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This attitude has sometimes been mistaken for arrogance

or disregard for the rules, but it is the Air Commando’s skills, maturity, and judgment which allow him or her to indepen- dently analyze the situation and determine the acceptable level of risk. When Air Commandos are asked to perform a mission, they know it is important enough to have been sent their way in the first place. With full knowledge of the limits of personnel, equipment, and regulations, Air Commandos seek, construct, and present creative solutions to the appropriate level of com- mand authority for execution. Simply put: Air Commandos apply tough critical thinking to evaluate the problem set against actual limitations rather than constraining themselves to proce- dures established for common denominator type situations. It was this no-fail attitude that led to some of the most

innovative missions in U.S. military history. Even before General Hap Arnold coined the term “Air Commando” in ref- erence to the air support Lt Cols Cochran and Alison provided the Chindits in Burma, American Airmen answered the call to go above and beyond the normal line of duty. Lt Col Jimmy Doolittle displayed this attitude when he launched B-25s off the deck of an aircraft carrier to conduct his famous direct action against the Japanese mainland during World War II. This important mission carried strategic benefits for the nation – reward outweighed the risk. As the plan came together, many skeptics surely pointed out the limitations of launching 16

A no-fail attitude doesn’t mean there aren’t failures of

course. As illustrated at Desert One and the raid on Sontay, no- fail missions don’t always produce the expected outcome. Air Commandos’ ability to recover from unexpected setbacks and continue the mission stems from the extensive training and edu- cation they receive. As its motto states, the Air Force Special Operations Training Center (AFSOTC) “turns Airmen into Air Commandos” by minimizing uncertainty and maximizing con- fidence for this very reason. Make no mistake, though, this is career-long education. Starting with lengthy initial qualifica- tion training in their respective weapon systems or specialty fields, Air Commandos begin building a knowledge toolkit to reach into during challenging operations. Expanding on train- ing and operational experiences, the U.S. Air Force Special Operations School (USAFSOS) provides the strategic context – the “why” and “when” to complement the “what” and “how.” As Air Commandos gain experience on the battlefield, they return to AFSOTC for upgrade training and intermediate-level education to deepen and broaden their critical thinking and per- spective beyond the tactical realm. Operational and academic experiences build an upward spiral of expertise, enhancing the Air Commando’s confidence to make informed choices at critical moments in the joint operating environment. This can-do attitude leads directly into the second Air

Commando distinction: a deep personal connection to the joint special operations team. AFSOC’s sister components within USSOCOM share this same attitude to get the job done. All bring distinct skills to the table and none wish to be the weak link. AFSOTC indoctrinates this attitude into new accessions within their first six months in the command through the USAFSOS Introduction to Special Operations Course (ISOC). The course explores the composition, capabilities and mission sets of each SOCOM com- ponent and their reliance on one another to accomplish national taskings. The ISOC provides the starter kit for cred- ibility in the joint SOF community. Training, education, and opera-

tional experience all build on each other. Chances are, soon after initial qualification, young Air Commandos will find themselves training, fighting, and living alongside their joint SOF brethren. Common experiences such as Joint/Combined Exchange Training (JCET) or other bilateral/multilateral

ground-based, medium bombers from a ship – for one thing, the crews couldn’t turn around and land! However, limita- tions couldn’t confine the imaginations of Doolittle’s crews. Focusing on what the crews, the aircraft tech orders, and the regs said could be done, Doolittle’s Raiders boosted American morale and drove the Japanese leadership to withdraw forces from other fronts to defend the home islands.


exercises build the bonds that at some point down the road, in a non-descript compound in a remote hinterland, will pay divi- dends through well-rehearsed teamwork. In contrast, the GP Air Force supports joint missions in a far more generic fash- ion, whether as a unit or with “any Airmen” deployments – no repetitive relationship is built. AFSOF operators, on the other hand, typically know the SF, SEAL, or other SOF unit they

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