Special Warfare Reality Check–Squashing the Rumor Mill

There’s been a lot of rumor mill, conjecture, assumptions and flat out wrong info circulating around Special Warfare. Let’s separate the fact from fiction and brush over the latest hot topics around Pararescue, Combat Control, Special Reconnaissance, and TACP.

Guardian Angel and Special Tactics Merger

Guardian Angel (GA) is the weapon system that employs Pararescue in a conventional manner. Special Tactics (ST) employs Pararescue in support of SOF missions. There were plans to merge GA and ST earlier this year to align all PJs under AFSOC. And at one point earlier this year it looked like a done deal. But as many things go in the military, nothing is ever guaranteed until it actually happens.

FACT: GA and ST are not merging.
Pararescue will continue to have personnel in both Rescue Squadrons (as GA) and Special Tactics Squadrons (as ST). One is not better than the other. A PJ’s core skills are the same in both GA & ST- put planely: “A PJ is a PJ.” PJs will continue to have the opportunity to cross-flow from RQS to STS (and vice versa) throughout their careers.

FICTION: Pararescue ‘belongs’ in AFSOC
Not according to the 4-star generals. The Major Commanders of the Air Force have determined that having Pararescue in AFSOC to perform the ST mission and Pararescue in Air Combat Command (ACC) to perform the GA mission is currently the most effective use of Pararescue forces. Pararescue fulfills a SOF and conventional service for the Air Force and that is unlikely to change any time in the near future.

Career Field Identification Change

Special Warfare career fields

On 31 Oct 2019, the Air Force re-designated Pararescue (PJ), Combat Control (CCT), Special Reconnaissance (SR) and TACP into a different career field, called Special Warfare.

New Special Warfare Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSCs)

  • 1Z1XX: Pararescue
  • 1Z2XX: Combat Control
  • 1Z3XX: TACP
  • 1Z4XX: Special Reconnaissance

FACT: PJ, CCT, SR and TACP have merged into the same career field: Special Warfare.
Technically, this is a true statement, but there is a common mis-interpretation of what a career field is. The first two digits in the Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) is the Career Field designation. ‘1Z’ is for Special Warfare. The third space on the AFSC signifies the career field sub specialty, and this third space is what typically people refer to (mistakenly) as a ‘career field’.

To put it another way, CCT used to be the 1C2XX AFSC. The ‘1C’ is the ‘Command and Control Systems’ career field, which also includes AFSCs such as the 1C0XX Aviation Resource Management and 1C1XX Air Traffic Control specialties.

If the above is a bunch of gibberish that doesn’t make sense, to put it plain and simple: the Special Warfare career field specialties are not merging. Pararescue, Combat Control, Special Reconnaissance and TACP are different specialties that will continue to be distinct from one another.

FICTION: Special Warfare is developing one beret.
Pararescue, Combat Control, Special Recon and TACP have distinct beret colors and emblems. There is no current discussion to merge these berets or emblems. It is neither a priority discussion (much less any discussion) at leadership levels.

Special Recon… The New Sexy

Air Force Special Reconnaissance
Photo Courtesy: 24 SOW Master Sgt. Jason Robertson

In April 2019, the Special Operations Weather Team (SOWT) was re-branded Special Reconnaissance (SR). With it, came a change in mission set and skills.

FACT: Special Reconnaissance is new and employing new skills.
SR is moving away from a weather dominated specialty to a multi-spectrum recon mission. With it comes new skills and training: long-range weaponry, Operational Preparation of the Environment (to include cyber and space) among other skills. This is exciting for Special Warfare and the Air Force to now have a future-looking capability that supports Air Force objectives.

FICTION: Special Recon has a massive demand for more operators
While SR is new, it still has a legacy force from SOWT that can accomplish a large chunk of the SR mission. And new SR training schools will be provided to existing SOWT operators to fill the knowledge and skills void. While all Special Warfare specialties are high demand and low density, there is not an ‘open the flood gates!’ approach for SR. SR will still be asking for new recruits, and the demand will still be high just like the other Special Warfare specialties. Just don’t expect a double or tripling-like effect coming from SR anytime incredibly soon.

Indoc is Dead… and so are the PT standards

Special Warfare Assessment and Selection.  Pararescue, Combat Control, Special Reconnaissance

Last year, the 10-week Pararescue indoctrination course was scrapped and essentially merged with the 2-week Combat Control assessment course. What was created was a 4-week Assessment and Selection (A&S) course. The course involves Pararescue, Combat Control and Special Reconnaissance. TACP has their own selection that does not involve extensive water confidence training.

FACT: There are no set PT standards at the new A&S
The A&S course scrapped the legacy way of proving your worth. A prior mentality of ‘survive and you’ll make it’ is no longer. While A&S may no longer fail you for doing 15 pullups when 16 was the standard, there are other mechanisms in place to ensure you are a good fit for Special Warfare.
The course now implements psych analysis, peer reviews and desired attribute grading while going through the course. Just surviving the 4-weeks is no longer enough. As evident in a recent A&S course, approximately 40% of candidates that finished A&S were still not selected to continue training.

FICTION: The Special Warfare standard has been lowered
While massive amounts of manpower and dollars have gone into Special Warfare recruiting and A&S preparation efforts, the attrition rate out of A&S still rivals its prior indoc levels. While the standards have changed, the candidate selection percentage has approximately remained level.

Does the new method of selecting a candidate based on 4-weeks of attributes and peer reviews vs 10-weeks grueling PT standards translate into a better candidate? That is the ultimate question, and it won’t be answered until several trending years of A&S candidates have made it through their multi-year pipeline and perform at their unit of assignment.


Want to continue the rumor squashing? Head over to the AFSPECWAR Community Forums thread for further Q&A.


Team ST

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