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Air Force Special Operators Stressed After 15 Years of War: Chief

After a decade and a half of war, one of the most stressed career fields in the Air Force is the battlefield airmen who make up the Air Force Special Operations Command.

"They're getting the job done and they're proud to do it, but there's impact over time," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told reporters on Wednesday. "They've been experiencing combat up front for quite some time now, and … you have to pay attention to that."

Welsh, who is slated to retire on July 1 after 40 years of service, offered the observation during a wide ranging discussion with defense and military writers in Washington, D.C.

"We have some other career fields that have been working very hard, deploying pretty frequently," he said, "but the folks in AFSOC have borne much of the same traumatic impact of war as the Army and the Marine Corps."

In terms of overall casualties, the Army and Marine Corps have taken far more, he said.

"Our people are tired but the Army and Marine Corps are traumatized by the casualties [they incurred] and the horror of war," Welsh said. "And we have our battlefield airmen who are fighting right beside them, and they've experienced the same impacts, the same long-term effects, the same illnesses, injuries and concerns."

All of that has affected the special operations community in a dramatic way, Welsh said.

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