Initial qualification or “pipeline” training (IQT) for aircrews has been a multi-generation debate for Air Commandos. Arguments usually center on three main dichotomies: 1) should aircrew IQT be organic to AFSOC or should the task belong to Air Education and Training Command (AETC), 2) should AFSOC isolate aircraft as dedicated training platforms or should operational and training units share a single set of mission aircraft, and 3) how much training should be conducted in-flight versus in the simulator? Each of these choices has their pros and cons depending on the perspectives of the units, staffs, and headquarters. The solutions usually come down to human and equipment resourcing, which there is rarely enough of to allow AFSOC to fully separate training from operations.
Like many, I spent much of my “youth” opposed to AETC owning the AFSOC formal training pipeline because I thought AFSOC knew best how to train its own. And, I also wanted to stay operational. Later, I was assigned to the 550th SOS and quickly understood why formal aircrew training was conducted by AETC, separated from the commitments of operations. That perspective was strengthened when I became the 1st SOG deputy commander and experienced the challenges of supporting initial training while also maintaining the group’s operational focus. Training suffered whenever operations required the SOG to deploy those highly qualified instructors and scarce mission aircraft. The AFSOC and AETC teams have always done their best to share available resources, but when the nation calls, operations are the priority. That experience reinforced my belief that it is usually better to let the training professionals focus on the pipeline while operational units concentrate on operations; rarely should the two be mixed.
Which brings us to the last point—how much training should be conducted in-flight versus simulator? This is a real challenge and as you will see in the article from the 58th SOW, the Air Commandos of AETC seem to have found the right balance point. This issue of the Air Commando Journal offers a collection of great features describing the diverse array of innovative, challenging, and impressive training and education programs that are turning Airmen into Air Commandos—mission focused, adaptive, resilient, and relevant for an ever-changing world. The Air Force Special Operations Air Warfare Center and the USAF Special Operations School (USAFSOS) are driving the future of AFSOC education and training through programs like Air Commando Development, an effort to prepare special operations Airmen for leadership roles in a very uncertain world. The Joint Special Operations University, which got its start at Hurlburt Field as an outgrowth of USAFSOS, is shaping a new era of joint SOF education. It is an exciting time for Air Commando training and education and the Journal is pleased it can help tell that story.
-- David Mobley, Col, USAF (Ret)
Former Deputy Commander, 1st Special Operations Group