Around the world and at home, America’s Airmen bring critical airpower capabilities to bear against the most pressing national security challenges. Incredible advances are made every day to strengthen those capabilities through the combined efforts of Airmen and aerospace nation partners.
During the 2015 Air Force Association Air And Space Conference Sept. 14-16, 2015, the America’s Airmen exhibit highlighted core missions of Airmen across the globe in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance space and special operations.
The booth put the spotlight on Airmen working in the special operations career fields.
We talked with four Airmen at the exhibit who gave us an inside look at special operations in today’s Air Force. They also showed us some of the amazing gear that helps them keep up their oath - “That others may live.”
Capt. Ben Self, 321st Special Tactics Training Squadron
special tactics officer
Capt. Catherine Roese, 9th Special Operations Squadron pilot
Master Sgt. Jared Pietras, 720th Operations Support Squadron
superintendent, and Senior Airman John Couzens Jr.,
23rd Special Tactics Squadron pararescueman
By Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.
Air Force Social Media
Have you heard of Airman Snuffy? Airman Snuffy is an Airman who’s used as the example for almost everything in the Air Force. Let’s say Airman Snuffy has an injury, but doesn’t want to get medical treatment because of the misnomer that “you’ll get kicked out of the Air Force if you’re broken.”
What Airman Snuffy didn’t know was letting an injury go untreated can cause greater medical issues in the future. Every Airman has the right to receive quality medical and dental care at your their military treatment facility.
I was just like Airman Snuffy at one point in my career. I was a young, energetic and enthusiastic Airman full of youth and optimism about my career and life in general. All of which are good, but I wasn’t thinking about my health.
By Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.
Air Force Social Media
It’s not a foreign principle in the Air Force to understand that we participate, train, educate and support one another as fellow Airmen. In my opinion, it’s truly part of what makes us the world’s greatest Air Force.
But what does that really look like?
Over the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to work side-by-side with members of the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard. I’ve seen firsthand that there isn’t any difference in our performance, standards and expectations for one another as Total Force Airmen. I’m glad to be a part of a truly diverse organization where it’s really important to embody all aspects of the organization to grow and become better in the future.
“We are absolutely committed to creating a fully integrated operationally relevant and capable total force,” said Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, Air Force chief of staff. “One Air Force.”
During my deployments to the Middle East, I’ve had the privilege to really learn from my Guard and Reserve brothers and sisters in the Air Force. I learned that they carried pride in the uniform and their respective component. What drew them to the Air National Guard or Reserve was the same thing that drew me — wanting to serve my country in an honorable way. Not only did I work with them, but I also lived with them in a deployed environment.
When we worked long days and nights pulling security detail on the flight line or providing input about current operations to our leadership, we realized that in order for unit cohesion and morale to improve it would be imperative for us to address the issues that stood in front of us.
We talked about our different experiences and jobs in the Air Force. We shared old war stories while at our current war. The conversation became a bridge that would allow us to discover the root of our issues with one another. Simply, I had brought my negative bias and stereotypes about Guardsmen and Reservists into this environment. Those thoughts didn’t help bring us together faster but became a barrier for me personally.
One conversation led me to discover that I had a misconception of what the other parts of the Air Force did. I admitted to my fellow Airmen that I assumed I knew their mission and vision.
“We are held to AFIs and regulations just like Active Duty,” said Air National Guard Tech Sgt. Charlette Castro.
We are all Airmen, and it’s our duty to incorporate the institutional competencies of the Air Force. We also need to remember that our responsibility to brothers and sisters in the profession of arms isn’t segregated to active duty only. It encompasses the Total Force.
I’m glad to be part of a truly diverse organization where it’s really important to embody all aspects of the organization in order to grow and become better.
By Staff Sgt. Jarrod Chavana
Air Force Social Media
When you join any branch of the U.S. military, you take an oath of enlistment. Sometimes this oath is conducted in a private ceremony with only a handful of individuals, but other times it is performed in front of sold-out stadiums. I’ve gathered a few photos highlighting our Delayed Enlistment Program enlistees who are taking their first steps toward enlisting in the Air Force.
The first time someone has the opportunity they will resemble their civilian side. The second time they say the oath will be at basic training graduation, which signifies their transformation from civilian to Airman.
The oath of enlistment can be performed anywhere, and sometimes there are opportunities to perform it in front of huge audiences.
Many people have seen it conducted before baseball, football and even NASCAR events.
One great aspect of taking the oath after your first enlistment is someone can make it memorable.
These Airmen reenlisted during their deployments. Not only are they honoring our country, they are making an added commitment to protect it while deployed.
Sometimes you have those people who like to add a little flair to their oath. This Air Force PJ performed the ceremony and then jumped from a C-130! Go big or go home.
If you’ve ever taken the oath of enlistment, feel free to share your story with us!
Name: Airman 1st Class Austin Thompson Unit: 344th Training Squadron Where are you from: St. George, Utah
Why did you join?
My obsession for all things aviation and the military sparked my idea to join and I tried to learn as much as I could from watching documentaries and YouTube videos. I joined the United States Air Force to do something different from the rest of my peers. I hope to make a career out of it.
What was your experience with the Air Force before joining?
While in high school, I was part of an Air Force Junior ROTC program with more than 350 students from five different high schools. The cadre were all awesome instructors who shared their interesting stories and life details that also shaped my decision to join. Also, my uncle just retired last year after over 20 years in the Air Force.
What does your family think of you becoming an Airman?
My family has supported me through all of my decisions to join the military. They are proud of me for what I’ve chosen to do and believe that I can do greater good for myself, my family and those around me while I am serving.
What was your recruiting experience like?
While working with my recruiter, I was given a lot of options on what I could do. After a few months of going through the process of enlisting, I swore into the United States Air Force July 12, 2013, with a list of five jobs picked. Almost 10 months later, just as I was graduating high school, I was assigned my job. I would be an aircraft loadmaster or Air Force Specialty Code 1A2X1. The final months that lead up to my BMT date I spent researching and gathering all the information I could get.
You’ve made it this far, what was your impression of Basic Military Training (BMT)?
August 13, 2013, was my first day in BMT. It was a lot different than I expected. The overall experience was more focused on learning about the Air Force and team work than just about being a warrior.
What came next for you after graduating BMT?
I traveled a short distance to tech school at the 344th Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. I was finally ready to get on with my training as an aircraft loadmaster apprentice and see what the job was all about.
After the first week, which is known as Students Awaiting Training week, my job training began with the Career Enlisted Aviator (CEA) portion. This part of the training is for anyone who is going into an enlisted aviator career field whether it is loadmaster or a boom operator or another aircrew position. Here you start with aircrew fundamentals, a two-week course that teaches aircrew responsibilities, basic aircraft functionalities, safety procedures, safety equipment, and the different missions of each job and what they do. All the aircrew also attend a two-day course on how to tell the difference in your own hypoxia symptoms, how to deal with those, and why it is so important to use an oxygen mask if something happens while in-flight.
How was the hypoxia chamber?
The hypoxia training, or the Chamber as we call it, was probably the funniest thing I’ve done in training. Airmen attempt to complete tasks like simple math problems while being exposed to the effects of oxygen deficiency so they can recognize the symptoms. Being able to watch my fellow Airmen not be able to do simple tasks and realize that they need to do something to keep themselves conscious really brought it to my attention that the we receive our training for a reason, and that it’s for us to be able to keep ourselves and our fellow Airmen alive.
What happens once you learn the basics of being aircrew?
After the two weeks in aircrew fundamentals, you transition to the course for your actual career field. For loadmasters the course takes approximately two months. The classes cover everything from math procedures for finding the balance and weight of the aircraft for cargo loading procedures, to learning the different mission sets of our career field like airdrops, cargo loading and unloading. I also learned how to safely secure cargo to the aircraft, different types of passengers and safety procedures.
What was the next step in your training pipeline?
After the Basic Loadmaster Course, I became a detail Airman while I wait on my security clearance which can take some time. Since then, I have been able to complete water survival at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. There I learned how to survive in a water landing scenario. The instruction covers signaling rescue aircraft, hazardous aquatic life, food and water procurement, medical aspects of water survival and life raft procedures. To simulate an emergency in-flight over water you parasail and practice parachute descents. That course was a total of five days and is required for all officer and enlisted aircrew members. If we didn’t receive that training I wouldn’t know how to handle that type of emergency.
What has been your favorite part of training so far?
My favorite training so far would have to be either the load trainer, where you load cargo onto a C-130 training device, or parachute water survival.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned so far?
That no matter what, safety and communication are key. Also, never be afraid to ask a question about something.
What other training will you receive?
To add onto that experience, I am still waiting for a class at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, for SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) training. SERE is a 19-day course required for all officer and enlisted aircrew members. After that I’ll go to C-17 Initial Qualification Training (IQT) at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. This course ranges from over three months to six months depending on if your projected assignment does or does not do airdrops. Other aircraft available to aircraft loadmasters are the C-130 and the C-5 with their airframe specific courses ranging from two to eight months long.
Do you know where you’ll be heading next?
Toward the end of our two month training here at JBSA-Lackland, we received our future duty stations. I was assigned Travis Air Force Base, California working on C-17s, but it can change. From what I’ve heard about Travis it’s a wonderful base to be at and I’m excited. I’ve done my research to a basic level on the C-17 and I know the aircraft is an awesome workhorse and can do practically every mission available.
How do you feel about how your job fits into the overall Air Force mission?
My job has a very important role within the Air Force. Not only does the Air Force rely on us and our aircraft to transport cargo and personnel from one place to another, but so do the other branches of the military.
What do you look forward to about doing the job?
The main thing I look forward to is the travel, and just being able to know that somehow, somewhere I am helping someone by delivering cargo, personnel or even someone’s loved one.