One Beret to rule them all: Air Force SOF brace for huge changes

thereiwas

Operator
From NewsREP


by Stavros Atlamazoglou · August 16, 2019

The Air Force is getting ready to completely overhaul its Special Operations Forces (SOF). The Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) is currently undergoing a transitional phase that will merge all the existing career fields under the new Special Warfare career field.

More specifically, the current plan envisions one Air Force Specialty (1Z) that will include four different individual Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSCs) – the nomenclature that the Air Force uses for its jobs. The four AFSCs (1ZX) will be the previously existing

career fields: Pararescue (PJ), Combat Control (CCT), Tactical Air Control Party (TACP), and the newly activated Special Reconnaissance (SR), which replaced the Special Operations Weather Technician (SOWT) career field.

There are a number of other Air Force career fields that support but are not part of AFSOC. These are the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD), Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE), and Security Forces (SF) career fields. Airmen from these jobs often train and deploy alongside their AFSOC brethren. The Air Force dubs all its ground elements as Battlefield Airmen.

Moreover, a further change is being considered in the corridors of power. AFSOC is thinking of mirroring the Army’s 18X Special Forces recruiting scheme when it comes to career field assignments. In sum, AFSOC would like to assign Special Warfare candidates who successfully pass through the initial selection courses to one of the four AFSCs, similarly to how the Army assigns candidates who successfully pass the Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) course their Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) – Weapons Sergeant (18B), Communications Sergeant (18E), Engineering Sergeant (18C), and Medical Sergeant (18D). Such a move would allow AFSOC to determine which candidate is better suited for which career field after having tested them. The move, however, could adversely affect AFSOC’s recruitment, for prospective candidates might shun away from a random assignment.

In addition to the above, AFSOC is working toward merging the Rescue Squadrons (RQS) with the Special Tactics Squadrons (STS) to create the new Special Warfare Squadrons (SWS). Currently, RQS belong to the Air Force’s Air Combat Command (ACC), whereas STS belong to AFSOC. What that means is that until now Combat Rescue Officers and Pararescuemen could be either assigned to an RQS or an STS depending on the needs of the service. It also means that there is a delay in the transmission of institutional knowledge. Each unit has its own Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs), which have developed after arduous training and active combat operations. TTPs often transcend units, especially in the same career fields, but there is always a slight divergence. The merging of the RQS and STS will amend that and pool together all the hard-earned TTPs.

According to sources who spoke to NEWSREP, AFSOC’s senior officer and enlisted leadership is currently engaging the community for feedback and is seeking input from across the Command to better develop the Special Warfare transition.
 

thereiwas

Operator
Come gather 'round, people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin'
And you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin' ......
Bob Dylan
 

Jay_Pew02

Member
So I didn’t see it mentioned in the article, but referring to the post title, the whole “one beret” for all “possibly” makes sense, but doesn’t if TACP is included in that set up. No knock to TACP, but they fall under the ASOS’s and not STS’s (unless they are assessed for the 17th). Point being, they aren’t technically part of “ST”, but they are lumped in with the bigger umbrella of “Special Warfare”. We’ve been hearing so many color ideas. A lot of chatter about a “gun-metal Gray” beret, and then smaller chatter about a color that is in between red and maroon...which I’m not sure what that gives you.

To the overall concept of making AF SPECWAR modeled after the 18X’s...I feel there are some good aspects and some not so good aspects about them. I feel like the roles of a CCT, PJ, or SR are just too niched from eachother to be able to just freely decide who gets assigned what shredout afsc. They all serve such distinct roles in the battlefield, that they aren’t all gonna operate in the same way and capacity as an ODA team put together. I see the ODA’s as all operators who happen to have additional skill sets. I see ST as operators who provide a distinct skill set, if the distinction makes sense. Granted I’ve only had a beret for a few months now, so I could be off.
 

thereiwas

Operator
I didn't write the byline, I just copied & pasted the article in its entirety, but I think the "One Beret" was a veiled reference to his mention of Army SF and their use of a single beret. With all the massive changes in AFSpecialwarfare I don't know how the hell anyone can keep up. When the writer mentions "The move, however, could adversely affect AFSOC’s recruitment, for prospective candidates might shun away from a random assignment."
I have to agree. It appears too many changes are coming too fast, and the ramifications of the previous and recent changes have not been in place long enough to get a good gauge. My two cents.
 
So I didn’t see it mentioned in the article, but referring to the post title, the whole “one beret” for all “possibly” makes sense, but doesn’t if TACP is included in that set up. No knock to TACP, but they fall under the ASOS’s and not STS’s (unless they are assessed for the 17th). Point being, they aren’t technically part of “ST”, but they are lumped in with the bigger umbrella of “Special Warfare”. We’ve been hearing so many color ideas. A lot of chatter about a “gun-metal Gray” beret, and then smaller chatter about a color that is in between red and maroon...which I’m not sure what that gives you.

To the overall concept of making AF SPECWAR modeled after the 18X’s...I feel there are some good aspects and some not so good aspects about them. I feel like the roles of a CCT, PJ, or SR are just too niched from eachother to be able to just freely decide who gets assigned what shredout afsc. They all serve such distinct roles in the battlefield, that they aren’t all gonna operate in the same way and capacity as an ODA team put together. I see the ODA’s as all operators who happen to have additional skill sets. I see ST as operators who provide a distinct skill set, if the distinction makes sense. Granted I’ve only had a beret for a few months now, so I could be off.
It'll be interesting to see SR in particular, because from an outsider's perspective – and this could be wrong, and isn't meant negatively at all – it seems like CCT without the second "C" (i.e., generally the same skill set without ATC or JTAC). One could say something similar about TACP (JTAC but no ATC), but the ACC side of that career focuses on air requests, advising on air power, etc., which is a role unique to 1C4.

TACP will be perhaps the most Special Warfare career field that's most interesting to watch, as -- as you point out -- they don't fit quite as neatly as the rest, given the ACC/AFSOC dichotomy.

Should SOF TACP be a separate entity? Should the entire TACP careerfield be provided additional training to allow them to shift more seamlessly between the conventional and SOF roles -- and is this a similar case to discussions surrounding the "Combat Weather"/"Weather Parachutist" career field when SOWT became a career (and even moreso now, since it seems like SR will require SCUBA)?

I don't have anywhere near the historical knowledge of Weather in particular to answer this (but I'm sure there are folks here who do!), but it's one of many interesting questions at an interesting time!
 
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Yukon

Moderator
Staff member
Operator
None of the Air Force specialties being discussed had a reconnisance role. The Special Warfare initiative has lots of nuances.

It is not quite establishing a Branch as U.S. Army Special Forces did when the 18 series MOSs were established mid-1980s.

All of AFSOC would be a Banch within the Air Force if it goes that route. Should such happen pilots, the enlisted Special Aviation Specialty, Aviation Advisors and a few other officer and enlisted specialties would also likely become 1Z career field specialties.

SAC tried doing something similar during the 1950s and 1960s and it didn't get much traction for many reasons.
 
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SW

Administrator
Staff member
Operator
The NEWSREP article is full of rumor mill, guesses and incorrect statements. Let's cover a few:

1) EOD, SERE and Security Forces are not Battlefield Airmen.

2) If you signed up to be a PJ and are selected at A&S, you will be a PJ. Same for CCT and SR. The AFSPECWAR training wing will not yank you out of your previously assigned job and place you in one you didn't sign up for. On the other hand, the training wing is allowing candidates to swap career fields after receiving information briefings at the AFSW prep course. Additionally, they are playing around with the possibility of an 'open general' AFSW position that would allow a candidate to go into a selected position, but this has yet to materialize.

3) The proposed RQS/STS merger is not about TTP sharing. Some of the primary drivers for the proposed merger are:

-Building on the National Defense Strategy Demands (Close combat lethality in complex terrain & more)
-Creating a more lethal force; leveling strike, recovery and access mission manning and experience
-Improve readiness/tasking leveling
-Standardize requirements, sustainment, programming

4) SWS (Special Warfare Squadron) is not a thing. It's been loosely talked about in the community as a future option, but that's it. The Air Force already has SWS's; Space Warning Squadrons.

5) As for the ONE BERET bit, this is not a thing either. Just like the SWS topic, its been brought up in informal conversations as one of many future branding options.

AFSW needs to determine operationally the best way to organize, train, equip and deploy before even thinking of working on the branding portion (berets, badges, flashes, SQ names, etc). And that is info passed straight from AFSW leadership at the Pentagon.

-SW
 

Yukon

Moderator
Staff member
Operator
The SWS unit acronym is a minor internal to the Air Force inconvenience compared to operationally determining the best way to organize, train, equip and deploy as this involves all of DOD in terms of (1) the commanders of the Combat Commands determine what they expect the Air Force to provide to support their regional combat and noncombat operations and (2) the U.S. Congress controls the purse strings pertinent to funded fiscal force structure numbers and dollars being made available to the services to pay for training, flying hours, special pays, etc.

There are many tipping/tripping points the Department of the Air Force, HQ Air Force (Air Staff) and AFSOC have no this is how it will be say so control of.
 

Yukon

Moderator
Staff member
Operator
As far as US military wear of berets all the various wear introduction origins indicate World War II provided the influences. Regardless of the influences having something to do with World War II, the when origins foothold entrenchment of strong connection to specific Air Force enlisted specialties happened only after numerous events over a course of years (at least a decade) brought credit both on the reputation of the Air Force and the specific Air Force's military occupational specialty.

This foothold has become entrenched to serve as being an identity that gets noticed and gets those seeing who is wearing the beret to wonder who they are and what they do. In such a perspective the beret is a great recruitment tool to get volunteers sufficiently interested and excited to entry classify into military occupation specialties that requires the servicemember to volunteer to perform hazardous in nature duties (combat aircrew, military parachutist, combat diver).

As the repetitive year-after-year of events of doing and accomplishing contributed to the approval of such distinctive uniform, the arbitrarily changing color and beret crest to build inclusiveness of specialties being in the same career field requires building a foothold entrenchment connection equal to what it is replacing. This entrenchment building foothold of beret identity color change takes a bit more time than flipping an on-and-off switch. If it happens, it will be interesting to see how the process unfolds and how rapidly it happens.
 
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