'Commando' Airmen continue heritage into future

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Matthew Rosine
  • Air Force Print News
Keeping a promise is important to many people.

But, keeping the Air Commando's promise -- to provide precise and reliable Air Force special operations air power, any time, any place -- is the motto Airmen of the 1st Special Operations Wing live by.

The wing is the only active duty special operations wing in the Air Force and traces its lineage back to the 1st Air Commando Group.

"The 1st Air Commando Group legacy is something we still honor today," said Col. Norman Brozenick, 1st SOW commander.

Since 1944, the wing has kept the Air Commando's promise. It supported allied forces and operations in the China-Burma-India theater until the end of World War II. In the 1960s, the wing trained Air Force and South Vietnamese aircrews throughout the conflict in Southeast Asia.

In the 1980s, parts of the wing participated in the rescue attempt of U.S. hostages held in Tehran, Iran. During this time, the wing also helped developed a myriad of improved combat tactics, combat crew training and multi-service special operations capabilities. The 1st SOW also supported disaster relief operations, search and rescue, counter-drug interdiction operations, medical evacuations, and other humanitarian support missions.

The wing's special operations experiences continued through the 1990s. They were a direct part of operations such as Provide Comfort, Deliberate Force/Joint Endeavor, Northern Watch, Southern Watch, Desert Thunder and Desert Fox.

And today, the wing is fully supporting America's war on terrorism, and has been at the forefront of the war since Sept. 11. MH-53 Pave Low helicopters from the wing flew missions in New York and Washington, D.C., following the terrorist attack. In October 2001, they flew the first missions downrange and in March 2003 they were there when Operation Iraqi Freedom began. And, their presence continues.

"We have been involved in combat operations since the beginning," said Colonel Brozenick, a 1983 U.S. Air Force Academy graduate. "Unlike others supporting the war, we have never left the battlefield."

To accomplish its multi-faceted mission, the 1st SOW uses a variety of aircraft, including the AC-130 Gunships, UH-1N Huey, MC-130 Combat Talons, MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicles, U-28A and MH-53 Pave Lows.

One of the wing's newest assets is the CV-22 Osprey.

"The CV-22 is truly a transformational aircraft," said Colonel Brozenick. "Frankly, it has an unmatched capability to help save lives."

But it is not the wing's versatile hardware that makes each mission a success.

"Humans are more important than hardware," the colonel said. "First and foremost, everything comes back to our Airmen. Right now we have (Airmen) taking the fight to America's enemies around the world -- some places known only to them."

While 1st SOW Airmen don't serve to earn medals, combined, these Airmen have been awarded five Purple Hearts, 229 Bronze Stars, seven Silver Stars and 127 Distinguished Flying Crosses since the beginning of the war on terrorism.

The colonel said none of the wing's successes could have been accomplished without teamwork.

"It is important to note that we don't do this alone," Colonel Brozenick said. "We are one part of a joint team."

This team includes units such as combat controllers, Army Special Forces, Army Rangers and Navy SEALS. And the most important part of the 1st SOW's team is its people on the home front.

"The 1st SOW's team is not only the people in uniform," Colonel Brozenick said. "We are a team of comprised of civilians and contractors who help us on a daily basis."

The wing's most valuable asset is its families at home at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

"We have the most wonderful families," he said. "Some of our Airmen have deployed six, seven, eight times, and they always have the support of our families. We love our families. They are our backbone to fly, fight and win."

Comment on this story (comments may be published on Air Force Link)

Click here to view the comments/letters page

For more on the 1st Special Operations Wing, click here