“Always willing to do more”: ST Squadron endures continuous deployment

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ryan Conroy
  • 24th Special Operations Wing

Airmen with the 17th Special Tactics Squadron returned home to friends and family following an extended deployment supporting OPERATION FREEDOM’S SENTINEL, in early August, -- the squadron’s nearly 50th deployment since 9/11.

After the team had already served their full deployment, they willingly stayed an extra month to provide critical support to a mission before departure. Due to the unexpected change, vacations were cancelled, families were left without loved ones and a wedding was forced to reschedule.

The squadron has been continuously deployed 5,412 days, mostly directing combat aircraft engaged in close air support and other offensive strike operations from a forward position.

The 17th STS is unique in the U.S. military as the only Special Tactics unit made up solely of TACP Airmen and Air Liaison Officers to support the U.S. Army’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment. Approximately five percent of TACPs are selected as special operators from their previous assignments in support of conventional ground forces to a Special Operations Forces capacity. The unit also employs Special Operations Weather Team personnel and combat mission support to complete the total mission package.

Of note, none of the quiet professionals of the 17th STS complained, despite the personal costs of the extended deployment.

“What I can't say enough about is the spouses who were on the receiving end of an extended deployment. There was definitely sadness, but the bottom line is the spouses understood and accepted the delayed return,” said Alexander.

“It shows that during a deployment everybody in the family is affected,” he added. “More importantly, it showed the strength of those TACP in Special Tactics and the resolve of the families who are with them every step of the way.”

The welcome home also served as an award presentation for Airmen’s actions during a previous deployment. Alexander presented two Bronze Star Medals, several meritorious service medals and a combat action medal to Airmen in the squadron.

“When they receive the awards they do, it is not surprising,” said Alexander. “The medals and decorations that they receive serve as the justification for their hard work and subject matter expertise in the realm of close air support.”

As one team returns, another one was out the door, continuing to integrate air power into ground special operations all over the world with competence, proficiency and grit that is required of a ground special operations force.

Tomorrow will mark 5,413 days.

“The men and women of Team XVII know sacrifice each and every day they come to work,” said Alexander. “Long hours, long days, long deployments; it doesn't matter. They are proud and will go above and beyond what is asked of them. We're a small squadron inside the Special Tactics community and Air Force Special Operations Command as a whole. But the results that this squadron produces are astounding.

“Ultimately, it takes a special person to become an operator at the 17th STS, I'm just glad we have men like them always willing to do more,” added Alexander.