State of wing, future of Duke
By Col. Anthony Comtois, 919th Special Operations Wing commander
/ Published October 13, 2012
DUKE FIELD, Fla. -- The next two years for the 919th Special Operations Wing will be a time of major growth and change. Duke's primary mission set will convert from Combat Talon operations to that of aviation foreign internal defense.
AvFID is a special operations forces mission set employing Airmen as combat aviation advisors to assess, train, advise and assist foreign partner nations in aviation. AvFID, through the use of CAAs, supports the national mission of Building Partnership Capability, which supports friendly nations to assist the United States in achieving strategic political and military goals.
As our new future draws near, we must say goodbye to the past. The sun is setting on our mission with the MC-130 Combat Talon Is. The Talons will disappear from our flightline by October 2013 and the 919th's 42-year record with C-130 variants will come to an end.
Although our Reserve-owned aircraft won't populate the line, Duke's ramp will contain aircraft.
Currently, two AvFID aircraft are here from Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. They are Air Force Special Operations Command-owned aircraft being used for training and proficiency.
A detachment of our unit, the 5th Special Operations Squadron, is already training AFSOC and 919th Airmen on the new AvFID aircraft and mission. Eight 5th SOS and 711th SOS officers and enlisted members are already qualified on our new aircraft, and 10 more entered training Sept. 17, 2012.
The goal is a bed-down of 16 AvFID aircraft here on our ramp with 263 additional active-duty personnel.
Our new mission will have us working shoulder-to-shoulder with active-duty AFSOC Airmen in what is called a classic association. In this association, the active-duty unit retains principal responsibility for a weapon system and shares the equipment with a Reserve component unit. Basically, the aircraft belong to AFSOC, but 919th Airmen will provide the aircrew and maintenance.
The 711th SOS will be an operational AvFID squadron associated with the active-duty AvFID squadron, the 6th SOS. The 5th SOS will be a training squadron, associated with the active-duty training squadron, the 19th SOS, to run the formal schoolhouse for the AvFID aircraft.
We are also bringing our remotely piloted aircraft squadron, the 2nd SOS, to their new home at Hurlburt Field. Their facility is undergoing renovations now. By late summer 2013, our 2nd SOS operators will still be controlling RPAs right here from the Emerald Coast.
The 919th SOW will also figure into AFSOC's newest center, the Special Air Warfare Center, due to stand up November 1, 2012. This new center will provide oversight on testing; tactics; training; education; doctrine; lessons learned; irregular warfare efforts; combat aviation advisory and AvFID.
The location of this small center, which will be commanded by a one-star general, has yet to be determined, but we're hoping Duke Field will be chosen as its new home. As that mission grows, the need for manpower will increase and I fully expect the 919th to integrate closely with this unit.
To help make those determinations, Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel, the AFSOC commander, and Lt. Gen. James Jackson, the Air Force Reserve Command commander, will visit here and Hurlburt Field in October. They will also address our Airmen at the October unit training assembly commander's call about the future of the wing and our synergy with special operations.
AFSOC has made it clear they want to utilize our Reserve forces and we are more than willing to answer the call. The biggest hurdle we face on that front is having the manpower to fulfill those requests. If we can't fulfill them yet, at least we'll be prepared and have the processes in place to be able to execute when approval for manning increase occurs.
Just last month, an AFRC Roles and Missions Assessment Team met to review an AFSOC proposal to establish a special tactics squadron within the 919th SOW, with the goal to determine if the Reserve component could be beneficial to that overall special tactics mission.
With operational growth and opportunity comes growth potential throughout the entire unit. Higher operational numbers and ops tempo means an increased need for support personnel to keep the mission running smoothly.