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Special Tactics Airmen integrate combat capabilities during Commando Crucible

Air Force Special Tactics operators and simulated partner forces load a CV-22 Osprey,

Air Force Special Tactics operators and simulated partner forces load a CV-22 Osprey, assigned to the 8th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, after executing a full mission profile during Commando Crucible at Eglin Range, Florida, June 30, 2020. The exercise provided a rigorous operating environment which tested ST operators, their support teammates and outside agency participants on the abundance of moving parts and products required in a deployed environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rose Gudex)

An Air Force Special Tactics operator helps secure an airfield for an F-15 fighter aircraft during a Forward Air Refueling Point training mission

An Air Force Special Tactics operator helps secure an airfield for an F-15 fighter aircraft during a Forward Air Refueling Point training mission, as part of exercise Commando Crucible, June 30, 2020 in Kinston, N.C. The training demonstrated Special Tactics teams' ability to conduct global access operations and integrate Air Force Special Operations Command and Air Combat Command forces for strategic deterrence. (USAF Photo by Master Sgt. Henry Hoegen)

An Air Force Special Tactics operator positions his MK20 rifle on top of a berm to pull security for the command and control element during a full mission profile

An Air Force Special Tactics operator positions his MK20 rifle on top of a berm to pull security for the command and control element during a full mission profile as part of Commando Crucible at Eglin Range, June 30, 2020. Special Tactics is U.S. Special Operations Command’s premier tactical air-to-ground integration force and the Air Force’s special operations ground force, leading global access, precision strike, personnel recovery and battlefield surgery operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rose Gudex)

Simulated partner forces learn how to package and transfer patients using a portable stretcher

Simulated partner forces learn how to package and transfer patients using a portable stretcher during Commando Crucible with Air Force Special Tactics operators at Hurlburt Field, June 29, 2020. The exercise provided a rigorous operating environment which tested ST operators, their support teammates and outside agency participants on the abundance of moving parts and products required in a deployed environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Rose Gudex)

Simulated partner force members train basic rifle skills alongside Air Force Special Tactics operators as part of Commando Crubicle at Eglin Range, Florida, June 22, 2020.

Simulated partner force members train basic rifle skills alongside Air Force Special Tactics operators as part of Commando Crubicle at Eglin Range, Florida, June 22, 2020. The exercise provided a rigorous operating environment which tested ST operators, their support teammates and outside agency participants on the abundance of moving parts and products required in a deployed environment. Special Tactics is U.S. Special Operations Command’s premier tactical air-to-ground integration force and the Air Force’s special operations ground force, leading global access, precision strike, personnel recovery and battlefield surgery operations.

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. --

Air Force Special Tactics teams have a wide range of core responsibilities they provide and combatant commands rely on ST operators to hone their skills long before arriving to a deployed location.

To meet those required standards, Special Tactics teams successfully planned and executed Commando Crucible, a comprehensive 2-week exercise from June 18-July 3, 2020, which took place at both Hurlburt Field, Florida and Kinston, North Carolina.

“Despite logistical frustrations due to COVID-19 restrictions, the exercise allowed Special Tactics flights and attachments to conduct critical training on global access, precision strike, personnel recovery, and foreign internal defense capabilities,” said a Special Tactics Officer and lead planner for the exercise.

Special Tactics operators led the training, which consisted of 253 participants and leveraged 40 aircraft from across Air Force Special Operations Command and Air Combat Command. One team of participants included members from the 53rd Air Traffic Control Squadron assigned to Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. The members played the role of a simulated host nation force, which Special Tactics operators were responsible for training on fundamental tactical skills and guiding them through a direct action training mission.

“The ST flights did a great job providing a plan of instruction in only three days to effectively integrate with the teams conducting the raids,” said the STO. “This is extremely realistic for a lot of the different partner forces we integrate with in deployed areas of operation.”

Leadership from the 24th Special Operations Wing including Col. Matt Allen, 24th SOW commander, Col. Allison Black, the 24th SOW’s new vice commander and Chief Master Sgt. Jeff Guilmain, 24th SOW command chief, were present for portions of the exercise to observe how the tactical units were hitting their training objectives.

“We saw really well-rehearsed combat capability,” said Guilmain. “It was really valuable to watch how operators’ skills both as individuals and as teams have been refined over the months of training to provide incredible capability to the forward commanders. I’m glad we have that process in place where commanders can validate those capabilities and ensure readiness.”

Another critical readiness component teams were evaluated on was their ability to plan and carry out Agile Combat Employment concepts. Special Tactics forces have been aligning this priority in response to near-peer competition as well as AFSOC’s strategic guidance.

Special Tactics operators traveled from Hurlburt Field to Kinston, N.C. to rapidly secure an airfield to use as a Forward Air Refueling Point, integrating Combat Air Force assets such as F-15s, F-22s and AFSOC MC-130 aircraft.

“The ability for our aircraft to operate swiftly in contested areas improves U.S. Air Force lethality and presents strategic dilemmas for our adversaries. It also helps develop procedures to habitualize AFSOC and ACC units working together in support of the Air Superiority mission.” said the STO. “Overall, despite initial planning difficulties, the exercise execution went flawlessly and according to plan.”