The Spartan Way: A unit’s juxtaposition of omnipresence, anonymity

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Michael Thomas
  • 1st Special Operations Support Squadron commander
It is a day like any other where an MC-130H Talon II pilot pulls into the 15th Special Operations Squadron’s parking lot to prepare for a local training sortie. Before the briefing, though, the pilot quickly checks into the squadron’s medical section to ensure his recent flight physical information has been loaded into the system. After some quick flight preparation, the pilot and the rest of the crew enter the briefing room. They go over the weather briefing and then sit back to hear the intelligence briefing before going over the specifics of that night’s mission. Following completion of the last mission preparation tasks, the crew swings by the aircrew flight equipment section to grab their helmets and night vision goggles before stepping to their aircraft. Arriving at the aircraft, the pilot sees that the joint airdrop inspection of the airdrop loads for that night are just wrapping up, so the crew appears set for an on-time takeoff.

The crew performs all applicable checklists and taxis into position for take-off. After receiving clearance from the tower, the crew departs and enters the Eglin Range Complex airspace to conduct their airdrop resupply to a waiting special operations force. Once the crew receives the “cleared to drop” call from the drop zone controllers, they execute an on time/on target drop to the awaiting team. The crew then accomplishes the remaining training objectives and returns to Hurlburt Field, ending another successful local training sortie.

If you are reading this article and have determined it is just a mildly interesting depiction of Talon II operations, then my intent has already been met. Running inconspicuously in the background of this narrative, just like in real life, were the omnipresent and significant contributions of Special Operations Support Squadron personnel. In this very realistic scenario, 16 people representing nine Air Force Specialty Codes, plus SOFs from other U.S. Special Operations Command components who reside in Special Operations Support Squadron OSJ, also known as HAVE ACE, would have directly contributed to this single mission. Highlighting the full-spectrum support provided to our Air Force Special Operations Command warriors, much of which is neither fully recognized nor understood by many of Hurlburt’s personnel, is the purpose of this article.

“The world is moved not only by the mighty shoves of the heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.” - Helen Keller

Many of us use the adjective “full-spectrum” to describe the multitude of contributions we deliver to those we support, but few can assign this modifier as accurately as SOSS personnel. We apply full-spectrum support temporally in that we ensure tasks are completed long before mission execution begins and we continue until long after engines are shutdown. Our full-spectrum support also has a wide geographic element. We not only contribute efforts here at Hurlburt, but our support continues to the far reaches of the Eglin Range Complex and even miles out into the Gulf of Mexico using our fleet of eight boats. Lastly, brings capabilities that touch on every aspect of mission preparation and execution.
Although the SOSS is one of many units comprised solely of personnel who work to support operations, we are unique because of the wide variety of capabilities we offer. The SOSS is comprised of active duty personnel from 63 AFSCs. We have civilians who are tactical air control party operators, and others who operate our maritime fleet. We even have Army Special Forces, Navy SEALs and Marine critical skills operators.

Some of our contributions might not be apparent to those we support. It is because that support is what makes a normal day, normal. It could be flight pay showing up on a leave and earning statement because the host aviation resource manager personnel did their jobs accurately, or the voice coming across the radio with the expected calls. Receiving recognition for our labors is not a concern for our Spartan team – providing unmatched operational support to AFSOC’s aviators, and our other components’ SOFs, is our raison d’etre. We are quiet professionals, but not just in our embodiment of the character attribute mandated of all SOF, but in the very nature of our duty performance.