Big changes confirmed for Special Warfare enlistments – AF Special Warfare
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Big changes confirmed for Special Warfare enlistments

Starting in April 2020, the Air Force will change how recruits enlist in Special Warfare specialties. The new changes provide a single lane for all AFSPECWAR recruits under the program name Special Warfare Operator Enlistment Vectoring (or SWOE-V) and removes specific AFSC enlistment. The new program affects Pararescue, Combat Control, Special Reconnaissance and Tactical Air Control Party (TACP). The SWOE-V program will NOT apply to officers, retrainees or the Guard/Reserve.

Historically, recruits were able to choose the specialty they wanted to enlist in at the recruiter stage. The recruit would then go through Air Force Basic Training, Special Warfare Prep Course and selection under the same specialty. While this construct provided stability and assurance to the recruit, the Special Warfare Training Group identified they were not receiving equitable amounts of recruits for all specialties. Additionally, the Group wanted give recruits the ability to change their minds in the Special Warfare Prep Course after receiving additional briefings.

Special Warfare Development Program

The new Special Warfare enlistment process starts at the recruiter’s office. No longer will recruits be able to pick a specific job. Instead, applicants will be given an enlistment code of ‘9T500’ for Special Warfare Operator Enlistment (SWOE). Candidates will then enter a training period with a Special Operations Developer to ensure they are ready before going to Basic Training.

The developer’s role is to prepare a Special Warfare recruit to pass the required Special Warfare PT test (aka PAST test) and ready the candidate for the rigors of selection. “The typical special warfare scouting, recruiting and development process for a candidate from pre-accessioning to shipping to BMT takes from four to six months,” said Lt. Col. Heath Kerns, commander of the 330th Recruiting Squadron. A candidate must earn a recommendation from their developer before shipping off to Basic Training.

Special Warfare training
(Courtesy: USAF)

A revamp to the PAST test standards are expected as well to align with a one size fits all recruitment approach. “Having a standardized baseline of enlistment standards will eliminate confusion amongst potential recruits, as well as opens up a larger pool of candidates during the recruiting process who might be eligible for and interested in a career in special warfare,” Kerns said.

“Airmen Must Earn Their Spot”

At Air Force Basic Training and the Special Warfare Prep Course, candidates will continue education on Special Warfare jobs and also begin evaluation of their performance. “Along with the performance data from BMT, data from the Special Warfare prep course, and a SWOE’s career preference, candidates are vectored to either the Special Tactics and Guardian Angel, or the Tactical Air Control Party, courses of initial entry,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Lopez, chief of the Special Warfare division at Air Education and Training Command.

While a trainees’ preference is taken into account, the needs of the Air Force will come first, based on availability and candidate’s performance. “Nothing is given; Airmen must earn their spot in their chosen career field and fight for it,” Lopez said. “We are evaluating them continuously through pre-accessioning, BMT and the Special Warfare Prep Course, using a whole person concept that includes cognitive, physical skills, as well as Airmanship and instructors’ evaluation of teamwork and attitude.” At the end of the Prep Course, candidates will be vectored to either the TACP Assessment Course or the Guardian Angel/Special Tactics (GA/ST) Assessment & Selection Course.

Assessment Courses


Candidates that are vectored from the Special Warfare Prep Course to TACP will continue training at the TACP Assessment Course before continuing the TACP pipeline.

Guardian Angel/Special Tactics (GA/ST)

Candidates that are vectored from the Special Warfare Prep Course to the GA/ST Assessment will be evaluated at the 4-week A&S course. At the selection phase of A&S, the cadre will determine whether you are vectored to Special Reconnaissance, Combat Control, Pararescue or eliminated from training. The vectoring is based off of the candidates’ preference, performance, and equitable distribution aligned to Air Force established production goals.

Air Force Special Warfare watercon
Air Force Special Warfare candidates conduct water confidence training. (Photo Courtesy: USAF)

More information

The Air Force published a podcast outlining these changes and is available for listen/download. Check out “The Air Force Starts Here” podcast Episode 26, ” Special Warfare Operator Enlistment Vectoring on Apple PodcastsSpotify and Google Play.

Have questions on the new enlistment process? Get answers on the AFSPECWAR Forums community site.