This superb and comprehensive history has been professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction. This work explores the evolution and contributions of the Battlefield Airmen assigned to Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) special tactics units over 50 years. "Their story deserves telling within the US Air Force and to the general public," notes Gen John Jumper, USAF, retired. Battlefield Airmen core competencies include performing duties primarily on the ground, often "outside the wire," and under austere conditions-all skills needed for carrying the fight to the enemy on the ground. The AFSOC special tactics community is a small brotherhood of highly trained and equally dedicated warriors consisting of special tactics officers and combat controllers, combat rescue officers and pararescuemen, and officer and enlisted special operations weathermen. They have proven themselves as force multipliers time and time again throughout their history in places like Somalia, Serbia, and the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq.
1 * From Pathfinders to Combat Controllers, 1943–1954 * 2 * Combat Control, 1955–1964 * 3 * The Conflict in Southeast Asia, 1961–1975 * 4 * Combat Control and US National Counterterrorism, 1976–1981 * 5 * From Grenada to Special Tactics, 1981–1987 * 6 * First Fight: Special Tactics in Panama, 1989 * 7 * Special Tactics Evolves and Deploys to Southwest Asia, 1986–1992 * 8 * The Battle of Mogadishu: Special Tactics in Somalia, 1993 * 9 * Special Tactics, 1993–1999: At Home and in the Balkans * 10 * Beginning the Long War: Special Tactics at Home and Abroad, 1999–May 2003
In Sicily and Italy in 1943, the US Army began employing small teams of personnel known as “Pathfinders” on the drop zones intended for use in Allied airborne operations against the Axis powers. The Pathfinders’ role was to set up their equipment shortly before the arrival of the first paratrooper-laden aircraft over the drop zone in order to guide the aircraft to the proper location. This early system met with mixed results. Shortly after the US Air Force was established in 1947, it gained the Pathfinder mission from the Army, but it was 1953 before the first Air Force combat control team (CCT) was formed (chapter 1). For most of the 1950s the Eighteenth Air Force, headquartered at Donaldson AFB, South Carolina, served as the nucleus for Air Force combat control. However, the USAF—and even the Eighteenth Air Force leadership—anticipated a not-too-distant future with electronic aids to navigation rendering the men on the ground unnecessary for guiding aircraft to their targets. The small Air Force specialty survived the decade even as the US Army sought to recapture the Pathfinder function that it viewed as properly its own (chapter 2). From the early 1960s to 1975, the Southeast Asia conflict gave CCTs their first combat experience, furthering several legendary careers in the process (chapter 3). In the wake of Israel’s dramatic hostage rescue in July 1976 at Entebbe, Uganda, the US government began developing its own national counterterrorist capability. At that point entered a hard-charging, charismatic, and visionary combat control officer, John “Coach” Carney, whose small CCT played a key role in April 1980 at Desert One. Carney’s team almost certainly prevented a greater loss than what took place in the desert that night. The failed operation’s silver lining was the Pentagon’s decision to develop joint special operations capabilities (chapter 4). The brief Grenada operation in 1983 showed that much work remained to be done and served as the catalyst for Special Tactics, initiated in the mid1980s with the merging of combat control and pararescue specialists in the unit later designated the 24th Special Tactics Squadron.