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

thereiwas

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.
 
So, if I'm reading this correctly, the Air Force is thinking about having PJ's, CCT, TACP and weather all have the same beret? Well, why not, every unit wears a beret these days and it's lost it's prestige anyway.

By the history I heard from some of the original CCT's from 1953, the whole beret thing came about because Army drop zone safety officers had difficulty finding the CCT on the drop zone to cancel a drop. So, CCT was asked to wear some distinctive head gear to be more easily recognized. The guys chose the beret because they thought it looked cool.

I remember in the 80's when I first saw the blue beret on sky cops. I was sales manager of a Chevy dealership and a couple of folks got out of their car with Air Force uniforms and the blue berets on. Now, the fact that one was a lady should have clued me but, honestly, I figured that CCT had finally come to their senses and allowed gals in.

I was sure disappointed to find out these were brothers of mine. And later finding out that the beret had been stolen because CCT had no general officers to protect us, like the sky cops had.
 

Yukon

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The Air Force beret histories are complicated and this is the first I've heard of any causal rational for the initial wear of the beret by CCT. However, stolen implies the beret was officially approved as a distinctive service uniform or even a duty uniform at the time it was adopted by another unit or AF occupation specialty. The unfortunate reality is no documents exist to provide evidence CCT ever attempted to seek and obtained wear of beret through official channels until the 1980s. The actual contributing cause isn't lack of general officers to protect but rather CCT wasn't an occupation specialty with AFSC and requiring training that awarded a 3-, 5-, 7-, and 9-skill level until October 1981.

As far as prestige of being the first distinctive service beret approved to give recognition to an Air Force occupation specialty by Air Force Uniform board goes, that distinction dates to 22 May 1966 when the Chief of Staff of the Air Force approves the wear of maroon beret with USAF pararescue crest for those awarded and sustaining award of pararescue occupation specialty code, effective 1 June 1966. The color wasn't random choice as justification provided in the request official submitted leading to the approval states Marron is selected to represent the medical duties and life saving qualifications of those awarded the specialty code and performing duties of the specialty. The use of symbolism of a Guardian Angel cradling the globe depicts duties are global to deliver others from danger. Furthermore, the Chief of Staffs approval letter states: "Pararescue personnel are highly trained specialist who perform extremely hazardous duties demanding the very highest of mental and physical discipline thus deserve to wear the distinctive attire consisting of maroon beret, bloused trousers with combat boots, and special badge, both on and off base."

Even then no official request is found prior to 1981, other than Pararescue beret and badge, and it appears no actual heraldry or heritage rational or justification contributed to the color choice of the beret other than pararescue. The only request documentation (CCT, TACP, SR, SOWT) to be found is for the symbolism for flash worn on the beret.

Brothers in Berets: The Evolution of Air Force Special Tactics, 1953-2003, p. 149. The CCT staff at HQ MAC directed Norrad to buy several different colored berets and send them to the CCT Division at Scott AFB, Illinois. The scarlet red beret was selected by both the school cadre and HQ MAC. Combat controllers switched to the scarlet beret in 1978 and it remains their distinctive headgear today.
Another CCT history provides: BLOUSED BOOTS AND BERETS - Using the already approved Pararescue (PJ) model, Adcock wrote a new CCT Section for MAC Supplement 1, to the USAF Uniform Manual (AFM 35-10). When published, the new MAC Supplement clearly stated and defined the wear of the beret and bloused boots with all uniforms and adopted a beret emblem that was adapted from an old CCT patch.

The pararescue justification model identified the assessment and selection process to include the occupation specific physical fitness requirements to include annual fitness test that eventually became known as the PAST. It specifically disclosed "training required for award of pararescue specialty code creates an individual with unusual capabilities. These individual are available 24-hours a day to respond to any emergency, anywhere, at any time. These individuals may parachute into the sea, without surface assistance, to aid the crew of downed aircraft, sinking ship, or a spacecraft on recovery. If required, these individuals will parachute or hike into the mountains to save survivors of isolated aircraft. Their services are available to non-military personnel, and the lives pararescue personnel have saved during past years have contributed significantly to our cold war operations around the world.

The CCT beret crest has changed significantly from the not officially approved Vietnam era crest, the one that came into being in 1977 with the scarlet beret and the one finally approve during the the mid-1980s after CCT became an occupational specialty. It needs to be noted pararescue personnel didn't wear beret prior to 1966 and the beret color and beret badge hasn't changed since approved in 1966.
 
If I recall, Para Weather guys wore a gray beret back in the time I was in, '66 to '73. I guess that wasn't approved either but I don't recall ever hearing of anyone being confronted about it. Heck, back then nobody, including a lot of brass, knew what CCT was. For years after I got out, when asked what I did in the military, I'd just say Air Traffic Control, after all, that was my AFSC. (P27270) OK, sure, we had a P in front for Parachutist.

Honestly, I don't think many of us took it all too seriously at the time. We just had a job to do, and did it. In fact, the slogan still used in CCT is, "First in, last out". I remember how most of us smiled and said, "Forced in, laughed out".

And, about the PJ's. Great bunch and a lot of CCT today are dual qualified. But the main reason for the PJ's recognition was because of NASA. When you got publicity, you got the beret. I think it was Jacqueline Kennedy who drooled over some SF troops back in the mid sixties and got them theirs.
 

Yukon

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Nobody was confrontational about the beret wear that I'm aware of when worn with the field/utility uniforms, except there were confrontational incidents with wear of beret with service dress and long/short sleeve blue shirt service uniforms when enlisted PME became mandatory. PME began becoming mandatory with the December1975 split of the E-4 paygrade into SrA and Sgt. Accompanying this split is the implementation of the mandatory requirement to complete the NCO Leadership PME course, which was watered down to become the Airman Leadership course, to gain NCO E-4 rank.

NCOA and SNCOA PME became tied to promotion eligibility and award of skill levels in the early 1990s.

This increased the numbers of PME course locations and first term E-3s and E-4s (SrA/Sgt) attending PME significantly. Those that wore berets (CCT, TACP, SOWT, Security Police/Security Forces) were upset PJs were allowed to wear beret and they were not. CCT gained same beret approval (sort of, as it was a MAJCOM approval level in 1977) as PJ. When CCT gained a specialty code effective October 1981 there was no difference in the wear authority and approval level being HQ AF.

Some of these individuals got so abusive and cry baby about it in their complaining 1980 thru 1984, the policy "1. Do not wear beret or bloused trousers with combat boots with semi-formal, mess dress uniforms. Commandant of professional military education (PME) course determines whether to allow wearing during inspections, graduations, and parades was implemented." Prior to this change PJ were authorized to wear beret and and bloused trousers with the semi-formal uniform (per the original approval and current Air Force Dress and Appearance regulation) . Concurrent with this policy change TACP, CCT, and weather parachutist berets were identified as distinctive uniforms with no Air Force Uniform Board action documentation to be found. Security Police/Security Forces beret retained status of being a duty uniform.

The Army Special Forces folks got it well documented on how official wear of the beret came about being approved in October 1961 and if one actually digs it includes the change from initial Trojan Horse beret crest (1955) to current beret crest (1962). https://www.army.mil/article/203003/then_and_now_history_of_the_10th_special_forces_group_badge

Actually the NASA support mission carried less weight in comparison to other reasons PJs were parachuting day and night into the sea with out surface assistance, which by the way land/tree jumps were also being done without surface assistance (no DZ markings or ground party giving weather observations (wind velocity/gust and direction, survey of hazards such as rocks, stumps, wires, fences etc.)
 
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