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ACJ Vol 5/2

Ben Orrell, Col, USAF (Ret) Air Force Cross Recipient 1st SOW Director of Operations / DESERT STORM Former 39th SOW Commander

The phone finally rang. I grabbed it and heard the code word I had been waiting for hours to hear. We had secure telephones but I hadn’t wanted to wait for the keying process so a code word had been established to clear us to launch. “Blow Job.” Timing was critical so I told the small staff around me, “We have a go,” and jumped into my car and headed for the flight line. Crews were already at the helos ready to go but had not started engines because fuel was so critical. I first went to the Air Force guys because their engine start-up process was longer. “We have a go!” I yelled over the roar of the auxiliary power units. Their commander said, “Holy shit, we are really going to do it.” Next I told the Army guys, “We have clearance to launch.” Their commander smiled and headed for his waiting Apache crews. Finally, after all those months of waiting we were going to kick Saddam Hussein’s ass. Within that same hour I sat at the end of the runway and listened as our birds and crews flew overhead. They were completely blacked out and with no moon they were completely invisible. I couldn’t help but worry for their safety but at the same time I was so proud that Special Operations had been selected to fire the first shots to start the Gulf War. As the last sounds of freedom disappeared in the distance I started the car up and headed back to the Saudi Arabian jail we called headquarters and did one of the hardest things a commander ever does. Wait for some word about how things are going.
DESERT STORM had come quickly on the heels of Operation JUST CAUSE and was a real test to our command. Not only did the 1st Special Operations Wing deploy nearly all of our assets and people to the far corner of the earth, we went to a completely bare base in deplorable conditions. I was in awe of the guts and determination I saw at every level. Maintainers worked in conditions so hot that they had to use gloves to hold the hot wrenches. Tents were erected at night to help negate the effects of the heat but night brought new challenges including spiders, scorpions, and mountains of debris that had to be cleared before a tent could be erected. Still our people prevailed and even made a competition out of it, seeing which team could assemble the most tents in one night.
Dust, stifling heat, and darkness unlike anything we had ever seen were the norm. Despite those conditions our crews flew incredibly demanding missions and excelled. Unfortunately, combat sometimes results in loss of life. The loss of Spirit 03 hit us all hard and will be with us always. They died as heroes doing what they were trained to do but we will never forget them and wish with all our being that they were with us today.
I have always been proud to be an American but during Operation DESERT STORM it was so obvious what made us a great nation. The perseverance, ingenuity, and the SOF ethos from initial deployment through final execution was simply phenomenal. Our nation could have asked for nothing more from the “Great American Air Commandos” deployed in Operation DESERT STORM. Please enjoy this edition of Air Commando Journal that highlights some of their incredible teamwork and accomplishments.

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ACJ Vol 5/1

It is our special privilege to introduce this ACJ issue featuring AFSOC’s Combat Aviation Advisors. Comprised of articles written by former and current “CAA,” this issue reflects the capability, credibility, and faithfulness of the quiet professionals entrusted with the aviation advisory mission. We hope it provides realistic context and increased clarity regarding CAA and their mission.

Since the stand-up of the 6th Special Operations Squadron in 1994, all officer and enlisted CAA undergo qualification training together. A team-building experience, qualification training tests core values and personal attributes like integrity, excellence, selflessness, accountability, and courage. Tactical scenarios develop skills necessary to operate with confidence while teaming with joint, interagency, and foreign counterparts. Education inspires a personal commitment to master the cultural, political, regional, and language skills required of an effective advisor. Upon graduation, most advisors are assigned to the CAA’s primary weapon system – the team!

The CAA team is a multidisciplinary weapon system deployed to accomplish the mission in a specified area of operations. Whether conducting combat advisory operations in a remote location or a strategic airpower assessment in a national capital, CAA are individually and collectively expected to know “what right looks like” and possess the courage to do the right thing. Team members are placed in positions of trust and confidence, often with placement and access to senior foreign military and civilian authorities. They are fundamentally responsible for building relationships, and transitioning them into networked partnerships that accomplish shared security objectives.

The classic tactical mission is to train, advise, and assist aviation forces of friendly governments. CAA teams are task tailored to help foreign counterparts develop, sustain, and employ specialized airpower in special operations roles within irregular warfare environments. At the operational level, CAA create and operate command and control capabilities that integrate and orient foreign aviation forces to achieve assigned objectives with special operations counterparts.

Tactical actors on a strategic stage, CAA practice the art of the long view. Although short-term advancements in foreign aviation capabilities occur, CAA understand that meaningful, lasting progress is years in the making. Success can be masked by changes in politics and policy, and is rightfully veiled by the SOF ethos of ensuring foreign counterparts get the credit. It suffices to say that when the United States achieves a security objective by, with, and through the actions of a friendly government, and those actions were made possible in part by a CAA team, then the team has accomplished its mission.

To all AFSOF advisors, past and present, thank you for developing the relationships, partnerships, and capabilities with friendly nations that quietly helped ensure our freedom. We deeply appreciate your many personal sacrifices and those of your families. And to all those who lost an advisor in training or combat, please know their spirit lives on in the current generation of Combat Aviation Advisors.

Norman J. Brozenick Jr., Maj Gen, USAF (Ret) Former AFSOC Vice Commander CAA #127
Tom Phillips, CMSgt, USAF (Ret) CAA #79

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ACJ Vol 4/3

Dick Secord, Maj Gen, USAF (Ret)

I am very pleased to offer a foreword to this issue of the Air Commando Journal (ACJ). After finishing a total of seven years as Vice-President, President, and Chairman of the ACA, I believe the single most important achievement during that time has been the publication of the ACJ. I’ll put its quality and content up against any institutional publication. Since September 2011, the past four years have seen the Journal cover heritage stories along with contemporary matters of interest to all Air Commandos, past and present.

This issue is no different, and the stories behind the five new inductees to the Air Commando Hall of Fame fit in perfectly. The Air Commando warrior spirit and no fail credo described herein demonstrate why our fame and importance to the nation continue to grow.

I hope you enjoy this issue as I did!

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ACJ Vol 4/2

Matthew M. Caruso, CMSgt, USAF Command Chief, AFSOC

It is my distinct honor and pleasure to introduce readers to this 14th issue of the Air Commando Journal. To all of our Air Commandos out there…past, present and future, thank you so much for what you do and who you are. In this issue, we pay special tribute to the men and women who maintained, operated and supported the MC-130P Combat Shadow and its crucial mission. The MC-130P recently retired its last tail number and it’s only fitting we highlight this incredible workhorse to our Air Commando Journal followers and readers.
While the beloved MC-130P airframe was tired and worn well beyond her years, we couldn’t have been more blessed to operate and maintain such a reliable and sturdy platform. I have really put some deep thought into this and I am sure most of you will agree…..what really made this aircraft and its mission so successful was its people. The most important aspect of any AF weapon system is people.
I often talk about grit, determination, toughness, relentlessness, tenacity and skill when I refer to the character of an Air Commando. Other exceptional qualities we have come to expect in Air Commandos are teamwork, humility, pride, loyalty and a steadfast commitment to the mission. During my time as an MC-130P Flight Engineer, I was introduced to these key traits from the entire Shadow Community and it was demonstrated day in and day out. You would never hear us say it, but the joint partners we worked with and supported still talk about it to this day. We were just doing what we do and getting the mission done.
For Combat Shadow Airmen who built the platform and performed the mission, it was never about the glory or a decoration on your chest, it was always about the supported unit, the customer and each other. It was about being on-time and on-target every time with hoses out, ready for anything, anytime and anyplace. I am certain that this was the source of the bonds we share today after many years in combat and generations of Airmen growing up in this incredible family.
I know each of you will find similarities in the articles in this issue and your own AFSOC platform and experience. For it is that overall sense of Air Commando pride and sense of history and culture that comes out in everything we do, regardless of the weapon system we maintain or operate. I trust you will find this issue a good read and one that helps all of us appreciate one another for what we bring to make AFSOC America’s specialized air power.

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ACJ Vol 4/1

Richard V. Secord, Maj Gen, USAF (Ret) Chairman, Air Commando Association

It is my pleasure to introduce our readers to this 13th issue of the Air Commando Journal. Presented here are stories of little known special operations, principally in Southeast Asia (SEA), as we focus this quarter on air commandos in Indochina.
Although the Vietnam War is almost “ancient history” for most Americans, this long war saw a great expansion of air commando organizations and capabilities in South Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand, along with similar growth in the US, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East. These seven stories give one a good sense of the range and scope of operations from which our modern AFSOC forces have evolved.
It is true that the Eagle Claw (Desert One) disaster in 1980 was the catalyst that kicked off the resurgence of US special operations capabilities. But the air commandos of the 1960s and ‘70s provided a sizeable foundation for today’s special operations air forces. At the height of the war in SEA, USAF air commando strength reached nearly 100,000 men and women, organized into 5 wings and with numerous smaller units deployed around the world. The articles in this issue of ACJ were written by men who at the time, were at “the tip of the spear.”
Their stories cover a wide range of air commando activities, beginning with Project Jungle Jim in 1961, which restored our modern USAF special operations force. Look for articles in upcoming issues that talk about Air Force SOF in another “forgotten” war, Korea, and how the capabilities and spirit of the air commandos were kept alive during the 1950s. We also promise articles on the US Army Air Forces “Carpetbaggers” from the Second World War and how those airmen pioneered air commando operations.
Always controversial in the all-jet US Air Force, air commandos again find themselves at the center of a classic conventional vs. unconventional capabilities debate—similar to the quality vs. quantity issue air forces have faced after every conflict since the end of the First World War. That debate continues today as our nation looks beyond over a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. My crystal ball is no better than anyone else’s, but every indication seems to be that air commandos and USAF SOF will continue to be key to our nation’s future security.
These articles offer insight into aspects of the war/post-war and quality vs. quantity debate, and how earlier air commandos “played the hands they had been dealt.” Things are changing, but the good news is that the leadership is working hard to create the optimum force mix—mobility, ISR, strike, and air-ground integration, plus active, Reserve, and Guard forces, to ensure the current and future air commandos are in the best position to deal with the unknown challenges that will undoubtedly come our way. It probably won’t be easy, but there is much to be optimistic about.
I trust you will find this issue to be a good read—I did. And as always, we welcome your comments and recommendations to improve our association and our journal.
Any Time, Any Place.

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ACJ Vol 3/4

Wayne G. Norrad, CMSgt, USAF (Ret) Secretary, Air Commando Hall of Fame Committee, Former AFSOC Senior Enlisted Advisor

The history and evolution of the Hall of Fame are interesting — and at times, controversial. The concept was started by recognizing a Founder’s Group of nine individuals that included the famous co-commanders of Project 9, (later officially designated as the 1st Air Commando Group) Philip Cochran and John Alison. In 1969, the Air Commando Association was founded by Brig. Gen Robert Cardenas and then Col Harry C. “Heinie” Aderholt. Leaders of the ACA decided to establish an Air Commando Hall of Fame (HoF) to recognize the outstanding contributions of Air Force commandos. There were 20 selected into the inaugural class. Some of the more familiar inductees included “Jumping” Joe Kittinger, “Hap” Lutz, Charlie Jones and “Heinie” Aderholt. Evidently it caused some controversy because it was another 25 years, in 1994, that the ACA resurrected the HoF and selected 32 more – presumably to “catch-up for lost years.” The following year, another 17 members were inducted. For the next 14 years, from 1996 to 2010, the number of selectees varied from none in 2006 and 2009 to 11 in 2000.
It is my opinion the process was ad hoc at best with the “good ol’ boy” network often having too much power and influence in deciding who was selected. Eventually, ACA leaders appointed a Hall of Fame Committee. They were asked to develop guidelines and procedures, cast their votes, and forward their recommendations to the Board of Directors who had final approval authority. As with any process, adjustments were made over the years. For example, new rules now state that nominees must have been assigned to Air Force Special Operations for at least three years and must be separated or retired from the Air Force for at least three years.
Following the ACA Annual Convention Banquet in 2010, the HoF Committee recommended a limit on the number of annual inductees. The previous year, ten inductees just seemed too many to properly honor each Hall of Famer. The Board of Directors agreed with that rationale and set the limit to no more than five. Last year was perfect. Each of the five inductees was presented their HoF plaque at the ACA Annual Convention Banquet while their citation was read, and each delivered a brief acceptance speech. The positive response from the audience, for each and every inductee, was overwhelming – as it should be!
I consider it a privilege to be on the HoF Committee and take this responsibility very seriously, as do the other committee members: Chairman Lt Gen (Ret) Mike Wooley, Col (Ret) Steve Connelly, Col (Ret) Jim Connors, Col (Ret) Dave Mobley, CMSAF #9 (Ret) Jim Binnicker, and CMSgt (Ret) Lamar Doster.
What do we look for during the evaluation process? We look at the whole person concept to include levels of responsibility held, major development of weapons systems or changes to tactics, techniques and procedures, total years served in special operations, deployments in harm’s way, significant awards and decorations, involvement in fraternal organizations, charities, assistance to our wounded warriors or support for the families of our fallen. We are not just looking to induct heroes. We look at those who made significant contributions to special operations while serving on active duty and have continued to contribute in civilian life. I highly recommend visiting the ACA website (www.aircommando.org) to read the list of Hall of Famers, and also consider submitting a package on a deserving Air Commando for induction in 2015.
The HoF is comprised of an elite group. Of the thousands of Air Commandos who have served in special operations over the past 70+ years, only 170 (117 officers and 53 enlisted) are in the Hall of Fame. Gen Duane H. Cassidy, former Commander-in-Chief, US Transportation Command and Military Airlift Command, once told me “Elite means…few; too many means…average.” “Average” does not have a place in special operations or in the Air Commando Hall of Fame.

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ACJ Vol 3/3

Bruce L. Fister, Lt Gen, USAF (Ret) Former Commander AFSOC

Operation Just Cause in Panama was the first major joint special operation since the establishment of the United States Special Operation Command in 1987. At the time, 23rd Air Force was a subordinate operational command under Military Airlift Command (now Air Mobility Command) and was also designated the air component of USSOCOM—Air Force Special Operations Command. Preparations to help Panama rid itself of the dictator, Manuel Noriega, had been going on for over six months. That plan, Blue Spoon, envisioned a slow build up of forces in Panama with military action triggered by an event precipitated by Noriega.
When Gen Max Thurmond assumed command of USSOUTHCOM, this strategy changed to a very rapid intervention in Panama. The planners determined that USSOCOM and the Air Commandos of AFSOC offered the only reasonable means of achieving the surprise necessary to depose Noriega and ensure the safety of the thousands of American civilians living and working in the Canal Zone.
When a group of Noriega’s Panamanian Defense Force (PDF) troops harassed four American officers, fatally wounding one, and after another PDF unit abused a US Navy Lieutenant and his wife, President George H.W. Bush had sufficient justification to order the intervention. The President directed Just Cause commence at 0100 hrs on 20 Dec 1989. The plan called for taking down 27 key targets within 15 minutes of H-hour. Air Commandos, along with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and Military Airlift Command Special Operations C-130s, C-5s, and C-141s inserted the Joint Special Operations Task Force.
As you will read in this edition of Air Commando Journal, there were some very key events that occurred during Just Cause. One was the infiltration into Panama of over 200 special operations and conventional forces aircraft into Panama without detection by Cuban radar. Another was the rescue of Mr Kurt Muse from the Carselo Modelo Prison, during which two AC-130 gunships successfully destroyed the PDF headquarter across the street from the prison. AC-130s also blocked the PDF’s “Battalion 2000” from entering the fight at the Pacora River Bridge. Operation Just Cause also saw the first limpet mine attack since World War II by the US Navy’s SEALs, against two of Noriega’s yachts. SOF and conventional forces combined to seize two airfields: Rio Hato and Torrijos-Tocumen. Jerry Thigpen provides a stirring account of how the 8th SOS established a forward area refueling and re-arming point at Rio Hato airport, in the middle of a tough fire fight. And finally, how the Special Forces employed the “Ma Bell” concept to exploit their overwhelming advantage in air power by telephoning PDF units who were resisting to look up at the AC-130 circling overhead. The SF advised the PDF commander to have his soldiers stack arms and form up for their surrender to Special Forces soldiers.
Operation Just Cause put USSOCOM and AFSOC on the map, eventually leading to AFSOC becoming an Air Force major command equal to ACC and AMC. Just Cause was also the harbinger of the continual string of successful operations through the 1990s—in the Balkans, the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia…all the way to 9/11 and the last decade and a half of war in Afghanistan, Iraq, and around the world. The lieutenants, captains, and majors who earned their spurs during Just Cause are today’s Air Commando leaders.

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ACJ Vol 3/2

Ronald W. Terry Col USAF (Ret)

In August 1967, Capt James Krause (Deceased), Capt James Wolverton (Deceased), Wing Commander Thomas Pinkerton, RAF (Deceased) and yours truly gathered around a drafting table along with design draftsmen and engineers of the Flight Test Modification Shops of the Aeronautical Systems Division, at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, in Dayton, OH. Jim Wolverton and I had just recently returned from Los Angeles, where we were assisting in a special study on Counter-insurgency conducted by the late Maj Gen Gordon P. Seville. The study was chartered by Gen Bernard Shriver, Commanding General of the Air Force Systems Command. Jim Krause (the father of Forward Looking Infrared [FLIR] in the Air Force) had just completed test of our earliest FLIR Sensor and Tom Pinkerton had built our first analog fire control computer. We laid out the design and integration plan of what was to be designated the Gunship II Modification Program. The modification was accomplished on one of the original three C-130 prototypes made available to us. The installation included 4-20mm Gatling guns, 4-7.62mm Gatling guns, FLIR, NOD (Night Observation Device), Beacon Tracking Radar, and the analog computer tying it all together. By this time, the AC-47 which we began deploying three years earlier in Vietnam had achieved an amazing combat record and was in high demand for close support and armed reconnaissance. Our hope was to take this capability to an even higher level of effectiveness and safety for the crews. This hope, which has been fulfilled a thousand times over, is now a matter of record.

The articles in this historic Air Commando Journal, on occasion of the retirement of the last of the AC-130H aircraft, describe some of this outstanding record. I am honored to have the opportunity to both congratulate and thank all those who have flown, maintained and provided the logistical support for the: AC-130A, AC-119G, AC-119K and the AC-130 E, H, and U model gunships, over these past six decades. Winston Churchill said of the RAF, “Never have so many owed so much to so few.” I think the same could well be said of those who flew and supported the AC-47, AC-119 and the AC-130 Gunships. Thank you, and thank you, and thank you ….. JOB WELL DONE!!!

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ACJ Vol 3/1

Maj Gen (Ret) Richard Secord Air Commando Association ­Chairman of the Board

Over two years ago the ACA started publishing the Air Commando Journal (ACJ) aimed at being a quarterly professional magazine to feature Air Commandos past, present and future. This is the ninth issue.
We have been delighted to receive numerous plaudits literally from around the globe. And we hope to continue this pursuit of excellence with the help of our contributors, volunteers and the financial support of our advertisers.
I want to single out special praise due our two staff members that work hard on the ACJ – Jeanette Moore, graphic design and composition, and Shannon Pressley, advertising and sponsorship. Without these ladies we would be sunk!
We have several volunteers who are very important in publishing ACJ. They include “cold eyes” reviews by Rick Newton, Scott McIntosh, Pete Riley, and Darrel Whitcomb and relevant stories by Air Commandos who actually participated in the operations described.
It is also sent to all congressional offices and numerous places in the Pentagon as well as being posted electronically on our web site (www.aircommando.org)

While handing out kudos I want to give special recognition to Col (Ret) Dennis Barnett, our President, the editor and driving force behind the ACJ. And a special shout out to Gen (Ret.) T. Michael Moseley, USAF, 18th Chief of Staff, who is ACA’s policy and financial advisor and responsible for developing a number of our advertisers.
Needless to say I am very proud of the ACJ and hope for many more years of excellence. However we need assistance in the form of commercial sponsors, advertisers and donations to ensure a long life for YOUR Journal. All who can-please help us!

Please enjoy this latest Air Commando Journal.
Any Time, Any Place!

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ACJ Vol 2/4

NORTON A. SCHWARTZ General (Ret), USAF Former Chief of Staff

There are many Talon operators who are better equipped to pen an introduction to this issue of the Air Commando Journal. But, the editor was kind enough to approach me and of course I enthusiastically agreed to prepare this brief narrative. Allow me to assert at the outset that my service in our Air Force was profoundly influenced by that initial operational and four follow-on supervisory tours in the Special Operations community. Let no one suggest otherwise: had I not experienced the intensity of the mission, associated with an array of remarkable joint teammates, and earned a reputation as being a “SOF warrior,” I would never have had the opportunities to lead in our Air Force that I ultimately enjoyed.
I arrived at Hurlburt for Talon School in the fall of 1980 in the immediate aftermath of Honey Badger. I arrived as a reasonably well qualified C-130 tactical pilot. I knew the airplane (or so I thought) and basic airdrop tactics. How hard could this be? Well, it was hard as Bob Brenci, Jim Hobson or Jerry Uttaro can attest. The leadership of the 8th SOS accepted me, with some deserved reservations of course. The Talon business has always been a “show me” activity. At that time and hopefully for all time, performance trumped other considerations…but these notable Talon leaders and marvelous squadron-mates gave me a chance: Lee Hess, Tom Bradley, Ray Turczynski, Bob Meller, George Ferkes, Jerry Thigpen, Sam Galloway, Thom Beres, Bob Almanzar, Buff Underwood, Ray Doyle and Taco Sanchez among a number of others. How important it was to me not to disappoint them in any way.
I checked out and ultimately was assigned to Jerry Uttaro’s crew…one of just five in those days. Jerry was also the crew commander for the initial mission and follow-on Credible Sport II effort to evaluate short take-off and landing and related avionics technologies that had matured under the earlier classified program, undertaken following the American Hostage rescue attempt in Iran. Ultimately, the leadership of that crew passed to me, with Sam Galloway, Chris Armstrong, Mike Dredla, Tom Daignault, Dee Newberry, Ken Bancroft and Dave Metherell and others as teammates.
The Credible Sport II crew worked for many months together at the Lockheed Marietta plant, evaluating and documenting those aspects of the Credible Sport I aircraft that should be incorporated in the then newly conceived Combat Talon II aircraft development program. Self-contained approach avionics was one such capability. I will never forget a Friday night sortie in the Sport aircraft inbound to Field 6 at 80 knots when all the instrumentation in the aircraft was “wired,” but looking outside on PVS-5s I apparently mumbled to myself: “This Doesn’t Look Good”. Had we followed the internal approach guidance we would have landed well short. The moral of the story was that good instincts in the special operations aircraft cockpit will always be essential to managing the inherent risks of and accomplishing that very demanding (and rewarding) special operations aviation mission.
It is with genuine humility that I now defer to the authors of the accounts of Talon history you truly wish to read. I just close this introduction by expressing appreciation to all the Talon crews over the years, our “Heavy” program predecessors, those in each of the Talon squadrons (notwithstanding the focus on the 8th SOS above), and those who lost their lives (and in some cases their careers) in pursuing Talon excellence in special operations aviation. Only Talon families sacrificed more and are more deserving of our lasting respect.

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ACJ Vol 2/3

Dennis Barnett, Col, USAF (Ret) ACA Vice President and Editor In Chief

In October it will be 12 years running America has been at war. Throughout, Special Operations has led the way. And some of the first in (and still there) were warriors from AFSOC. There is no more heavily deployed command in the Air Force than AFSOC. And it naturally follows there are no more heavily tasked units in the nation than some of AFSOC’s squadrons. Members with more than 20 deployments are not unusual. True to the “Silent Professional” creed, neither the nation, nor anyone outside the inner circle of AFSOC and its many satisfied customers, have heard a lot about their accomplishments. There have been many and these accomplishments have had a profound impact on the outcome of innumerable operations. These proud men and women have gone about doing the nation’s business with total professional aplomb. This edition of the ACJ is dedicated to these American heroes and their families that have given so much at such a high price. A signifcant number of AFSOC warriors have paid the supreme sacrifice and have been wounded in action since 9/11. These are the visible tolls. The less visible are the impacts that these losses and injuries have had on innumerable Air Commando families.
In this edition there are some great renditions of Air Commando achievements and the makeup of the Air Commando Ethos. We also have a great article highlighting one of the most altruistic Air Commandos of all time, Major John Grove. He gave a lot and if he were alive today, he would still be finding ways to assist those that have needs greater than his. Indeed, he would be proud that the Air Commando Association has evolved into an organization that has as one of its basic tenets “Helping Air Commandos and their families, past, present, and future.” ACA has been honored to assist many of our warriors and their families in times of unmet needs. Unfortunately, those needs have been many and will continue for the foreseeable future. ACA, through our Foundation, is partnering with our generous membership, the US Special Operations Command Care Coalition, and others, to raise funds to continue to honor those that have needs greater than our own….just as John Grove would have wanted. As you enjoy this edition of ACJ, we ask all to reflect on the tremendous sacrifices that Air Commandos and their families have faced quietly doing the Nation’s bidding since WWII. Any time….Any place.

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ACJ Vol 2/2

Maj Gen Michael Kingsley is the Director for the NATO Afghanistan Task Force. He is the former AFSOC Vice Commander.

It is my distinct honor to contribute to this issue of the Air Commando Journal in dedication to the MH-53 “Pave Low” helicopter and the men and women who supported the mission. Over the past 30+ years, until the retirement in 2008, the “red scarf” community of Air Commandos were involved in, and I would say critical to the success of, nearly every military engagement required by our nation’s leaders. From the jungles of Panama to the mountains of Bosnia and the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq with many harrowing contingencies in between, this aircraft and its crews were relied upon to perform some of the most difficult missions imaginable in order to save American lives and support special operations forces around the world. To this day I am in awe of their bravery and commitment.
When I was a young captain in the 20 SOS, during the late 80s and early 90s, I quickly learned that this squadron was different. There was a cadre of leaders and support personnel who understood the importance of the MH-53 in the tactical SOF mission. With unique modifications, the Pave Low would prove over time the ability to do what no other aircraft in the world could do; precise infiltration and exfiltration in nearly all weather conditions, day or night. As the Pave Low grew, those leaders would spread the same tactics and procedures, and instill the new leadership with the same understanding. This revolution in capability would be the guiding vision that eventually bonded the three operational squadrons and the training squadron together. It created a culture of innovation and pushed the limits of training and performance for the crews and the aircraft. If I could encapsulate the essence of Pave Low, it would be the enduring commitment of the people and the willingness to dedicate their lives in support of the mission. Gen Schwartz put it so eloquently in the foreword of the recent by Darrel Whitcomb On a Steel Horse I Ride: “Ultimately, the story of Pave Low bears out the first SOF Truth: Pave Low proved to be a highly capable and impressive aircraft, but more significantly, the people behind Pave Low, and those who served with it, were, and always will be, even more impressive.” Over the years, those people coalesced into a family of operators, maintainers, trainers, testers, and acquirers who gave it their all time and time again.
Today, MH-53 aircraft are proudly displayed in air parks and museums across our nation. Pave Low crews and support personnel served with great distinction in combat all the way until the very last flight in September 2008. But the culture of innovation, tenacity, and mission focus lives on in the myriad of other squadrons in AFSOC. I am proud to see how far our command has come since then, and I am inspired by our current leaders and the direction they are going. We have passed the torch and they are running strong. God-speed on their mission in the future.

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ACJ Vol 2/1

Michael W. Wooley, Lt Gen, USAF (Ret) Seventh AFSOC Commander, ACA Chairman, Air Commando Hall of Fame Committee

WOW! What a Convention/Reunion we had this year. They just keep getting better and better. I am very proud of each of you for what you continue to do as Air Commandos, past and present, and for your support of your Air Commando Association. As we grow as an organization, I want to say a few words about the Air Commando Hall of Fame and your Hall of Fame Committee. We had five very deserving inductees this year, all which had a lifetime of service to our GREAT NATION as Air Commandos and you will read about each of them in this issue. As you know, we (ACA) also sponsor the AFSOC Commander’s Leadership Awards and you will find out more about them as well.
Back to the Hall of Fame—to find a detailed discussion about nomination criteria, just go to our website www.aircommando.org/content/hall-fame/nominations or go to the “About” pull down and click on “Hall of Fame” to find all the resources that you will need to nominate an Air Commando that you know has made significant contributions to the betterment of Air Commando or Air Force Special Operations Forces. The committee uses a one to ten (in half point increments) scoring system similar to the Air Force Promotion System to select our Hall of Famers. Therefore, the package you submit is very important and must communicate to the committee the specifics on why your nominee should be chosen! At the end of the process, if your Air Commando was very close to being selected, then I will send a letter of feedback to you so you can rework the package, present additional facts or other things to make the package stronger. I am confident that our process allows us to select the “very best” of “the best” to be inducted into the Air Commando Hall of Fame. It’s not too early to start thinking about whom you want to submit as the 2013 nominees.
I know that you are as proud of this very professional journal as I am and we get your feedback often! As Lt Gen Brad Heithold said in our last issue, “I look forward to a hearty response from my AFSOC brethren.” Well, as many of you reminded us, we left out our AC-119 Shadow and Stinger Gunships in our Gunship issue—shame on us! We’ve corrected that oversight and have a super article on the AC-119s in this issue. Sit back, relax and enjoy your Air Commando Journal.

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ACJ Vol 1/4

BRADLEY A. HEITHOLD Lieutenant General, USAF Vice Commander, USSOCOM

It has been my honor and privilege to spend the past 27 years of my career associated with the special operations community. I am especially proud to contribute to this issue of the Air Commando Journal because I have deep friendships with nearly every author published this quarter. Our shared heritage began at Hurlburt Field three decades ago. Since then, the Air Commandos of AFSOC have been, and continue to be, key contributors to our Nation’s success in military engagements around the world. Air Commando Journal salutes all Special Operations Airmen, and this particular issue highlights the incredible accomplishments of the gunship community.
In this issue, Ron Terry’s article traces gunship lineage from its inception as a rudimentary side-firing aircraft to today’s multifaceted precision platform. In addition Dr. Hallion, former Air Force Historian, highlights the great contributions of the venerable C-47 including its use as a gunship. The Journal also explores the planned use of the gunship in the attempted Iranian hostage rescue; furthering our understanding of the gunship’s maturation. Several articles in this journal provide a historical perspective of our community from the optic of experienced veterans who were there and further highlight our role in modern Defense Strategy.
Air commandos have been deployed in every American conflict in the past seven decades. We are just as relevant to the fight today as was the First Air Command Group who carried the Chindit Raiders 200 miles into enemy territory during World War II. We must not rest on our laurels. We must continue to push the envelope to maintain readiness and boost our combat effectiveness. While doing so, we can draw inspiration from our community’s heroes, specifically the crew of Spirit 03 and this edition’s celebrated hero, Maj Bernard Fisher. I am pleased to contribute to Air Commando Journal, and I look forward to a hearty response from my AFSOC brethren. After all, that competitive spirit fuels our efforts and has become a trademark of our community.

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ACJ Vol 1/3

Charles Holland, General (Ret) AFSOC Commander July 1997 – August1999 USSOCOM Commander in Chief October 2000 – October 2003

As we Air Commandos reflect on the early exploits of Johnny Alison and Heinie Aderholt, we are reminded of the challenge each of them had to overcome to integrate a force many did not understand nor appreciate. When the Vietnam era came to an end, we still faced an uncertain future with conventional wisdom not understanding the relevance of special operations forces (SOF). Upon our return to CONUS, we faced a downturn with a disinvestment in SOF capabilities. It was not until the failure at Desert One on 24 April 1980, that the Nation realized the consequences of previous decisions. This wake-up call to the nation was considered the birth of modern day special operations.
With Jim Locher working behind the scenes to form the legislation that led to the implementation of the Cohen-Nunn Amendment and the establishment of the US Special Operation Command (USSOCOM), SOF was finally placed on a path of national importance. This year marks the 25th anniversary of that historic legislation and the impact of this amendment continues to be felt throughout the community.
In Panama, Iraq, the Balkans, and the aftermath of 9-11, these forces have been called upon at an unprecedented level for the most sensitive and critical operations in support of our national objectives. With USSOCOM taking on the supported role for the planning of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), new realities for SOF were apparent. Prior to 9-11 with a USSOCOM budget of just over $3 Billion per year, leveraging the services was the norm. However, after 9-11 the Command needed to expand in order to meet the new commitments for GWOT. With the increased demands for SOF from all the Combatant Commanders, USSOCOM developed 13 initiatives for approval by SECDEF; not without controversy. The one question of major concern involved the Major Force Program (MFP) funding for the Command. The “snowflake” from Washington questioned the need for MFP-11 with an assumption these funds could be better exercised by the services in support of SOF. As the debate continued and the need for additional resources gained momentum, SECDEF chartered the President of the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), General (Retired) Larry Welch, to conduct an analysis of the 13 initiatives. On Saturday, 7 December 2002, in a private meeting, the assessment of the 13 initiatives was presented to SECDEF which, if supported, provided the resources required to fulfill the new role of the Command. During General Welch’s assessment of MFP-11, he succinctly stated, “I was the TAC/DO during Desert One and if you take away the MFP-11 funding, SOF will die of benign neglect.” After completing his assessment for all 13 initiatives with a positive recommendation, SECDEF asked if resources were available to fund them. The answer was yes. With the Command now at an estimated $10.5 Billion per year (with the services providing the funding for military personnel accounts of $3.5 Billion) and still growing, USSOCOM and the components, along with the Theater Special Operations Commands (TSOCs), are in a better position to fulfill their global commitments.
For Air Commandos, the past ten years have shed more light on the importance of the SOF Operator. From Special Tactics personnel on horseback calling in B-52 close air support (CAS), to AFSOC aircrews developing new tactics, techniques and procedures for upgraded capabilities on legacy aircraft, the innovativeness of our personnel maintains our premiere war-fighting capabilities. In the same manner, the introduction of new systems such as the CV-22, Non-Standard Aviation (NSAV), Predator remotely piloted aircraft and specialized ordnance delivery capabilities such as Dragon Spear and the maintainers who keep a step ahead in supporting multiple small fleet size operations, prove the SOF truth that “Humans are more important than hardware.”
For the future, we are steadied knowing that the Quiet Professionals are well led, well trained, well resourced and ready to continue to meet the challenges of the 21st century—anytime , anyplace. I salute each of you for your dedication and resiliency. You continue to make a difference!

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ACJ Vol 1/2

General (ret) USAF AFSOC/CC 2002-04

On a chilly day in December 2001, we drove through the gates of Hurlburt and opened an Air Force door that was unknown to us. For the next 2 ½ years, my pride grew everyday at the opportunity to be a part of the Quiet Professionals and to tell your story when and where it was appropriate.
What could not be seen at that moment was the growth spurt that the Commandos and all of SOCOM were going to experience. Nor the closeness we would draw to our Air Force conventional forces. Yet, it was you, the one with the mission in this now War on Terror, who set the requirements…trained and taught those who came to help and in doing so, exposed a greater audience to the professionalism of your Command. None of this came as a smooth road, for change is never easy…yet, persistence found a better way to do our Nation’s business and Air Commandos, recognized as never before, found themselves leading and serving all across our Air Force and DoD. It has now become the norm to find Air Commando Airmen at every level of NCO and Officer Leadership. The challenge is to keep that professionalism every day on the top shelf in both staff and field operations. This new magazine affords you the place and space to offer thoughtful and questioning discussions on the issues of yet more change. Use it to your benefit!
As an example, in this issue, is a terrific article by former Secretary of the Air Force, Dr James Roche, on the growth of Special Tactics. It is but one example of how vision and hard work can make change a reality. If you need more visuals, go to the Hurlburt Field or Cannon AFB flight lines.
Lastly, the holiday season we just completed from Thanksgiving through Christmas to New Year’s Day is often the highlight of the year for American families. Each day gave us 24 hours to focus on the blessings in our lives from where we live and the bounty of liberties…who we work and play with…and of course, the excitement…and yes, a bit of tension, in being at family gatherings.
But this time was also a very strong reminder that the excitement is often tempered with the everyday reality of Air Commandos and other service members deployed away from family and, too often, in harm’s way. This in itself is yet another blessing for all Americans…that there are strong men, women, and their families who are willing to stand for the protection of us all….it sustains us for this New Year!
Our English language is short on gratitude expressions…so from the heart of all who walk free in the US … THANK YOU!


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ACJ Vol 1/1

NORTON A. SCHWARTZ General, USAF Chief of Staff

With genuine anticipation, I am privileged to contribute to this inaugural issue of Air Commando Journal. Given the examples of courageous leadership, gritty determination, bold innovation, unparalleled competence, and quiet professionalism, the heritage of air commandos has long deserved a dedicated publication to chronicle the many substantial contributions of special operations Airmen.
That time has arrived. With operational accounts and thoughtful analyses that both inform our many ongoing operations and inspire us toward future success, this journal represents the intersection between operations and plans, and will serve well as a platform for debate and discovery—where theory meets practice, and where we can capitalize on the many valuable lessons from our experiences. Our operations in the past decade alone offer enough material for a lifetime of study; and, now that the voices of many of the founding fathers of Air Force special operations—including the likes of Air Commando One Heinie Aderholt and the legendary John Alison—have gone silent, it is incumbent on us to recount and remember the teachings of the past as we explore today’s lessons learned.
Air Force special operations has never been more prominent in our overall national security effort than it is now; and, as special operations professionals, we must pursue continual improvement. I therefore call on the entire Air Force special operations community to maintain and advance our professionalism through thoughtful and candid debate in this forum. This means that both celebrating our successes and reflecting on our missteps are in order. In doing so, I anticipate that future editions of Air Commando Journal will contain, from time to time, much of our trademark candor. Reflection and self-criticism have always served us well, and indeed, they will propel us forward, with common cause and a shared vision of operational excellence. With this effort, we will hold true to our proud tradition in helping to provide for our Nation’s security—through unique and often game-changing contributions, but with little fanfare. Such is the hallmark of the United States Air Force’s Quiet Professionals.

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