HomeNewsArticle Display

Small team ensures special tactics career fields grow with the best

Special Tactics officer candidates carry a Zodiac boat to the shore during a selection at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Oct. 21, 2014. Special Tactics career field training pipelines are some of the most physically and psychologically challenging in the Air Force. To ensure the correct individuals are on the battlefield, a group of Special Tactics Airmen weed out the cross-training candidates who don’t meet the high standards, putting them through a week-long selection process to select only the best-qualified individuals. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Katrina Cheesman)

Special tactics officer candidates carry a Zodiac boat to the shore during a selection at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Oct. 21, 2014. Special tactics career field training pipelines are some of the most physically and psychologically challenging in the Air Force. To ensure the correct individuals are on the battlefield, a group of special tactics Airmen weed out the cross-training candidates who don’t meet the high standards, putting them through a weeklong selection process to select only the best-qualified individuals. (U.S. Air Force photo/1st Lt. Katrina Cheesman)

A Recruitment, Assesment and Selection cadre yells commands at Special Tactics officer candidates during a selection at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Oct. 21, 2014. Special Tactics career field training pipelines are some of the most physically and psychologically challenging in the Air Force. To ensure the correct individuals are on the battlefield, a group of Special Tactics Airmen weed out the cross-training candidates who don’t meet the high standards, putting them through a week-long selection process to select only the best-qualified individuals. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Katrina Cheesman)

A Recruitment, Assessment and Selection cadre member yells commands at special tactics officer candidates during a selection at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Oct. 21, 2014. Special tactics career field training pipelines are some of the most physically and psychologically challenging in the Air Force. To ensure the correct individuals are on the battlefield, a group of special tactics Airmen weed out the cross-training candidates who don’t meet the high standards, putting them through a weeklong selection process to select only the best-qualified individuals. (U.S. Air Force photo/1st Lt. Katrina Cheesman)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFNS) -- On the shores of the Emerald Coast, candidates from all walks of Air Force life approach the sand, covered in salt and grit, their uniforms soaked with seawater as the warm Florida sun beats down on their red faces.

A team of cadre shouts commands at the candidates to confuse them, stress them out and push their bodies to the limit.

Before the group has a chance to evaluate their situation, the instructors push them through more assessments, continuously asking each candidate one important question: Do they have what it takes?

Special tactics career field training pipelines are some of the most physically and psychologically challenging in the Air Force. To ensure the correct individuals are on the battlefield, a group of special tactics Airmen weed out the cross-training candidates who don’t meet the high standards, putting them through a weeklong selection process to select only the best-qualified individuals.

This group is known as the Recruitment, Assessment and Selection (RAS) team from the Special Tactics Training Squadron at Hurlburt Field.

What’s little known is that members of the RAS team are from special tactics career fields, so they know firsthand what it takes to make it through the training pipelines.

“The candidates are going to be challenged mentally and physically, and what we’re doing is looking for certain attributes,” said Master Sgt. Ismael Villegas, the squadron’s RAS section chief. “Those attributes are what we believe will make them successful in special tactics training pipelines.”

The assessment process is broken down into a five-day process where RAS cadres put candidates through demanding tasks that test their physical ability, mental flexibility, leadership skills and psychological state of mind.

“It was the most physically-demanding week of training I had yet been to -- the team of candidates (was) strong physically, but the cadre managed to push us all to our limits,” said 1st Lt. Daniel Bieber, who went through special tactics officer selection in 2013. “While the physical demands of the week were obviously very tough, the cadre wanted to see those who could take the physical stress in stride and still keep their heads to accomplish complex tasks, and keep track of team members.”

When Airmen cross train into special tactics it becomes important to test their leadership skills, Villegas said, citing his personal experience coming up through the combat control pipeline.

“When I was coming through as an Airman, our lieutenant and our staff sergeants in our team quit,” Villegas said. “As a young Airman, you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into and when you see these seasoned guys with experience, who have been in for a while, you think to yourself, ‘If these guys can’t hack it, I don’t have a chance.’ It really brings the team down, so we need to ensure we pick the right candidates who will help the younger Airmen push themselves.”

The focus on finding the best-qualified recruit has led the RAS cadres to have a considerable amount of success, according to Villegas. Before the addition of the RAS program, the attrition rates for cross training current Airmen into special tactics pipelines was about 80 percent. Since its implementation, those numbers have flip-flopped.

“From a financial standpoint, we’re saving the Air Force a lot of time and a lot of money,” said Villegas, referring to the long and expensive process of creating a battle-ready special tactics Airmen. “We do our best to pick the right candidate with the highest chance of success. They’re going to be leading these Airmen and pushing the ones who want to quit.”

Staff Sgt. Stephen Culbertson, a combat control student with STTS and a former selection candidate, credits the difficulty of the program with preparing cross-training NCOs with the correct mindset.

As an NCO going through the combat control pipeline, Culbertson explained he had to worry about more than just getting through the pipeline -- he also had young Airmen to lead.

“I take this very seriously as I am sometimes their first impression of what working with an NCO is like,” he said. “They look to me for guidance, mentorship and decision making. If I am struggling physically or mentally in a course, then my ability to lead them drastically declines.”

In addition to the selection process, an integral piece of the RAS program is to recruit Airmen who are currently working in other career fields.

The RAS educates the general Air Force audience about special tactics and provides them information and the criteria and how to properly train and better prepare for selection. Members of the team visit two to three bases a month and meet with groups of 40-60 Airmen, who often flood the RAS with questions about special tactics officer, pararescue, special operations weather and combat control career fields.

“Obviously education is a big part of the recruiting process, but putting a face and name to the special tactics community and showing the Airmen their goals of becoming an operator are obtainable is huge,” Villegas said. “Most guys think that special tactics Airmen are these unearthly forces, but when our people visit these bases, Airmen see that we are just extremely fit, and they can work to that level too.”

The RAS team is dedicated to this mission because it means their legacy will continue with another generation of warriors who belong to the ground special operations forces.

“At the end of the day, we are training these Airmen to replace us in this career field,” Villegas said.

Engage

Twitter
The MQ-1B Predator is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft used for i… https://t.co/livZYQyXnH
Twitter
Dr. Quinton Sasnett, a faculty member at Air University, talks about the university's civilian associates degree pr… https://t.co/0BgoCiGCUy
Twitter
Improving mental health through expressive writing. @KadenaAirBase https://t.co/zVoYTQQl5z
Twitter
Medical pros at Kadena Air Base, 3-D printed naso-pharyngeal swabs to test potential #COVID19 patients. The dental… https://t.co/h8q1HgLjRZ
Twitter
The MC-12W is a medium-to low-altitude, twin-engine turboprop aircraft. Its primary mission is providing intelligen… https://t.co/st7WRJLDHB
Twitter
Know what resources, treatments & therapies are available for invisible wounds. https://t.co/H2A7fYb8s3
Twitter
“The Total Force team at Eielson plays a pivotal role that extends throughout Alaska and projects into the Arctic.”… https://t.co/7nSYEtYWHj
Twitter
RT @AETCommand: 🙌🎉 Congrats to the @usairforce's newest pilots as Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 20-18 graduates today at @…
Twitter
.@JointBasePHH Airmen participate in a ramp drop from a C-17 Globemaster III. The 25th Air Support Ops Squadron is… https://t.co/AZVT6Qzmgv
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: It is a pleasure to be in #Alaska to see #Airmen and #SpaceProfessionals in action! Whether it’s F-35s & F-22s protectin…
Twitter
RT @EielsonAirForce: When @SecAFOfficial comes to visit, we show off the 'cool stuff' https://t.co/sGCSnVOOXg
Twitter
RT @USAFReserve: A career worth a thousand words: Colonel Campbell reflects on career in aviation - https://t.co/atNAeYOoMI (Story by @Dobb
Twitter
The Air Force will host the Air Force Information Technology and Cyberpower conference virtually August 24–27.… https://t.co/9pRjj6U1lp
Twitter
A Rocket Propelled Grenade was launched at a Dyess AFB C-130J in September 2019. The Airmen had to respond quickly! https://t.co/fgfNkCjA4a
Twitter
#DYK The UH-1N has a crew of three (pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer) and is capable of flight in instrument and… https://t.co/Qcj74Tk4ra
Twitter
.@GenDaveGoldfein has left a lasting impression on @HollomanAFB. #DYK Among his many tours, he was once commander o… https://t.co/ET8q1w8ywO
Twitter
The United States Air Forces in Europe Fire Academy & 86th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters get advanced rescue… https://t.co/AUHlxm0nPt
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Thank you to the #Airmen and #SpaceProfessionals at Clear Air Force Station and @EielsonAirForce Base for sharing their…
Twitter
#DYK The F-16A, a single-seat model, first flew in December 1976. The first operational F-16A was delivered in Janu… https://t.co/B72dKcCrnr
Twitter
#DYK The C-17 made its maiden flight on Sept. 15, 1991, and the first production model was delivered to Charleston… https://t.co/edfO5R1YEm
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,251,557
Follow Us