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Creating an Air Commando: Air Commando Field Skills Course Week 1

First Lt. Austin Zimmer, a U-28A pilot with the 318th Special Operations Squadron, practices the ‘El Presidente’ drill with his M4 carbine at a firing range near Baker, Fla., Feb. 24, 2016. The ‘El Presidente’ drill was developed to train shooters to identify and engage multiple targets quickly and accurately at short ranges. The irregular nature of Air Force Special Operations Command’s mission sometimes require air crews to operate in austere conditions downrange, which prompted the creation of the Air Commando Field Skills Course. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kai White)

First Lt. Austin Zimmer, a U-28A pilot with the 318th Special Operations Squadron, practices the ‘El Presidente’ drill with his M4 carbine at a firing range near Baker, Fla., Feb. 24, 2016. The ‘El Presidente’ drill was developed to train shooters to identify and engage multiple targets quickly and accurately at short ranges. The irregular nature of Air Force Special Operations Command’s mission sometimes require air crews to operate in austere conditions downrange, which prompted the creation of the Air Commando Field Skills Course. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kai White)

Airman 1st Class Logan Fuchs, a tactical systems operator with the 19th Special Operations Squadron, practices drawing and firing his M9 pistol at a firing range near Baker, Fla., Feb. 23, 2016. Students attempted to draw and fire five shots at a target in less than three-and- a-half seconds, the approximate time it takes someone to get close enough to attack with an edged weapon. In the first stage of training, Airmen learn the basics of firearms manipulation and employment before continuing to more advanced training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kai White)

Airman 1st Class Logan Fuchs, a tactical systems operator with the 19th Special Operations Squadron, practices drawing and firing his M9 pistol at a firing range near Baker, Fla., Feb. 23, 2016. Students attempted to draw and fire five shots at a target in less than three-and- a-half seconds, the approximate time it takes someone to get close enough to attack with an edged weapon. In the first stage of training, Airmen learn the basics of firearms manipulation and employment before continuing to more advanced training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kai White)

An Air Force Special Operations Command Air Commando practices engaging targets with his M9 pistol and flashlight during a nighttime weapons drill at a firing range near Baker, Fla., Feb. 24, 2016. The irregular nature of AFSOC’s mission sometimes require air crews to operate in austere conditions downrange, which prompted the creation of the Air Commando Field Skills Course. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kai White)

An Air Force Special Operations Command Air Commando practices engaging targets with his M9 pistol and flashlight during a nighttime weapons drill at a firing range near Baker, Fla., Feb. 24, 2016. The irregular nature of AFSOC’s mission sometimes require air crews to operate in austere conditions downrange, which prompted the creation of the Air Commando Field Skills Course. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kai White)

A field skills instructor with the 371st Special Operations Combat Training Squadron directs Capt. Travis Chase, a combat systems officer with the 19th Special Operations Squadron, to engage steel targets downrange during the ‘stress test’ at a firing range near Baker, Fla., Feb. 25, 2016. At the end of three days of rifle and pistol training, Air Commandos ran through a ‘stress test,’ giving them a chance to put their training to use while under taxing mental and physical conditions similar to those demanded on the battlefield. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kai White)

A field skills instructor with the 371st Special Operations Combat Training Squadron directs Capt. Travis Chase, a combat systems officer with the 19th Special Operations Squadron, to engage steel targets downrange during the ‘stress test’ at a firing range near Baker, Fla., Feb. 25, 2016. At the end of three days of rifle and pistol training, Air Commandos ran through a ‘stress test,’ giving them a chance to put their training to use while under taxing mental and physical conditions similar to those demanded on the battlefield. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kai White)

Second Lt. Blaine Driscoll, a combat systems operator with the 19th Special Operations Squadron, runs to the final station of his ‘stress test’ at a firing range near Baker, Fla., Feb. 25, 2016. During the final evolution of training, students ran a ‘stress test.’ The exercise was intended to build students’ confidence translating the drills they practiced during their three days of range time, to actuals skills they may need downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kai White)

Second Lt. Blaine Driscoll, a combat systems operator with the 19th Special Operations Squadron, runs to the final station of his ‘stress test’ at a firing range near Baker, Fla., Feb. 25, 2016. During the final evolution of training, students ran a ‘stress test.’ The exercise was intended to build students’ confidence translating the drills they practiced during their three days of range time, to actuals skills they may need downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kai White)

Air Force Special Operations Command Air Commandos practice drawing and firing their concealed M9 pistols from a seated position at a firing range near Baker, Fla., Feb. 24, 2016. Air Commandos practiced concealed carry techniques, such as speed drills and firing from inconvenient positions, along with other advanced firearms training during three days of rifle and pistol training during an Air Commando Field Skills Course. During the second stage of pistol training, Airmen learned conceal carry as well as moving and shooting techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kai White)

Air Force Special Operations Command Air Commandos practice drawing and firing their concealed M9 pistols from a seated position at a firing range near Baker, Fla., Feb. 24, 2016. Air Commandos practiced concealed carry techniques, such as speed drills and firing from inconvenient positions, along with other advanced firearms training during three days of rifle and pistol training during an Air Commando Field Skills Course. During the second stage of pistol training, Airmen learned conceal carry as well as moving and shooting techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kai White)

A field skills instructor with the 371st Special Operations Combat Training Squadron writes a shot correction to zero a student’s M83 red dot sight affixed to an M4 carbine at a firing range near Baker, Fla., Feb. 24, 2016. Students learned basic rifle techniques, progressing to advanced firearm drills, during three days of rifle and pistol training during an Air Commando Field Skills Course. In the first stage of training, Airmen learn the basics of firearms manipulation and employment before continuing to more advanced training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kai White)

A field skills instructor with the 371st Special Operations Combat Training Squadron writes a shot correction to zero a student’s M83 red dot sight affixed to an M4 carbine at a firing range near Baker, Fla., Feb. 24, 2016. Students learned basic rifle techniques, progressing to advanced firearm drills, during three days of rifle and pistol training during an Air Commando Field Skills Course. In the first stage of training, Airmen learn the basics of firearms manipulation and employment before continuing to more advanced training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kai White)

Capt. James Ramirez, a combat systems officer with the 19th Special Operations Squadron, practices drawing and firing his M9 pistol from a concealed carry position at a firing range near Baker, Fla., Feb. 24, 2016. The irregular nature of Air Force Special Operations Command’s mission sometimes require air crews to operate in austere conditions downrange, prompting the creation of the Air Commando Field Skills Course. During the second stage of pistol training, Airmen learned conceal carry as well as moving and shooting techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kai White)

Capt. James Ramirez, a combat systems officer with the 19th Special Operations Squadron, practices drawing and firing his M9 pistol from a concealed carry position at a firing range near Baker, Fla., Feb. 24, 2016. The irregular nature of Air Force Special Operations Command’s mission sometimes require air crews to operate in austere conditions downrange, prompting the creation of the Air Commando Field Skills Course. During the second stage of pistol training, Airmen learned conceal carry as well as moving and shooting techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kai White)

A field skills instructor with the 371st Special Operations Combat Training Squadron directs Senior Airman Connor Hollingshead, a remotely piloted aircraft sensor operator with the 12th Special Operations Squadron, to engage steel targets during a ‘stress test’ at a firing range near Baker, Fla., Feb. 25, 2016. During the final evolution of training, students ran a ‘stress test.’ The exercise was intended to build students’ confidence translating the drills they practiced during their three days of range time, to actuals skills they may need downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kai White)

A field skills instructor with the 371st Special Operations Combat Training Squadron directs Senior Airman Connor Hollingshead, a remotely piloted aircraft sensor operator with the 12th Special Operations Squadron, to engage steel targets during a ‘stress test’ at a firing range near Baker, Fla., Feb. 25, 2016. During the final evolution of training, students ran a ‘stress test.’ The exercise was intended to build students’ confidence translating the drills they practiced during their three days of range time, to actuals skills they may need downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kai White)

First Lt. David Marston, left, MQ-9 Reaper aircraft commander with the 12th Special Operations Squadron, chases after a field skills instructor with the 371st Special Operations Combat Training Squadron, during his ‘stress test’ at a firing range near Baker, Fla., Feb. 25, 2016. At the end of three days of rifle and pistol training, Air Commandos ran through a ‘stress test,’ giving them a chance to put their training to use while under taxing mental and physical conditions similar to those demanded on the battlefield. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kai White)
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First Lt. David Marston, left, MQ-9 Reaper aircraft commander with the 12th Special Operations Squadron, chases after a field skills instructor with the 371st Special Operations Combat Training Squadron, during his ‘stress test’ at a firing range near Baker, Fla., Feb. 25, 2016. At the end of three days of rifle and pistol training, Air Commandos ran through a ‘stress test,’ giving them a chance to put their training to use while under taxing mental and physical conditions similar to those demanded on the battlefield. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kai White)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- The nature of Air Force Special Operations Command’s mission sometimes requires Air Commandos to operate outside of typical military installations downrange. Working in these conditions, aircrews may be in greater danger of kidnapping or worse.

For the Airmen progressing through the Air Commando Development Course, there is a class specifically structured to train and prepare them for the chaos of the Special Operations battlespace.

The Air Commando Field Skills Course, open to all AFSOC Airmen, takes students out of their comfort zone and the classroom for a 13-day crash course in everything from moving through hostile urban environments on foot to fighting from a moving vehicle.

“We’re here to make you more competent and confident in austere conditions downrange,” said Lt. Col. Robert Horton, commander of the 371st Special Operations Command Training Squadron.

Building up new Air Commandos begins with three days at a gun range where aircrews learn advanced pistol and rifle skills on both the M9 pistol and M4 carbine.

“This training helps teams have confidence in each other while carrying weapons,” said a firearms instructor with the 371st SOCTS. “They know that the guy next to them is competent in its use and can back them up if a situation goes south.”

Air Commandos run a gamut of drills with both weapons and get a full day focused on concealed carry with the M9 pistol.

The class intensifies as the days progress, starting with simple sight picturing and breathing control, before progressing to more advanced skills like firing around barricades and on the move.

The final day on the range culminates with a stress test, running Air Commandos through the gauntlet to test their skills while fatigued.

“Since these aircrews deploy in smaller units, we recognized they have to have these skills,” said a firearms instructor. “They won’t be kicking in doors, but when they operate with sister [Special Operation Forces] units, they need to be beside them, not behind.”

Operating in small units requires everyone to interdepend on each other and trust that everyone is capable of handling any task. According to one of the firearms instructors, this trust and teamwork is more important than rank.

The instructors include small tasks within the curriculum to allow officers and enlisted to work on the same level. As the instructors point out, on the battlefield, everyone has to work together to make it out alive.

To continue preparing these Air Commandos for the chaos of today’s Special Operations battlefields, instructors of the 371st SOCTS are running students through flight-deck denial, Tactical Combat Casualty Care, and Defensive Driving next week.