U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command stood up the 24th Special Operations Wing in a ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Fla., June 12 to meet the growing demand for the unique capabilities special tactics Air Commandos provide.
AFSOC commander Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel said creation of this new brand of wing better prepares the special tactics community to meet the swiftly evolving requirements of a global special operations forces partnership.
"While the pace of global special operations has been demanding throughout this past decade, we cannot expect to slow down over the next," he said.
It is this pace that makes the activation of the 24 SOW so monumental.
America has been at war running operations for more than a decade with a volunteer force, Fiel said. The special tactics Airmen who have been a constant presence in these operations comprise less than half of a single percent of the population.
In assuming command of the 24 SOW, Col. Robert Armfield recognized the magnitude of what is being asked of his Airmen and what they are accomplishing under a highly demanding operational tempo.
Since Sept. 11, special tactics Airmen have been awarded five Air Force Crosses, 29 Silver Stars, 217 Bronze Stars with Valor and 96 Purple Hearts.
The special tactics career field is among the most decorated career field in the Air Force, Fiel said. But more notable is the fact that almost every month, one special tactics Airmen is critically wounded or killed.
We've got to be able to look the fathers and the mothers, the wives and the husbands, and the kids straight in the eye and tell them we have done everything possible to make them successful in battle and bring them back," Armfield said. "That's what this new wing is all about."
The 24 SOW will be successful, he added.
"Our challenge now is to take this investment that you've made in resources and turn it into combat capability for the AFSOC portfolio, and we're going to do it," Armfield said.
The mission of the 24 SOW is to provide special tactics forces for rapid global employment to enable airpower success.
"Establishment of the 24th Special Operations Wing allows a single commander to lead the recruiting, training and development of our special tactics warriors and ultimately provide combatant commanders with world-class Airmen to accomplish their mission," Fiel said.
By creating the 24 SOW, not only is a single special tactics commander enabled to lead, but pressure is alleviated by removing the responsibility of logistical planning from the groups so they can concentrate on the operational mission.
Capabilities of the Wing include airfield reconnaissance, assessment and control. Special tactics Airmen also engage in joint terminal attack control, personnel recovery, weather and environmental reconnaissance.
The 24 SOW, activated June 1, will comprise the 720th Special Tactics Group and the Special Tactics Training Squadron based at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The 724th Special Tactics Group, Pope Field, N.C. and 16 recruiting locations will also fall under the wing.
The 24 SOW will be the third wing under AFSOC alongside the 1st Special Operations Wing located here and the 27 Special Operations Wing at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M.
With Armfield's promotion to commander of the 24 SOW, Col. Kurt Buller assumed command of the 720 STG.