This article is organised as follows:

  • Part One: Background to Special Reconnaissance.
  • Part Two: Entry Standards and Applications.
  • Part Three: Outline of SR Selection and Training.
  • Part Four: Miscellaneous.


1.0 Introduction

This article provides an overview of the recruitment, selection and training process for the US Air Force’s Special Reconnaissance (SR) which officially replaced the Special Operations Weather Team – Enlisted (SOWT-E) on 30 April 2019 (Rempfer, 2019).

Between 2017 and early 2019, the Battlefield Airman roles have undergone a number of changes, which will be reflected in this article and a linked article [LINK]. Some roles, like SOWT-E have been replaced by newer roles while others have been reclassified from special operations to combat support. In 2018, the term Battlefield Airman was renamed Special Warfare (Soldier Systems, 2018).

The recruiting, assessment and training of BA personnel has also witnessed a revamp to help reduce the attrition rates, which could range “between 40 and 90 percent depending on specialty.” (Pawlyk, 2019b).

These Air Commandos form the special operations element of the US Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) Special Operations Forces (SOF) community, which is the air component of the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

The role of the US Air Force Special Reconnaissance is to provide surveillance and reconnaissance about the battlespace that commanders can exploit to their advantage, and performing operations for US Air Force and US Army support organisations activities.

From boot camp to first deployment, a SR candidate may undertake up to two years of training.

It must be emphasised that a candidate must be physically fit at the beginning of the SR training process if they are to stand any chance of success. The course requires far greater expenditure of physical energy than is normally required in other peace time training. It is essential that candidates arrive fully fit, carrying no injuries and with a sound grasp of basic navigational techniques.

SR Teams are commanded by Special Tactics Officers.

1.1 Aim

The aim of this article is to describe the fundamental entry requirements, selection process and training for personnel seeking to become a US Air Force Special Reconnaissance airman.

1.2 Women and US Air Force Special Warfare

From January 2016, in accordance with current US Federal Government policy on the employment of women in the US military, service in the US Air Force’s SOF community is open to both male and female volunteers (Pellerin, 2015).

Women in the US military have, for a number of years, been able to serve in a variety of Special Operations Forces (SOF) related roles, including:

  • Intelligence;
  • Military information support;
  • Civil affairs units;
  • Female engagement teams;
  • Cultural support teams; and
  • Air Force special operations aviation roles.

As of March 2015, approximately two-thirds of the roles in USSOCOM were integrated (Vogel, 2015).

In March 2019, it was confirmed that the first enlisted woman was attempting the “special operations weather career field.” (Pawlyk, 2019b).

Between 01 October 2017 and January 2019, there was:

  • A total of twelve female candidates talking to recruiters:
    • Six SERE (two were recruited).
    • Four EOD (three were recruited).
    • One TACP.
    • One SR.
  • In January 2019, seventeen female applicants were talking to recruiters.

Between December 2015 (when Air Force combat career fields were opened to women) and March 2019, there had been nine women in total who started Special Warfare training (i.e. recruited and in the training pipeline) (Pawlyk, 2019b):

  • One pursued PJ training (dropped out in first week due to injury);
  • Seven pursued TACP training; and
  • One pursued SR training.

1.3 Air Force Special Warfare Roles

In 2019, there was a change in which roles were considered special operations or combat support (Pawlyk, 2019a):

  • Special Operations:
    • Pararescue (PJ) (enlisted only).
    • Combat Controllers (CCT) (enlisted only).
    • Special Reconnaissance (SR) (enlisted only).
    • Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) (enlisted and officer).
    • Special Tactics Officer (officer only).
    • Combat Rescue Officer (officer only).
  • Combat Support:
    • Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) (enlisted only).
    • Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technician (enlisted only).


2.0 Introduction

Information regarding the basic requirements for enlistment or commissioning in the US Air Force can be found by clicking on the links, which the reader is advised to read if not already familiar.

The US Air Force does accept direct entry applicants, i.e. civilians with no prior military experience, for the SR role. As a result, volunteers for SR may be accepted from US civilian and US Air Force enlisted personnel to serve with the US Air Force’s Special Operations community.

Consequently, there are two recognised pathways to becoming a US Air Force SR:

  1. Enlist as a civilian; or
  2. Enlist while in the US Air Force and apply for training.

2.1 Special Operations Recruiting Squadron

Prior to 2018, recruitment for Air Force special operations was conducted solely through a number of Special Operations Recruiting Liaison Operating Locations (OL-C to O) throughout the US, which fell within the 24th Special Operations Wing.

On 29 June 2018, the Air Force set up its first Special Operations Recruiting Squadron (Pawlyk, 2019a). The reactivated 330th Recruiting Squadron directs and operates the Air Force special operations and combat support recruiting activities of 12 enlisted accession flights with approximately 141 active-duty personnel (USAF, 2018a & 2018b). The squadron sits within the Air Force Recruiting Service (AFRS) and has its headquarters (HQ) based at Randolph Air Force Base (AFB).

Key personalities within the squadron include (USAF, 2018):

  • Officer Commanding: Major (OF-3).
  • Squadron Superintendent: A Chief Master Sergeant.
  • Squadron Production Superintendent: A Senior Master Sergeant.
  • Twelve Flight Chiefs spread across the US.

Prior to 2018, candidates would have been assessed by a generalist recruiter, complete basic military training (BMT), and then progress onto an indoctrination course. Now, a specialist recruiter can aid candidates in their preparation for special operations or combat support from the very start.

In its first year the squadron aided approximately 1,000 candidates through the recruitment process and into BMT (Pawlyk, 2019a).

2.2 General Requirements and Eligibility for All Candidates

Subject to the requirements outlined below, all US civilian and Air Force enlisted personnel are eligible to attend the SR training programme (USAF, 2019, p.101):

  • Be a US citizen.
  • Ability to speak English distinctly.
  • Education, for entry into this specialty:
    • A high school diploma or equivalent is required.
    • Courses in physics, chemistry, earth sciences, geography, computer sciences, and mathematics are desirable.
  • Meet medical standard and physical qualification for parachutist duty.
  • Meet medical standard and physical qualification for combat diver duty.
  • Maintain physical fitness standards.
  • Minimum score of 30 required on SR selection model completed in Tailored Adaptive Personality Assessment System (TAPAS).
  • ASVAB score:
    • E?: 50
    • General: 66
    • Strength Aptitude Code: K (demonstrate weight lift of 70lbs).
  • Completion of a current National Agency Check, Local Agency Checks and Credit (NACLC).
  • Able to obtain a Top Secret Security clearance.
  • Pass relevant Physical Fitness Test (Section 2.3).
  • Medical:
    • USAF Class III Flight Physical (Special Warfare Initial Clearance).
    • PULHES: all 1s.
    • Have normal colour vision; and
    • Have vision of 20/70 or better, correctible to 20/20.
  • Must be aged between 17 and 39.

2.3 Special Reconnaissance Physical Ability and Stamina Test

The Special Operations Weather Physical Fitness Test (SOWPFT) was the new name for the Physical Ability and Stamina Test (PAST), which it replaced during 2016. However, the current version of the Air Force Enlisted Classification Directory states candidates must pass the “Special Reconnaissance physical ability and stamina test (PAST).” (USAF, 2019, p.101).

The PAST is utilised as an initial physical screening tool that must be passed in order to start training (and also during training where the standards become more stringent).

Candidates where having to complete the Battlefield Airmen Fitness Assessment (BAFA), an umbrella term for the various different PAST that candidates of the different special operations roles had to complete, the reader can find details here.


  • 8 pull-ups/heaves in less than 2 minutes.
  • 50 sit-ups in less than 2 minutes.
  • 40 Push-ups/press-ups in less than 2 minutes.
  • 1.5 mile (2.4 km) run in less than 10 minutes 20 seconds.
  • 2 x 25 metre underwater swim (pass/fail).
  • 500 metre surface swim in less than 12 minutes 30 seconds.


3.0 SR Selection and Training Phases

The journey to becoming a SR is not easy, and training is rigorous and highly selective, but the courage and strength individuals will gain as a candidate will stay with them for their entire life.

The SR training programme is the selection and training process for all candidates wishing to join the Air Force’s SOF community as a SR. Previously, SOWT-E candidates attended a version of the CCT pipeline, now the two “will more mirror one another.” (Rempfer, 2019).

All candidates will undertake a number of distinct stages of training (Table 1), in which candidates are taught the fundamentals of Air Force special warfare through formal US Air Force schooling and on-the-job training.

As I understand it, the Career Field Education & Training Plan (CFETP) for SR will be signed off and published in the fall (winter) of 2019 (Rempfer, 2019) (meaning the below table is for illustration purposes at the moment).

“Existing SOWTs will attend a transition course that will sign of SR-specific training, AFSOC said.” (Rempfer, 2019).

Retraining candidates must complete the “Special Reconnaissance Retraining Assessment Process.” (USAF, 2019, p.101).

Table 1: SR training pipeline (provisional)
Stage Programme Sub-Course/Element Duration
Preparation Enlistment Process Variable
Basic Military Training 8.5 weeks
Special Warfare Preparatory Course (SW PREP) 8 weeks
Assessment Special Warfare Assessment and Selection (A&S) Course 4 weeks
Initial Qualification Training (IQT) Special Warfare SOF Common Skills Course ?
Special Warfare Pre-Dive Course 4
Special Warfare Combat Dive Course 8 weeks
Airborne School 3 weeks
Military Free-Fall Parachute Course (MFFPC) 4 weeks
SERE Training 3 weeks
Special Reconnaissance Course 8 weeks
Special Reconnaissance Apprentice Course 8 weeks
Special Tactics Training 6 months
Mission Qualification Training Consists of initial familiarisation and combat mission ready certification, followed by unit directed duty position requirements. Variable
Continuation Training As required training that is necessary to maintain proficiency. Variable

Source: Air Force Enlisted Classification Directory, 2019, p.100-101; CFETP AFSC 1Z4XX, 2019 (To Be Confirmed)

The skills and knowledge gained during this programme of training includes (USAF, 2019, p.100):

  • Knowledge of Air Force Special Warfare doctrine and utilisation;
  • Small arms to include long-range precision engagement and target interdiction equipment, and crew served weaponry;
  • Navigation techniques;
  • Movement and route selection;
  • Infiltration, insertion, extraction, and exfiltration methods;
  • Night vision equipment, GPS and other operational equipment;
  • Small unit tactics;
  • Survival techniques;
  • Air operations including parachute procedures and equipment;
  • Amphibious and water operations;
  • Vehicle operations including mounted and special purpose vehicles;
  • Demolition applications;
  • Communications and signalling to include tactical cyber applications;
  • Antenna theory;
  • Reconnaissance and surveillance principles and procedures;
  • Photographic documentation;
  • Operation and operator maintenance of reconnaissance, surveillance, meteorological, and environmental data collection and communications systems;
  • Preparation of the environment, operational preparation of the environment, and advance force operations;
  • Intelligence preparation of the operational environment including human intelligence principles and meteorological/oceanographic characteristics;
  • Meteorological observation, analysis, and integration of meteorological, oceanographic, hydrologic, geological, and space environment information;
  • Use of environmental products from operational and strategic centres;
  • Meteorological effects on aircraft flight characteristics;
  • Topography, aeronautical charts, and publication use;
  • Joint service operations;
  • Military weapons systems; and
  • Mission planning, preparation, and military decision-making processes.

3.1 Training Hierarchy

An outline of the units/organisations involved in Air Force special warfare training can be found here [LINK].

3.2 Basic Military Training

From February 2011, pre-screened candidates for Battlefield Airmen careers had a BATTLE plan in place during their basic military training (BMT). BATTLE being an acronym for Battlefield Airmen Technical Training Liaison Element (Joseph, 2011).

BATTLE training was incorporated for 320th and 331st Training Squadron trainees who receive the additional training (weeks 2 to 7) during BMT to better prepare them for their upcoming training/jobs.

Following BMT graduation, the journey continued at the 342nd Training Squadron, then the home to all Air Force Battlefield Airmen entry-level training. The curriculum included Pararescue Indoctrination, TACP and PJ Development and the Combat Control Selection courses.

Since 2016, all graduates of BMT destined for special operations attend training with the Special Warfare Training Wing, see Section 3.1 for further details.

The 8.5 week BMT is delivered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland (JBSA), Texas. It is under the jurisdiction of the Air Education and Training Command (AETC) and consists of:

  • Fort Sam Houston (US Army);
  • Randolph Air Force Base (AFB); and
  • Lackland AFB.

The above were merged on 01 October 2010 to create the JBSA.

3.3 Special Warfare Preparation Course

The Special Warfare Preparation Course, referred to as SW PREP or A&S Prep, is nine weeks in duration (one week in-processing and eight weeks of preparation) and is delivered at Lackland AFB.

The course is for candidates from BMT and prior enlisted (but not cross-trainees), and helps to prepare them for the rigours of the assessment and selection course. If candidates have what it takes to join Air Force Special Warfare, it will be revealed here.

Candidates will undergo intense strength and conditioning training, by running, rucking/loaded march, and swimming extensively to inculcate them with the motivation and physical conditioning to undertake the assessment and selection course. They will also learn about the rich history of Special Warfare, Esprit de Corps, water confidence, and ultimately take the Physical Ability and Stamina Test (PAST) to see if they will move on to technical training.

Staff that candidates will meet during this course may include:

  • Olympic-trial athletes;
  • Prior Special Warfare operators;
  • Sports psychologists;
  • Nutritionists;
  • Strength and conditioning coaches;
  • Athletic trainers; and
  • Physical therapists.

The main purpose of the SW PREP is to reduce the attrition rate due to injuries by preparing candidates for the rigours of the assessment and selection course. This is achieved through a holistic approach to training which includes strength, conditioning, extended training days, and pool workouts with rehabilitation and courses that focus on nutrition and proper/correct techniques. Although training is progressive throughout the eight weeks stress is minimal.

Candidates are accommodated in the ‘Prep Complex’, on the main side of the AFB, which is where candidates eat, workout, rehabilitate (as required), and sleep. There is also a running track and pool located next to the complex.

3.4 Special Warfare Assessment and Selection Course

The Special Warfare Assessment and Selection Course, referred to as A&S, is four weeks in duration and is delivered at Lackland AFB.

The A&S has replaced the various indoctrination/selection courses that candidates had to pass in order to undertake initial qualification/technical training. Candidates that undertake the A&S include:

  • Pararescue (PJ’s) (enlisted only).
  • Combat Control (CCT) (enlisted only).
  • Special Reconnaissance (SR) (enlisted only).
  • Special Tactics Officer (officer only).
  • Combat Rescue Officer (officer only).

A&S is the period where candidates must prove they are worthy to advance in one of these roles or find another field. Having graduated from SW PREP, candidates should be better equipped to attend and pass this arduous course. Due to this, candidates are expected to perform at a high level on Day One.

The A&S course is located in the Medina Annex of Lackland AFB. Candidates are accommodated in the old PJ Indoctrination Course complex.

Similar in nature to the previous indoctrination/selection courses, A&S involves surface swimming, water confidence, grass and gorilla drills, running, calisthenics, rucking/loaded marches, and extended training days.

With regards to graduation from A&S, there is no PAST requirement. Instead, candidates are scored on a variety of factors, including:

  • Teamwork;
  • Selflessness;
  • Attitude;
  • Integrity;
  • Physical fitness; and
  • Morals.

For those candidates who successfully graduate A&S they will go on to train in their respective role’s training pipeline. The Air Force Special Warfare training pipeline has been redesigned to combine similar skills from the different roles to streamline and standardise training and reduce costs.

As I understand it, TACP and Air Liaison Officers (ALO) do not attend A&S, primarily, due to not having a water confidence requirement (needs verification).

3.5 Special Warfare SOF Common Skills Course

Still being developed.

This course has yet to be published/formulised by the Special Warfare Training Wing. The purpose of the course will be to deliver common special warfare skills that all operators need and teach them in one central location. Common skills that may be taught during this course include small unit tactics, weapons handling, airmanship, etc.

3.6 Special Warfare Pre-Dive Course

The Special Warfare Pre-Dive Course is four weeks in duration and is delivered at Lackland AFB.

The purpose of the course is to candidates physically and mentally for the rigours of combat dive school. It consists of intense calisthenics, middle- and long-distance swimming, and most importantly water confidence training.

As I understand it, the pre-dive and dive courses have been moved ahead of the initial SR course due to a (historically) high number of dropouts of CCT candidates at this stage.

3.7 Special Warfare Combat Dive Course

The Special Warfare Combat Dive Course is eight weeks in duration and is delivered at the Naval Support Activity, Panama City (NSA-PC), Florida, part of the US Navy’s Naval Diving & Salvage Training Centre (NDSTC). On the NDSTC website the course is known as the Air Force Combat Dive Course (AFCDC or AFDC).

Administratively, the NDSTC delivers the combat dive course as two courses for the Air Force:

  • 5-week Air Force Combat Dive Course (Open Circuit).
    • 20 training days.
    • Six classes per year.
    • Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA).
    • Candidates learn basic diving and advanced rescue diving principles.
  • 3-week Air Force Combat Dive Course (Closed Circuit).
    • 13 training days.
    • Six classes per year.
    • Closed circuit underwater breathing apparatus (UBA).
    • Candidates learn advanced combat diving principles.
    • Delivered immediately after the 5-week course, i.e. no break in training.
    • Pre-requisite for attendance is successful completion of 5-week course.

The primary focus of these courses is to develop Air Force Special Warfare candidates into competent, capable and safe combat divers/swimmers.

The course provides diver training through classroom instruction, extensive physical training, surface and sub-surface water confidence pool exercises, pool familiarisation dives, day/night tactical open water surface/sub-surface infiltration swims, open/closed circuit diving procedures and underwater search and recovery procedures. The courses provide training to depths of 130 feet (40 metres) in a variety of operating conditions (including nil visibility).

Candidates will perform a fitness test on day one and will master a variety of skills throughout the course, including:

  • Mask, Fin, and Snorkel:
    • Candidate should be able to fill mask with water while wearing it and breathing comfortably through mouth. Practice should include speaking/singing with mask flooded. Additional practice includes doing flutter kicks or push-ups on pool side while mask is flooded with water while counting cadence.
    • Candidate should be comfortable breathing through snorkel on water surface.
    • Candidate should be comfortable filling mask with water while submerged and then forcefully exhaling in order to clear mask.
    • Candidate should be comfortable filling mask and snorkel with water while submerged and then forcefully exhaling in order to clear mask and snorkel without breaking the surface of the water with face and then continuing to breathe comfortably.
    • Candidate should be comfortable swimming with mask and fins while breathing through a snorkel. Practice should consist of swimming at a comfortable pace while intermittently flooding snorkel with water (i.e. submerging 2 to 3 feet), then surfacing, without face breaking the surface of the water, forcefully exhaling water out of the snorkel and then continuing to breathe normally from snorkel. This exercise should be continued for several minutes without signs of panic or inability to continue clearing snorkel.
    • Candidate should be comfortable retrieving mask and snorkel on bottom of pool (12 feet), donning (putting on) mask and snorkel on bottom, clearing mask, ascending to surface, then clearing snorkel via forceful exhale upon reaching surface without breaking the surface of the water with face, and then continuing to breathe comfortably.
  • Dead-Man Float:
    • Candidate should be comfortable floating on surface with hands held together behind back with ankles crossed for 5 minutes (at a minimum).
    • The goal is to rest comfortably on the surface exerting minimal effort. Focus should be placed on utilising lungs for buoyancy and gently rolling head to side to take breaths when necessary.
    • Practice should consist of fully inflating lungs on the water surface and attempting to relax and float for as long as possible. When necessary, roll back or to the side by utilising a gentle leg thrust to breach the surface and take a deep breath; relax and wait for the buoyancy of your lungs to return you to the surface. Repeat steps as necessary until at least five minutes have elapsed.
  • Finning:
    • “Bay Swims” are a regular and mandatory aspect of training at NDSTC. Bay swims are a unique and somewhat difficult skill to perfect outside of the NSDTC environment.
    • Each candidate must display that they are able to combat a 1 knot current by finishing each surface fin evolution in the allotted time limit.
    • It is in the best interest of the candidate to practice for bay swims (500, 1000, 2000 yards, etc.) by focusing on flutter kicks while training/preparing to arrive for the course.
    • The key component to successfully passing Bay Swims is to master proper form utilising the flutter kick technique: in the prone position, face up, using only the legs kicking with fins for propulsion. The candidate is not allowed to utilise their hands for propulsion and must maintain contact with the emergency flotation vest around their neck. It is especially helpful to practice flutter kicking outside of the water as well, using fins, if available, or some form of weight/resistance.
    • Optional preparation includes finning on back in any available pool or open water (with a safety observer).
  • In-Water Proficiency:
    • One of the more challenging evolutions during SCUBA training will be the In-Water Proficiency (IWP). In this evolution the student will be required to tread water in full SCUBA gear including a weight belt and twin SCUBA cylinders for at least one minute and then orally inflate their horse collar flotation device.
    • This requires strong lower extremity strength and finning technique.
    • It is recommended that prospective students practice treading water with fins while carrying substantial extra weight and then trying blowing up a balloon while remaining on the surface.

On successful completion of the course, candidates become a certified SOCOM-approved combatant diver.

3.8 Basic Airborne Course

All candidates must attend the Basic Airborne Course delivered by the US Army at the Airborne School, Fort Benning in Georgia (CFETP, 2012).

During the 3-week course, candidates will learn the basic parachuting skills required to infiltrate an objective area by static line airdrop.

Detailed information on the 3-week Basic Airborne Course can be found here, scroll down to Section 3.2.

3.9 Military Free-Fall Parachutist Course

Successful graduation of the Basic Airborne Course entails progression to the Military Free-Fall Parachutist Course (MFFPC) which teaches high altitude, low opening (HALO) parachuting. The MFFPC course is delivered at the Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona (with some training at Jamul, California, as I understand it) and is four weeks in duration, building on the training received on the Basic Airborne Course. There are approximately 14 classes per year.

During the course candidates will perform a minimum of 30 free-fall parachute jumps – including 2 day and 2 night jumps – with supplemental oxygen, rucksack/Bergen, and load bearing equipment. Training encompasses:

  • Vertical wind tunnel training (MSG. George Bannar Wind Tunnel). Here the candidate can:
    • Safely simulate free-fall.
    • Perform emergency procedures.
    • Fine tune body position.
  • In-air instruction focussing on stability.
  • Aerial manoeuvres.
  • Air sense.
  • Parachuting operating procedures and emergency procedures (for example malfunctions, cutaways, and entanglements).
  • Learning about the in-service parachute.
  • Rigging procedures.
  • Repack procedures.
  • Jump command.
  • Oxygen system.
  • Ram Air Pararescue System (RAPS).
  • High altitude high opening (HAHO).

There is usually a candidate to instructor ratio of 2:1.

3.10 SERE Training

The 2.5-week (3-weeks?) SERE (Survival, Escape, Resistance and Evasion) training course is delivered by the US Air Force Basic Survival School, located at Fairchild AFB, Washington (CFETP, 2012).

The course teaches basic survival techniques for remote areas (using minimal equipment) and training include principles, procedures, equipment and techniques, which enable individuals to survive, regardless of climatic conditions or unfriendly environments and return home.

“Level C” training is the mandatory level (USAF, 2019, p.101).

3.11 Water Survival, Parachuting

The Water Survival, Parachuting course is located at the Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida (CFETP, 2012).

This two-day course teaches principles, procedures, techniques, and equipment that enhance a candidate’s ability to survive in a water environment and assist in their safe recovery and return to friendly control.

3.12 USAF Underwater Egress Training

Underwater Egress Training (UET) is delivered at Fairchild AFB, Washington (CFETP, 2012). As I understand it, this is a one-day course; though unsure where it sits within the training pipeline (possibly after the dive course).

SERE specialists train personnel how to safely escape from an aircraft that has landed in the water. Training includes principles, procedures and techniques necessary to escape a sinking aircraft.

The UET systems are a collection of mature technology training devices that provide emergency egress training techniques and procedures to passengers of aircraft, wheeled, and tracked vehicles from submerged water conditions.

Consequently, the purpose of UET is to enhance passenger survivability, regardless of platform or the causal factors that result in a rollover or submersion incident. UET provides this training in a coordinated physical environment in which knowledge based instruction is taught in the classroom which can then be applied and practiced in a safe, supervised and realistic environment.

UET includes a number of training devices:

  • The Modular Amphibious Egress Trainer (MAET) is a simulated generic fuselage section representing specific aircraft, cockpit and cabin emergency escape exits.
  • The Submerged Vehicle Egress Trainer (SVET) is a ground vehicle simulation of the High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) and a generic amphibious track platform.
  • Shallow Water Egress Training (SWET) training, which includes the SWET chair.
  • Familiarisation and operation of the Intermediate Passenger Helicopter Air Breathing Device (IPHABD).

3.13 Special Reconnaissance Course

The Special Reconnaissance Course, or SR Course, is the initial skills course for SR candidates. It is eight weeks in duration and delivered at Keesler AFB, Mississippi.

The primary responsibility of a SR is clandestine infiltration and environmental reconnaissance. In addition to continuing the rigorous fitness training, they also learn how to collect any and all data that could affect the battlespace.

3.14 Special Reconnaissance Apprentice Course

The Special Reconnaissance Apprentice Course is eight weeks in duration and delivered at Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina.

SR’s provide more than environmental reconnaissance, they are battlefield airmen usually operating in the middle of a war zone. This is where they learn to apply training under pressure while obtaining fundamental combat skills utilising a range of weapons and strategies.

Training will include:

  • Reconnaissance;
  • Surveillance;
  • Collection of meteorological and environmental data (from SOWT but reduced in scope);
  • Long-range precision engagement;
  • Target interdiction;
  • Combat enabling tasks;
  • Demolition;
  • Communication and signalling;
  • Human intelligence gathering;
  • Operational preparation of the environment; and
  • Tactical cyber applications.

Successful completion will see candidates awarded 3-skill level (Apprentice).

3.15 Special Tactics Training

Special Tactics Training is delivered by the Special Tactics Training Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

At six months, it is the longest segment of the training pipeline, and is also the most comprehensive with:

  • Advanced weapons;
  • Demolition training;
  • All-terrain vehicle operation; and
  • Core skills instruction.

3.16 Graduation

Graduating from the SR training pipeline, SR enlisted personnel are awarded their 5-skill level (Journeyman), Gray Beret, SR Crest, and assigned to one of the special tactics units.


4.0 Summary

The Special Reconnaissance branch is open to male and female enlisted personnel of the US Air Force. Special Reconnaissance training seeks to attract determined, highly-motivated, intelligent, reliable and physically fit individuals to serve with the US Air Force’s SOF community. This article provides the basic information to allow individuals to make an informed judgement before applying for Special Reconnaissance training.

4.1 Useful Publications

  • Air Force Policy Directives (AFPD):
    • AFPD 10-30 – Personnel Recovery. Dated 09 February 2012.
    • AFPD 10-35 – Battlefield Airmen.
    • AFPD 16-12 – Pararescue. Dated 01 July 1998.
    • AFPD 16-13 – Survival, Evasion, Resistance & Escape (SERE). Dated 01 March 2000.
  • Air Force Instructions (AFI):
    • AFI 13-112, Volume 1 – Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) Training Programme.
    • AFI 13-112, Volume 2 – Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) Standardisation/Evaluation Programme.
    • AFI 13-219, Volume 1 – Combat Control & Special Tactics Officer Training. Dated 21 April 2011.
    • AFI 13-219, Volume 2 – Combat Control & Special Tactics Officer Standardisation & Evaluation. Dated 21 April 2011.
    • AFI 15-128 – Air Force Weather Roles & Responsibilities, Air Combat Command Supplement.
    • AFI 15-135, Volume 1 – Special Operations Weather Training.
    • AFI 15-135, Volume 2 – Special Operations Weather Standardisation & Evaluation.
    • AFI 15-135, Volume 3 – Special Operations Weather Team Operations.
    • AFI 16-1202, Volume 1 – Pararescue and Combat Rescue Officer Training Programme.
    • AFI 16-1202, Volume 2 – Pararescue and Combat Rescue Officer Standardisation and Evaluation.
      • AFGCM Supplement 16-1202, Volume 2, Pararescue and Combat Rescue Officer Standardisation and Evaluation.
    • AFI 31-501 – Personnel Security Programme Management.
    • AFI 36-2210 – Airfield Operations Officer Training Programme.
    • AFI 48-123 – Medical Examinations and Standards.
  • Career Field Education & Training Plans (CFETP):
    • Career Field Education & Training Plan for AFSC 13DX, Combat Rescue Officer. Dated 01 February 2015.
    • Career Field Education & Training Plan for AFSC 15WX, Weather Officer. Dated 15 March 2012.
    • Career Field Education & Training Plan for AFSC 1C2X1, Combat Control. Dated 01 September 2014.
    • Career Field Education & Training Plan for AFSC 1T2XX, Pararescue Specialty. Dated 15 May 2008.
    • Career Field Education & Training Plan for AFSC 1W0X1-A, Weather. Dated May 2001.
    • Career Field Education & Training Plan for AFSC 1W0XX, Weather – Change 2. Dated 01 June 2010.
    • Career Field Education & Training Plan for AFSC 1W0XX, Weather – Change 5. Dated 15 March 2012.
  • Air Force Manuals (AFMAN):
    • AFMAN 10-135: Special Reconnaissance Programme.
    • AFMAN 16-1405: Personnel Security Program Management.
  • Air Force Enlisted Classification Directory (AFECD):
    • Published 30 April 2019.
    • Special Reconnaissance can be found on pages 100 to 101.
  • Reports and Studies:
  • Books:

4.2 Useful Links

4.3 References

Acosta, H., Rose, M. & Manley, G. (2014) Battlefield Airmen and Combat Support: Selection and Classification Process. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 03 March, 2016].

Dokoupil, T. (2015) Send in the Weathermen. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 10 March, 2016].

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (2016) Air Force ROTC. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 03 March, 2016].

GAO (Government Accountability Office) (2009) GAO-09-220R Military Training: Navy and Air Force Need to More Fully Apply Best Practices to Enhance Development and Management of Combat Skills Training. [Accessed: 04 March, 2016].

Joseph, M. (2011) New Element Assists TACP, CCT and PJ Trainees. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 10 March, 2016].

Pawlyk, O. (2019a) SpecOps Recruiting Squadron Helps Air Force Combat ‘Runaway Attrition’. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 13 August, 2019].

Pawlyk, O. (2019b) First Enlisted Woman to Try for Air Force Special Operations Weather Career. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 13 August, 2019].

Pellerin, C. (2015) SecDef Opens all Military Occupations to Women. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 04 December, 2015].

Rempfer, K. (2019) Spec Ops Weathermen get name Change, New Mission to Better Fight Great Powers. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 13 August, 2019].

Scott, A. (2016) Upcoming Report: US Air Force Battlefield Airmen Physical Fitness Test. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 03 March, 2016].

Soldier Systems. (2018) Air Force Battlefield Airmen to be Renamed Special Warfare. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 22 November, 2018].

Tan, M. (2010) AETC Aims to Lower Warzone Job Washouts. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 13 March, 2016].

US Air Force (2010) Special Operations Weather Team. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 10 March, 2016].

US Air Force (2011) 342D Training Squadron. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 06 March, 2016].

US Air Force (2014a) Air Force Officer Classification Directory (AFOCD). Randall Air Force Base, Texas: Air Force Personnel Centre.

US Air Force (2014b) Air Force Enlisted Classification Directory (AFECD). Randall Air Force Base, Texas: Air Force Personnel Centre.

US Air Force (2015) US Air Force Ends SOWT-O. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 09 March, 2016].

USA Jobs (2014) Training Instructor. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 03 March, 2016].

USAF (United States Air Force). (2018a) 330th Recruiting Squadron. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 14 August, 2019].

USAF (United States Air Force). (2018b) New Squadron Specializes in Battlefield Airmen Recruiting. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 14 August, 2019].

USAF (United States Air Force). (2019) Air Force Enlisted Classification Directory. 30 April 2019. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 14 August, 2019].

Vogel, J.L. (2015) Statement of General Joseph L. Vogel, U.S. Army Commander United States Special Operations Command before the House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, March 18, 2015. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 29 December, 2015].