News: Langley AFB hosts special operations ‘combine’
Story by Airman 1st Class R. Alex Durbin
LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. - The 317th Recruiting Squadron held a special operations combine for U.S. Air Force recruits Dec. 6, at the Shellbank Fitness Center at Langley Air Force Base, Va.
The event was a crucible of what aspiring Airmen experience during special operations training.
“This event was specifically designed to encourage and motivate recruits who are interested in Air Force special operations career fields,” said Col. Chris Wheeler, 360th Recruiting Group commander. “It gave these future Airmen a taste of what it takes to successfully become a special forces Airman.
Pararescuemen and special operations weather personnel began the combine by answering questions and sharing experiences about their own careers as battlefield Airmen.
“The speakers added an invaluable experience for the recruits because they brought a wealth of knowledge and experience, allowing the recruiters to convey the challenges of these career fields,” said Lt. Col. Ravi Chaudhary, 317th Recruiting Squadron commander.
Along with the speakers, a special operations recruiting liaison administered the Physical Ability Stamina Test, or P.A.S.T, which is used to qualify individuals for special operations career fields. The test includes a swimming portion, which varies between career fields, a running portion and a muscular endurance portion, which includes push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups.
“This combine tried to match the intensity battlefield Airmen will experience in an operational setting for the inevitable event in which they will conduct high-priority missions,” said Chaudhary. “These young men and women are training for a profession in which we dare not take second place.”
Though the spectrum of special operations careers vary, they all begin with the Battlefield Airmen Indoctrination course. The course tests physical and mental stamina of potential special operations Airmen, and pushes them to the limits.
The course is a high-intensity, non-stop setting that requires trainees to run everywhere they go, spend hours swimming laps in a pool and adhere to an intensive calisthenics regimen. The training is demanding but necessary to ensure all battlefield Airmen have the tools needed to survive a hostile environment.
Once graduates complete training and enter the operational Air Force, they conduct unique ground operations that assist, control, enable and execute air dominance. These include surveillance, weather forecasting, airfield surveying, air traffic control, directing air strikes, airdrop marking, trauma care and personnel recovery.
Different specialties are sometimes combined into special tactics teams that work independently or in tandem with other U.S. military forces.
Tyler Mace, an aspiring pararescueman from Prince George, Va., said he looks forward to a career as a battlefield Airman, and that events like the combine are an excellent setting to meet other recruits with a similar drive to serve their country.
Mace was one of three recruits to achieve the level of “ironman”, a title reserved for those who scored excellent on their P.A.S.T.
“While training if I start to slow down or give up I imagine I’m letting an Airman down,” he said, exemplifying the words ‘every day is training day’ printed on his shirt. “It’s extremely satisfying to have an event like the combine to see where I’m at, and motivate others with the same goals.”
While the combine was rigorous, it set the stage for future events to look for America’s best and brightest with the capabilities to fill these incredibly intense career fields said Chaudhary.
“Only a select few not only meet the high physical standards, but the mental fortitude required to become a battlefield Airman,” said Wheeler. “We are looking for men and women who have the drive and desire to do more with their Air Force career.”