ST operators lead in EW18

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Victor J. Caputo
  • 24th Special Operations Wing

Emerald Warrior 18, an annual air-centric, irregular warfare U.S. Special Operations Command exercise, saw hundreds of personnel from across the world gather at Hurlburt Field to exercise special operations tactics, and for the second year in a row, command and control of ground special operations forces were led by Air Force Special Tactics.

Lt. Col. Randall Harvey, commander of the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, was charged with commanding the Special Operations Task Group, leading over 350 Special Operations Forces personnel from Air Force Special Operations Command, United States Army Special Operations Command and four NATO nations.

A Different Approach

One change in this year’s Emerald Warrior was the implementation of a requisite training week, giving SOF a week to train together prior to running full operations.

“The idea was to have our feet underneath us, and understand how we each operated, before we started running,” said Harvey.

Ultimately, solving multi-domain, complex problems provided the exercise participants the chance to simulate issues they may experience in the real world.

The Team

Harvey said the SOTG and subordinate units formulated a true combined, joint approach to the exercise, including manning the operations officer position, one of the most vital positions in the staff, with an O-5 NATO partner.

 “Training side by side with NATO operators and placing NATO advisors in key positions in our operations center is invaluable,” said Harvey. “It’s enabled us to share our standard operating procedures and formulate blended coalition solutions to tactical problem sets.”

Language and cultural barriers often present a challenge, but the common goal to complete the mission helped cultivate a sense of teamwork, which empowered the team to find creative solutions.

“By fostering teamwork, we created cohesion amongst our subordinate units and forged solid relationships in the joint, coalition SOF community,” said Harvey.

The task group quickly became skilled in analyzing courses of action using the NATO military decision making process and communicating to their teams on the ground.

“There was a lot of valuable knowledge exchanged,” said Harvey. “You can’t surge trust, it has to be built proactively. That’s why we are here.”

Joint Leaders

“EW18 was yet another example of Special Tactics operators showing what they bring to the fight, not only on the battlefield but also in the headquarters,” said Col. Claude Tudor, Jr., commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing, the Air Force’s only ST wing. “Working side by side with our joint and coalition partners is invaluable. The experience gained for our senior Special Tactics leaders, both officer and enlisted, only serves to make AFSOC more efficient in our current fights, while we shape future joint combat leaders across a multi-domain lens to lead joint, combined coalition task forces.”