Quiet Professionals bring the noise to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2021

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Peter Reft
  • Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs

Airmen assigned to Air Force Special Operations Command 1st, 24th, 27th, 492nd, 137th, and 193rd Special Operations Wings treated airshow attendees with a full-fledged combat search and rescue simulation July 29, 2021.

The airpower demonstration involved multiple aircraft, live narration simulating combat radio chatter, tactical vehicles, ground operators and pyrotechnics to simulate gunship and enemy rounds in the battle space.

With a U-28A Draco intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, an AC-130J Ghostrider gunship, an EC-130J Commando Solo, and an MC-12W Liberty orbiting the airfield, narrators simulate the radio chatter of aircrews searching for a downed pilot, using these military callsigns:

● BOWIE 49 – F-16 Fighting Falcon
● HUNTER 35 – U28A Draco
● SPOOKY 48 – AC-130J Ghostrider
● IRONCROSS – Special Tactics Airmen

“Attention in the [Joint Operations Command], BOWIE 49 experienced an engine failure and ejection. Launch personnel recovery team! BREAK, SPOOKY 48 go defensive [for] BOWIE 49 and neutralize threats.”

Tension builds in the audience for the inevitable display of airpower, while the distant drone of the Ghostrider gunship hums an ominous foreshadowing of overwhelming force.

“BOWIE 49, hostile vehicles to your south moving toward your location,” reports HUNTER 35.

“[This is] SPOOKY 48, visual, standby rounds… rounds away! Good hits, continuing south with 30-millimeter.”

The silence gives way to dozens of thumps and cracks as pyrotechnics simulate gunship 30 and 105 mm rounds raining down upon hostiles, sending fireballs and smoke hundreds of feet into the air.

With hostiles neutralized, the MC-130H Combat Talon II starts its approach to drop off a team of Special Tactics Airmen to secure the airfield and retrieve the downed pilot.

After performing a specialized combat airlift skill known as a maximum effort landing, the aircraft slows to a halt in less than 3,000 feet of runway, and the 130,000 lb plane reverses itself into position near the objective. Combat control, pararescue, special reconnaissance, and tactical air control party Airmen rapidly depart the Combat Talon II on their off-road vehicles and establish a defensive perimeter. Within minutes of arriving, the Combat Talon II takes off and clears the battlefield.

The Special Tactics personnel recovery team, IRONCROSS, verifies the downed pilot is in stable condition, but before they can get an extraction, their troubles continue.

HUNTER 35 cries out, “BREAK BREAK hostile force inbound to your location, 800 meters north!”

“IRONCROSS copies hostile force.”

“BREAK! BREAK! SPOOKY 48 fire mission.”

IRONCROSS responds, “Send it!”

The rapid crack of simulated hostile gun fire interrupts the extraction, and again, SPOOKY 48 rolls out the unwelcome mat to an adversary intent on capturing the downed pilot.

Within moments, the simulated barrage of defensive fire from the orbiting gunship rattles the ears and bones of the crowd.

The pilot recovery mission completes with the CV-22 Osprey conducting a high-speed pass then swooping around the airfield for a vertical landing, collecting the rescue team and the downed pilot.

Onlookers gravitated toward the central area as all involved aircraft of the airpower demonstration taxied to the main static display ramp, allowing everybody to engage with aircrew and Special Tactics Airmen.

Speaking one on one with Airmen, crowds had the opportunity to learn more about the life of a Special Tactics Airman.

“Performing this type of demonstration in front of a huge crowd is a unique experience,” said a Special Tactics Squadron combat controller assigned to the 24th Special Operations Wing headquartered at Hurlburt Field, Fla. “Typically, for training and exercise simulations, we go to austere locations with no one around. We try to be as authentic as we can be, giving the audience a glimpse of what we do in the real world.”

With unique skill sets and air to ground integration capabilities by Airmen, such as combat controllers, AFSOC brings specialized airpower and a competitive advantage to the future warfighting environment, and the demonstration was just one way to share our story with the public.

“The most beneficial thing about this AFSOC demonstration is the opportunity to show the American public the capabilities of our AFSOC Airmen. Our human capital is extremely valuable to our mission and our command,” said Senior Master Sgt. Paul Benjamin, Standardization and Evaluations Division operations director from headquarters AFSOC.

“It’s important to let the public know we have these capabilities, because many people don’t realize that AFSOC has special operators on the ground,” added the Special Tactics Airman.

These operators are not only warfare specialists, but they also excel in humanitarian missions to help those in need.

One of the primary capabilities of Special Tactics includes assessing and surveying landing zones for aircraft in any environment, including those devastated by natural disasters.

Following a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti, in 2010, special operations Airmen and aircraft, such as the MC-130H Combat Talon II, participated in humanitarian and disaster relief missions.

“If you have a desire to be a part of a team that specializes in overcoming difficult challenges, and you think you have what it takes, join AFSOC and let’s see what you got,” said the Special Tactics Airman.

Special operations Airmen take pride in the close-knit communities and sense of family born from succeeding despite hardships and challenges.

“If you enjoyed watching the special operations capabilities of these unique Airmen, definitely come try out for AFSOC, but also realize that you’ll be surrounded by very dedicated people,” said Benjamin. “Once you join us, you’ll find a new kind of family you’ve never had before.”