV-8B Harrier II's destroyed and two others severely damaged. This was the worst loss of U. S. airpower during a single incident since the Vietnam War. Staff Sergeant Michael D. Macias (MM), 17 ASOS, Silver Team Tactical Air Control Part (TACP) operator played a crucial role the defense of the base following the attack. Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Raible, the Marine Attack Squadron 211 (VMA-211) commander, and Sergeant Bradley Atwell, a maintainer, were killed during the attack.
ESTS Combat Controllers (CCT), Pararescue forces, Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) operators, Special Operations Weather Teams (SOWT), Environmental Reconnaissance Teams (ERT), and Assault Zone Reconnaissance Teams (AZRT) accumulated impressive combat-related statistics during the year. In 2012, total missions included 1,245 direct action (DA) operations; 862 drop zone (DZ) sorties; 126 landing zone surveys; and coordinated 5,099 close air support sorties. The synchronized integration between air assets and ground forces amounted to 192, 124 pounds of employed ordnance that resulted in 1,387 enemy-killed-in-action (EKIA) and 318 enemy-wounded-in-action.
The Department of Defense (DoD) mandated each military service component take part in the Women in Service Review (WISR), an evaluation program directing the validation of operational performance standards for all previously excluded specialties by no later than 1 January 2016.
Technical Sergeant Delorean Sheridan, a CCT assigned to the 21 STS received a Silver Star for his actions in Afghanistan.
Staff Sergeant Christopher G. Baradat distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United States in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. Baradat’s heroic and selfless actions resulted in over 50 enemy fighters killed, while saving the lives of over 150 friendly personnel. For these actions, the Air Force awarded him the Silver Star. Following a review in 2016, the Air Force upgraded his award to the Air Force Cross.
Technical Sergeant Matthew McKenna, a CCT assigned to the 22 STS received a Silver Star for his actions in Afghanistan.
Master Sergeant Ivan Ruiz, a PJ assigned to the 22 STS received the Air Force Cross for his actions in Afghanistan.
The 724th Special Tactics Support Squadron (724 STSS) was activated at Pope Airfield, North Carolina.
Master Sergeant Josh Gavulic, a tactical control party member assigned to the 17th Special Tactics Squadron at Fort Benning, Georgia, died during a free fall proficiency training event in Eloy, Arizona. MSgt Gavulic was a 16 year veteran with 10 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, where he earned three Bronze Stars, two Air Force Commendation Medals, two Joint Service Commendation Medals with Valor and an Army Commendation Medal.
Technical Sergeant Michael Blout, a CCT assigned to the 23 STS received a Silver Star for his actions in Afghanistan.
Technical Sergeant Douglas Matthews, a CCT assigned to the 125 STS received a Silver Star for his actions in Afghanistan.
The 26th Special Tactics Squadron (26 STS) was activated at Cannon AFB, New Mexico. The squadron would achieve full operational capability in 2016 and conduct its first combat deployment in December 2016.
The 10th Combat Weather Squadron was inactivated at Hurlburt Field, Florida. Special Operations Weather Teams were distributed throughout the 24 SOW's operational squadrons.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), known also as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and also known as Daesh, took control of Mosul, Iraq, and other areas in Iraq and Syria. The terrorist organization prompted new requests from the Government of Iraq for U. S. assistance. The group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed itself a caliphate – claiming religious, political, and military authority over all Muslims worldwide.
By October, Operation INHERENT RESOLVE (OIR) became the operation to support the Government of Iraq and to eliminate ISIL. The 24 SOW leaned forward and provided experienced combat controllers and support personnel to serve as air-to-ground experts for the standup of a strike cell, as well as embed with Army Operational Detachment Alphas (ODAs) for 'advise and assist' operations with the Iraqi military.
The 724th Intelligence Squadron (724 IS) was activated at Pope Airfield, North Carolina.
SrA Dustin Temple, a CCT assigned to the 21 STS was awarded the Air Force Cross for his actions in Afghanistan. Additionally, Technical Sergeant Matthew Greiner (CCT) and Senior Airman Goodie Goodman (PJ) were awarded Silver Stars.
Technical Sergeant Sean Barton died from injuries sustained after a rappelling accident during a special operations training mission in Kathmandu, Nepal, to build partner capacity with the Nepalese Rangers.
The 17 STS marked their 4,833 consecutive day of supporting combat operations in Afghanistan.
Technical Sergeant Timothy Officer, a TACP assigned to the 720 OSS and Technical Sergeant Marty Bettelyoun, a CCT also assigned to the 720 OSS collided mid-air during a freefall training event at the Eglin AFB range; both members died of their injuries. May we never forget their ultimate sacrifice.
Captain Matthew D. Roland, a special tactics officer (STO) assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron (23 STS), and Staff Sergeant Forrest B. Sibley, a combat controller (CCT) assigned to the 21st Special Tactics Squadron (21 STS), were wounded and killed in action (KIA) while attempting to pass through an Afghan Commando controlled security checkpoint that was located between Camp Bastion and Camp Antonik. The unfortunate events of that day unfolded as a convoy was returning to Camp Antonik, with both Captain Roland and Staff Sergeant Sibley occupying the lead vehicle. Upon arriving at the checkpoint, the Afghan interpreter got out of the lead vehicle and briefly met with the Afghan Commando guards to provide the password for the day. As the interpreter made his way back to the vehicle, one of the Afghan Commando guards raised his weapon. Simultaneously, Captain Roland, who was the driver, threw the vehicle in reverse and notified everyone on the radio of an insider attack. This was followed by the Afghan Commando guard firing into the vehicle, whereby both Captain Roland and Staff Sergeant Sibley were killed. Roland’s actions allowed the other occupants of the vehicle to survive the attack, for it gave one Army Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) member enough time to raise his weapon in the vehicle and engage the Afghan Commando shooter. For Captain Roland’s actions he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.
ST operators from ESTS-Afghanistan (ESTS-A), accompanying Army ODAs, kicked off operational participation in the retaking of Kunduz City, Afghanistan.
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced the opening of all combat jobs to women without exception.
President Donald Trump presented the Congressional Medal of Honor (posthumous) to TSgt John A. Chapman, a combat controller assigned to the 24th Special Tactics Squadron. Ms. Valerie Nessel, Chapman’s widow, accepted the award in a ceremony at the White House. The Air Force previously recognized TSgt Chapman’s 4 March 2002 actions with the Air Force Cross (AFC), the Air Force’s highest honor, for his heroic actions. Following a directed review of all military valor awards by then-Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, Ms. Deborah James, then-Secretary of the Air Force, recommended Chapman’s AFC be upgraded. On 4 March 2002, TSgt Chapman, while working with a Navy SEAL team in Takur Ghar, Afghanistan, volunteered to participate in rescue mission for a fallen team member. Upon insertion, the team came under heavy fire from multiple positions. Chapman fiercely charged an enemy location and removed the nearest threats. Leaving cover, he engaged a second enemy bunker and was hit with enemy fire and knocked unconscious. Upon regaining his faculties, Chapman continued the fight relentlessly and alone sustained violent engagements with multiple enemies for an hour before succumbing to machine gun fire just as a quick reaction force approached his location. Chapman’s heroic actions that day cost him his life and he is credited with saving the lives of his team.
The Medal of Honor is the nation’s most prestigious military decoration. It is awarded by the president, in the name of Congress, to military members who have distinguished themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty, while engaged in action with an enemy of the United States.
Chapman became the 19th Airman awarded the Medal of Honor since the Department of the Air Force was established in 1947. He is also the first Airman recognized with the medal for heroic actions occurring after the Vietnam War.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General David L. Goldfein, and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, inducted TSgt John Chapman into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon.
TSgt Chapman’s name is etched into the Air Force Memorial and he is posthumously promoted to the rank of Master Sergeant. Secretary Wilson remarked, “Technical Sergeant Chapman gave his life to save his teammates. We call upon you to be worthy of that sacrifice. …May we never forget.”
Hurricane Michael, a devastating Category 5 hurricane, made landfall near Panama City, Florida. The National Hurricane Center reported Michael’s sustained winds were near 158 mph as the eye of the storm moved ashore. As it moved north and east, Michael passed directly over Tyndall AFB causing significant damage in all areas of the base. Four operators from the 23 STS supported Hurlburt Field’s ride-out team with responsibilities to survey and assess base facilities following possible hurricane impacts at Hurlburt Field. The team completed all inspections of Hurlburt and the base resumed normal operations on 12 October. As Michael approached landfall east of Hurlburt, the 23 STS received a tasking from the AFSOC Operations Center to be prepared to support the re-opening of Tyndall AFB’s airfield where Tyndall officials had issued an evacuation on 8 October. Hurricane Michael caused severe damage to Tyndall and as it moved north and east of the coast the small team used their unique global access and command and control capabilities to access, survey, clear, and re-open the usable portions of the Tyndall airfield. The Special Tactics team consisted of 15 personnel from the 23 STS/Troop 2310 along with a combat camera journalist. A CV-22 aircrew from the 8th Special Operations Squadron flew the team to Tyndall - 80 miles east of Hurlburt Field. They controlled the first recovery aircraft flights into Tyndall helping set the conditions for initial recovery operations and operated the airfield until 14 October when they transferred control to the 821st Crisis Response Group (CRG) from Travis AFB, California. 24 SOW commander, Colonel Claude Tudor commented, “The Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) mission is an important piece of who we are and what we do. It showcases to the Air Force and to the public that we are not just a group of guys downrange dropping bombs and killing people. You look at the Thai Cave rescue [10 July 2018], another humanitarian mission, with operations like this hurricane response [and they] showcase a full spectrum of conflict and crisis; from the low end with HADR to the high end in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and wherever we are needed. We manage chaos by providing specific solutions to very difficult challenges. Our skillsets our very adaptable to just about anything. This is who we are and what we do – what I call our value proposition. I am very proud of what we were able to do [for Tyndall] in a very short time period. We were first there…that others may live.”
The 26 STS suffered the loss of SSgt Dylan J. Elchin on 27 November 2018 near Ghazni, Afghanistan. He was killed while taking part in combat operations when the RG-33 MRAP he was riding in hit an improvised explosive device (IED). The significant blast also killed his team leader CPT Andrew Ross (18A) and SFC Eric Emond (18B) from 3rd Special Forces Group. U.S. Army Sgt. Jason McClary died later as a result of injuries sustained from the IED. Sergeant Elchin, “JAG 24,” was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, 24 January 2019. In February 2019, the ST Enterprise conducted an 830-mile Special Tactics Memorial Ruck March to honor him and the 19 other ST Airmen Killed-in-Action since 11 September 2001.
Members from across the 24 SOW enterprise began an 830-mile Memorial Ruck March in honor of SSgt Dylan J. Elchin, a combat controller killed-in-action on 27 November 2017 during combat operations in Afghanistan. Elchin, along with U.S. Army Capt. Andrew Ross and U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Emond, were killed when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in Ghazni Province while deployed in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. U.S. Army Sgt. Jason McClary died later from his injuries. The march from Medina Annex, Lackland AFB, Texas, to Hurlburt Field, Florida, marked the fifth memorial ruck since 2009 and consisted of 10 teams of two with each participant carrying a baton inscribed with the names of fallen special tactics airmen. Command Chief for the 24 SOW, CMSgt Jeffrey Guilmain, commented, “It’s not necessarily about the 830 miles. This is a tangible example of us wanting to sacrifice just a little bit. It doesn’t compare at all to what Dylan did for us … (but) suffering just a little bit on Dylan’s behalf, maybe it makes us feel a little better.” Since 2009, the 24 SOW conducted these memorial ruck marches to honor airmen recently killed-in-action. This march also paid tribute to MSgt John Chapman, the first ST airmen to receive the Medal of Honor (posthumous) on 22 August 2018, as well as the other 19 ST airmen killed-in-action since 11 September 2001. The march would conclude on 4 March 2019 at the 24 SOW’s Special Tactics Training Squadron at Hurlburt Field with a ceremony honoring the fallen and their Gold Star families.