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Excerpt for Brothers in Berets: The Evolution of Air Force Special Tactics, 1953-2003 - Combat Controller Teams (CCT), Bravery in Vietnam, Iran Hostage Rescue, Grenada, Panama, Balkans, Somalia, and Afghanistan by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Brothers in Berets: The Evolution of Air Force Special Tactics, 1953-2003 - Combat Controller Teams (CCT), Bravery in Vietnam, Iran Hostage Rescue, Grenada, Panama, Balkans, Somalia, and Afghanistan

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CONTENTS

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Brothers in Berets: The Evolution of Air Force Special Tactics

1 * From Pathfinders to Combat Controllers, 1943–1954

2 * Combat Control, 1955–1964

3 * The Conflict in Southeast Asia, 1961–1975

4 * Combat Control and US National Counterterrorism, 1976–1981

5 * From Grenada to Special Tactics, 1981–1987

6 * First Fight: Special Tactics in Panama, 1989

7 * Special Tactics Evolves and Deploys to Southwest Asia, 1986–1992

8 * The Battle of Mogadishu: Special Tactics in Somalia, 1993

9 * Special Tactics, 1993–1999: At Home and in the Balkans

10 * Beginning the Long War: Special Tactics at Home and Abroad, 1999–May 2003

11 * Epilogue, 2003–2007

2018 U.S. Intelligence Community Worldwide Threat Assessment

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Brothers in Berets: The Evolution of Air Force Special Tactics, 1953-2003

Forrest L. Marion, PhD

Air Force History and Museums Program

In Conjunction With Air Force Special Operations Command

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Air University Press

Curtis E. LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education

Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama

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Project Editors - Belinda Bazinet and Dr. Ernest Allan Rockwell

Copy Editor - Tammi Dacus

Cover Art and Book Design - Daniel Armstrong

Composition and Prepress Production - Michele D. Harrell

Print Preparation and Distribution - Diane Clark

Published by Air University Press in January 2018

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Disclaimer

Opinions, conclusions, and recommendations expressed or implied within are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official policy or position of the organizations with which they are associated or the views of the LeMay Center, Air University, United States Air Force, Department of Defense, or any other US government agency. This publication is cleared for public release and unlimited distribution.

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Foreword

In the late 1990s, my predecessor, Gen Mike Ryan, initiated the US Air Force’s transition to a largely “expeditionary” air force. The horrific attacks of 11 September 2001—during my first staff meeting as the new chief of staff of the US Air Force—validated that foundational decision. During my tenure, our Air Force’s response to the attacks furthered that transition. Under the leadership of a visionary secretary of the Air Force, Dr. Jim Roche, our service adopted a new term befitting its expeditionary warriors who, in an evolving post-9/11 conflict environment, had to be prepared to carry the fight to the enemy not necessarily in the air, but on the ground. That term evolved into Battlefield Airmen. While the Battlefield Airmen concept encompassed several specialties under the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) and others found in conventional units, this book narrates the evolution and contributions of the former; hence, the title, Brothers in Berets: The Evolution of Air Force Special Tactics, 1953–2003, refers to the Battlefield Airmen assigned to special tactics units.

This work originated at the Combat Control Association reunion in 2002. While attending the event, I asked legendary combat controller Charlie Jones if there was anything I could do for the association. He replied that the history of combat control teams (CCT) had not been written and suggested a 50-year anniversary volume (1953–2003). This work is the result of Charlie’s request, though, sadly, he passed away in 2006—just one week after being interviewed.

The AFSOC special tactics community—a small brotherhood of highly-trained and equally-dedicated warriors, consisting of special tactics officers and combat controllers, combat rescue officers and pararescuemen, and officer and enlisted special operations weathermen—has proven itself as a force multiplier time and time again throughout its history in places like Somalia, Serbia, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Their story deserves telling within the US Air Force and to the general public. I am pleased to endorse this comprehensive and well-researched work as one step in that direction. I expect Charlie would be proud.

Gen John P. Jumper, USAF, retired

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Preface

In late April of 1980, when word came of the disaster at Desert One, I was three weeks away from commissioning in the US Air Force (USAF) with orders to Fort Rucker, Alabama, for helicopter training. From that moment on, the mission to rescue the hostages in Iran held great interest for me, even more so two years later when I reported to an air rescue unit flying Sikorsky HH-53 long-range combat search and rescue helicopters. A quarter century later, to have the opportunity to research and write on that very topic as part of a broader story—the evolution of US Air Force Special Tactics—has been a most providential and rewarding experience. There have been other points of convergence personally with the story at hand: flying with an HH-53 instructor pilot in 1981 who earned the Silver Star for the S.S. Mayaguez mission six years earlier; serving with pararescueman and Air Force Cross-recipient Joel Talley in a combat rescue squadron during 1982; interviewing—on 10 September 2001—the mission commander for the two combat rescues in Serbia two years earlier; and deploying to Special Operations Command–Pacific in 2002 as the historian covering Operation Enduring Freedom–Philippines. In 2006, I received the “baton” for the present study from Jeff Sahaida, who conducted the research and wrote the World War II portion of chapter 1. As I proceeded, it became clear to me that chapter 4—the centerpiece of which was the Iranian hostage rescue attempt—was the watershed chapter in terms of the genesis of the US Air Force’s combat control contribution to a US national counterterrorism capability. As John T. Carney’s select combat control team continued to mature in the mid-1980s, a small number of pararescuemen joined his team, thereby initiating what became known as Air Force Special Tactics. A decade later, following several reorganizations, in the mid1990s special operations weather team personnel joined the Special Tactics community, whose organizational home was the 720th Special Tactics Group at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

In Sicily and Italy in 1943, the US Army began employing small teams of personnel known as “Pathfinders” on the drop zones intended for use in Allied airborne operations against the Axis powers. The Pathfinders’ role was to set up their equipment shortly before the arrival of the first paratrooper-laden aircraft over the drop zone in order to guide the aircraft to the proper location. This early system met with mixed results. Shortly after the US Air Force was established in 1947, it gained the Pathfinder mission from the Army, but it was 1953 before the first Air Force combat control team (CCT) was formed (chapter 1). For most of the 1950s the Eighteenth Air Force, headquartered at Donaldson AFB, South Carolina, served as the nucleus for Air Force combat control. However, the USAF—and even the Eighteenth Air Force leadership—anticipated a not-too-distant future with electronic aids to navigation rendering the men on the ground unnecessary for guiding aircraft to their targets. The small Air Force specialty survived the decade even as the US Army sought to recapture the Pathfinder function that it viewed as properly its own (chapter 2). From the early 1960s to 1975, the Southeast Asia conflict gave CCTs their first combat experience, furthering several legendary careers in the process (chapter 3). In the wake of Israel’s dramatic hostage rescue in July 1976 at Entebbe, Uganda, the US government began developing its own national counterterrorist capability. At that point entered a hard-charging, charismatic, and visionary combat control officer, John “Coach” Carney, whose small CCT played a key role in April 1980 at Desert One. Carney’s team almost certainly prevented a greater loss than what took place in the desert that night. The failed operation’s silver lining was the Pentagon’s decision to develop joint special operations capabilities (chapter 4). The brief Grenada operation in 1983 showed that much work remained to be done and served as the catalyst for Special Tactics, initiated in the mid1980s with the merging of combat control and pararescue specialists in the unit later designated the 24th Special Tactics Squadron. The year 1987 also witnessed the formation of US Special Operations Command and the first USAF Special Tactics group, later designated the 720th Special Tactics Group (chapter 5).

In combat operations in Panama (chapter 6) and in Somalia (chapter 8), and in both combat and humanitarian operations in Iraq (chapter 7), Special Tactics teams validated the Special Tactics concept and demonstrated their capabilities alongside fellow special operations forces (SOF) operators on the ground—whether Rangers, Special Forces, or SEALs. The remainder of the 1990s witnessed the consolidation of the USAF combat control specialty under the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) and the merging of special operations weather teams into Special Tactics in addition to participating notably in contingencies in the Balkans, including Serbia in 1999 (chapter 9). The US/coalition response to the attacks of 11 September 2001 led to deployment of Special Tactics teams to Afghanistan, the Philippines, and Iraq—resulting in highly successful tactical outcomes tempered with difficult losses (chapter 10). Although relatively unknown even within its own service, the Air Force Special Tactics community has earned a place alongside its older, better-known sister service SOF operators.

From its outset, this work focused on those CCT members that performed special operations—or prior to the 1980s the type of work that in later years fell generally under “special ops.” From the mid1980s, Special Tactics-assigned pararescuemen (PJ) were included and, from the mid-1990s, Special Tactics-assigned special operations weather team (SOWT) personnel. Those three specialties, including mostly enlisted personnel and a few officers, comprised the Special Tactics community during the period of this work.

Beginning in 2006, I was privileged to attend several Combat Control Association reunions, where I met a number of combat controllers and witnessed the special brotherhood of that community of berets. Not all the excellent candidates could be interviewed, for various reasons; but I appreciated every Airman who expressed interest in and support for this project. I have sought to use each interview— whether CCT, PJ, or SOWT—appropriately and with discernment. I am grateful to each of you.

As in all such projects, I have incurred many debts to individuals and to history offices and archives without whose support the book could not have been completed. At Hurlburt Field—home to AFSOC and the 720th Special Tactics Group (720 STG)—the indefatigable Herb Mason (AFSOC’s command historian from 1991 to 2016) and his excellent staff provided a warm welcome, temporary office space, and assistance with historical materials on numerous research trips conducted by the entity unofficially dubbed AFSOC/HO OL-M (“M” worked for either Maxwell or Marion). Next door, Col Marc Stratton and Col Brad Thompson served as the 720 STG commanders during most of the period of research for the book. Both strongly supported the project, allowed me the use of the conference room for interviews, and made themselves and their personnel available. Three retired chief master sergeants, Rick Crutchfield, Mike Lampe, and Wayne Norrad, were instrumental in this project, providing continuity, contacts, and an incredible store of personal knowledge of nearly every CCT and Special Tactics issue and operation from Southeast Asia to the present. When the publishing effort was revived in 2016, Chief Norrad’s assistance was indispensable, from countless fact-checking exercises to gaining permissions for more names to appear in print. My sincere thanks go to Air University Press’s acting director Dr. Ernest Rockwell, who revived the manuscript and saw it through to publication; and to Mr. Daniel Armstrong, for his unexcelled front cover illustration and timely handling of several late changes.

SMSgt. Clyde Howard and SMSgt. Jim Stanford were especially helpful in covering the story of CCT in Thailand and Laos, respectively; Jim especially so after the passing of the beloved Charlie Jones, whom I interviewed a week before his death. Sadly, Clyde and Jim also passed away during the book’s writing.

This work relied largely on oral history interviews. My sincere thanks to one Guardsman, SrA Jason Aplin (908th Airlift Wing), and to those individual mobilization augmentee reservists who transcribed the nearly 70 interviews: TSgt Steve Blair, Lt Col Tommy Carpenter, TSgt Joe Culpepper, SrA Matt Dearth, Capt Nicole DubnicayWellen, MSgt Craig Mackey, Maj Jessica Menasco, Lt Col Mark Nelson, and Maj Tony Sibert, and others at the Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA) and Air Force Historical Studies Office. Without Nicole’s and Craig’s transcripts, the book might not have been completed. I also appreciated the support of retired CMSgt Gene Adcock, who shared his research, including an important document from 1945; Ron Brown of the Combat Control School, Pope AFB, North Carolina, who granted me access to the school’s files and also shared a key document with me; my boss, the AFHRA director, Dr. Charlie O’Connell, for his sustained leadership and support; AFHRA coworkers Peggy Ream, who shared her research on the 1996 Ron Brown recovery, and Sam Shearin, whose years in the 24STS facilitated several excellent contacts and various fact-checking and other considerable helps in addition to sitting for an interview; and Darrel Whitcomb of the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, whose research and writing crossed many delightful paths with my own. Six subject matter experts reviewed the manuscript: one special operations weatherman, Lt Col Joe Benson (USAF); four combat controllers, Col John Carney, CMSgt Rick Crutchfield, Brig Gen Robert Holmes, and CMSgt Wayne Norrad (all four were USAF, retired); and one pararescueman, MSgt Tim Wilkinson (USAF, retired). My heartfelt thanks go to them for giving their time and lending their expertise to this project. Lacking any tech-savviness, I relied heavily upon the technical expertise of AFHRA professionals such as Randy Anderson, Jerome Bendolph, Robert Brown, Thomas Rehome, and Sean Wenstrup. A special thanks to Jerome and Robert for their outstanding work on the book’s photographs and to Thomas for copying and preserving the interviews in AFHRA’s collection.

Archie DiFante provided security review of each chapter at AFHRA, and AFSOC History and AFSOC Public Affairs also reviewed the entire manuscript for release. I have made every attempt to include only those surnames of individuals assigned to sensitive entities who gave specific permission for their names to appear in print in this work. However, individuals whose names had previously been published in open sources regarding a particular operation could be included without obtaining a second permission, but only for the specific operation. Of course, any errors in that area, or in fact, or in interpretation, are mine.

My family supported me as well, and I especially thank my incredible wife for her understanding and support all the way through this lengthy project, which although a labor of love, felt unending at times. My prayer is that the Special Tactics community will agree the wait was worth it.

Forrest L. Marion

Air Force Historical Research Agency

Maxwell AFB, Alabama

10 October 2011 (amended 1 August 2017)

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Chapter 1

From Pathfinders to Combat Controllers, 1943–1954

Jeff Sahaida and Forrest Marion

World War II

Nearly a year after the official entry of the United States into World War II, the Allies began ground operations in northwest Africa as an initial step toward regaining Axis-occupied Europe. Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of French northwest Africa, began in early November 1942. Within weeks, as the US and British offensive slowed in the muddy terrain of Tunisia, Allied planners started looking at other areas in which to advance. Among several initiatives considered were the US-favored incursion into France and the British-supported Sardinian assault. However, at the January 1943 Casablanca Conference, US president Franklin D. Roosevelt and British prime minister Winston Churchill selected Sicily as the next Allied objective.1

Operation Husky, the July 1943 invasion of Sicily, Italy, was important for a variety of reasons. As a strategic target, it not only offered airfields and staging areas that could be used as a stepping stone into southern Europe but also the possibility of expediting the surrender of Italy. Moreover, the Sicilian campaign proved itself the testing ground for the US airborne technique. Although the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion saw action during Operation Torch, it became part of the larger 82nd Airborne Division, for Husky.

While Allied Headquarters for the invasion, known as Force 141, continuously revised various operational aspects of Husky, planners deemed the employment of paratroopers essential to the operation’s success—constituting an integral part of contingency options from the beginning. As these airborne techniques remained untried in combat, Sicily became the primary campaign in which US airborne troops tested their new theories and tactics of warfare. The lessons learned over the skies and on the ground of that battlefield had a lasting impact on the employment and use of airborne forces in future campaigns.2

As a result of the Germans’ decisive use of airborne and glider troops during their blitzkrieg into Norway and the Low Countries, in July 1940 the US Army Air Corps (USAAC) shifted its air infantry project into high gear with the initiation of a test parachute infantry platoon. The military considered parachuting so dangerous that it only allowed unmarried enlisted men to volunteer for such duty. To account for expected injuries and losses, 48 men were selected to fill the 39 enlisted slots. After selection, the infantry board put the volunteers through eight weeks of parachuting, small unit tactics, and physical training. The parachute test platoon learned the technique for parachute landing falls, practicing first from moving trucks and, later, from a pair of 150-foot parachute towers. In their final week, test platoon members strapped into their new T-4 static line chutes, made five qualifying airborne jumps, and established the tradition of yelling ‘Geronimo!’ upon exiting the aircraft.3

Even before the test platoon completed its training, bureaucratic infighting sparked over the control of the parachute troops. The USAAC argued its case stressing the aerial delivery of the force; Army engineers emphasized the paratroopers’ demolition training; and the infantry called attention to the use of jumpers as ground troops. Army chief of staff, Gen George C. Marshall, sided with the infantry.4

Amid the frenetic initial paratroop development came revolutionary changes within the command structure. On 9 March 1942, the Department of War reorganized and created three autonomous US Army commands: Army Ground Forces, Services of Supply (later Army Service Forces), and the Army Air Forces (AAF). This reorganization led to major changes in the commands responsible for airborne operations. On 17 March, Lt Gen Lesley J. McNair, commander of the newly created Army Ground Forces, proposed forming an airborne command to direct and coordinate the training of those forces.5

Days later, the Department of War established the Airborne Command, and as a natural correlation to the increasing number of airborne troops, established the Air Transport Command at the end of April, which was quickly redesignated Troop Carrier Command. The newest command was tasked with organizing and training air transport units for all types of aerial transport with “special emphasis on the conduct of operations involving the air movement of airborne infantry, glider troops and parachute troops.” To aid in this mission, on 15 August 1942 the Department of War redesignated the 82nd Infantry Division the 82nd Airborne Division. Augmented with existing airborne units, the 82nd was split into two parts—one designated the 82nd Airborne Division and the other the 101st Airborne Division.6

The Sicilian invasion plan called for Maj Gen George S. Patton’s US Seventh Army to lead an amphibious assault against the south coast of Sicily. The 3rd Infantry Division was to land at Licata, the 1st at Gela, and the 45th at Scoglitti.7 British Army general Bernard L. Montgomery anticipated leading two and one-half divisions of the British Eighth Army in an assault against the Pachino area, south of Syracuse. The air staff of Force 141 originally planned to employ paratroopers to support both US and British operations to neutralize beach defenses prior to the main Allied assaults. This might prevent the Germans from pinning down the invaders before they could establish a foothold. Eventually, both British and US planners lost enthusiasm for this scenario.8

The assault force’s artillery commander, Brig Gen Maxwell D. Taylor, stated in several letters to Patton’s headquarters that the mission against beach defenses was an inappropriate task for paratroopers, who were lightly armed and could only neutralize a limited area. Furthermore, such an employment threatened to subject them to naval bombardment and reveal the exact location of the impending amphibious assault. Staffers at the US Seventh Army concurred and instead agreed to drop a reinforced parachute combat team, from the 82nd, northeast of the port of Gela, to block the movement of enemy reserve forces on the 1st Infantry Division beachhead.9

At the end of May 1943, the Northwest African Air Forces (NAAF) Troop Carrier Command (Provisional), a component of the Allied Mediterranean Air Command, formed two months earlier to handle Husky troop-carrier preparation and execution, announced its lineup for the first Husky mission (Husky 1). D-Day was set for 10 July. On the evening of 9-10 July, the 52nd Troop Carrier Wing (TCW) — aided by the 64th and 316th Troop Carrier Groups (TCG)—planned to dispatch more than 200 C-47 Skytrain transport aircraft to drop the 505th Parachute Combat Team (PCT) (reinforced) into the Gela area.10 On the same night 100 C-47s from the 51st TCW, assisted by the British 38th Wing, expected to conduct a manned glider assault, dubbed Ladbroke, southwest of Syracuse to aid the advance of the British Eighth Army.11

With only three weeks allotted for training, airborne and troop carrier units of the 82nd Airborne Division and 52nd TCW, respectively, initiated maneuvers on 1 June 1943, at Oujda, French Morocco.

Even an experienced command with full operational knowledge of the participating units and possessing overall authority ought to have been hard pressed for time. Unfortunately, no such command existed. Although the NAAF Troop Carrier Command possessed practical experience with airborne operations, its authority extended only to troop carrier units. Furthermore, it held no command authority over the airborne division and had no firsthand knowledge of the 52nd Wing. Part of the problem was that Brig Gen Paul L. Williams, who assumed command of NAAF Troop Carrier Command in mid-May 1943, had been absent from the troop carriers the previous four months while commanding the XII Air Support Command. His lack of contact with troop carrier experiments in airborne pathfinder tactics and the use of navigational aids perhaps explained why these techniques were overlooked in the preparations for Operation Husky.12

The airborne meaning of pathfinders was twofold: pathfinders were advance planes sent out ahead of a mission but also were specially trained teams of paratroopers deposited at either a landing zone (LZ) or a drop zone (DZ) by these advance planes. Once on land, the pathfinders’ mission was to set up navigational aids for the inbound troop transport aircraft, which could then lock on to the ground signals to accurately drop their elements, or ‘sticks,’ of paratroopers.13 The radar navigational aid used was known as the Rebecca/Eureka system. The AN/PPN-1A transmitter beacon, known as Eureka, was a radar beacon pack carried by a parapathfinder who jumped into the DZ. Once emplaced, its Rebecca counterpart, an APN-2 (SCR-729) receiver installed in the airborne pathfinder troop carrier aircraft, homed in on the beacon, allowing for the accurate drop of paratroopers on the DZ.14

Although planners at the Fifth Army airborne training center in Oujda experimented with pathfinder tactics and new techniques, they held no authority over either the troop carrier or airborne units. However, the issue appeared moot. According to a report by a British squadron leader, the question of whether or not to use the Rebecca/ Eureka navigational aid during operations had been discussed by staffers at Force 141, but its employment was rejected six weeks prior to General Williams’s arrival.15 Fundamentals formed the basis for premission training; cross-country navigation and formation flying for the 52nd Wing; and ground training, bayonet fighting, scouting, and hand-to-hand combat for the paratroopers. After experiencing several casualties in practice jumps, the 82nd Airborne was reluctant to risk more men in training. However, two nighttime practice missions simulated Operation Husky’s conditions. The first, carrying the 505th PCT, was scattered, while the second—with the 504th PCT— proved deceptive in that the flight formation held together and arrived on target. However, the latter jump included dropping only token loads to check for pilot accuracy. No full-scale dress rehearsal occurred, and no time was allotted for training in the pathfinder techniques developed at the airborne training center.16


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