Air Commandos at the Tip of the Spear
Few Americans think of Air Force “Special Tactics” Commandos as trained and equipped to fight in a ground combat environment, when in fact, airmen are often first on the ground during airborne and special operations.
Adapted from The Air Force is a Major Player in Rooting out Terrorists
September 17, 2004 - National Review Online
SHADOW WARRIORS - AIRMEN IN THE SHADOWS
an article by W. Thomas Smith, Jr
Like Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces, and Recon Marines, the missions of these airmen are often classified; their efforts rarely make the papers. They don't duplicate the work of other "shooters": Instead they bring a number of unique features to the special-operations mix, including men, aircraft, and battle-field wizardry.
"The Air Force has always prided itself on things like high-tech information systems and space technologies, and that has carried over into its approach to special operations," Maj. General William W. Hoover (a retired two-star who currently serves as an advisor to NASA) tells NRO. "Our ability to precision-locate things, to insert people and weapons systems, and to communicate has simply been devastating to the enemy."
Beyond the science is the art, and that's where the operators come in. Air Force special-tactics units are comprised of three elements (not including the pilots, aircrews, and support personnel). These include combat controllers, pararescuemen, and combat weather teams.
Today, the scarlet beret of a combat controller is highly sought by many young Air Force recruits, but not all pack the mental or physical gear to win it. The Air Force wants "men between the ages of 18 and 27 who are athletic enough to enter the ranks" and tough enough to remain there.
All applicants for combat-controller slots must pass a rigorous Physical Abilities and Stamina Test, including swimming, running, pull-ups, sit-ups, push-ups, and flutter kicks. The test is followed by a grueling ten-week indoctrination course, affectionately referred to as "Ironman 101."