Green Beret Experience: Air Commandos try ground ops

Airmen assigned to Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., participate in a full mission profile exercise during the Green Beret Experience, Dec. 15, 2016 at Melrose Air Force Range, N.M. Taught by U.S. Army Green Berets, the Green Beret Experience is a four-day event featuring weapons and ground operations training intended give Airmen an idea of what it's like to be a member of the Army's elite ground force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr./Released)

Airmen assigned to Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., participate in a full mission profile exercise during the Green Beret Experience, Dec. 15, 2016 at Melrose Air Force Range, N.M. Taught by U.S. Army Green Berets, the Green Beret Experience is a four-day event featuring weapons and ground operations training intended give Airmen an idea of what it's like to be a member of the Army's elite ground force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr./Released)

Airmen participating in the Green Beret Experience infiltrate a training area Dec. 15, 2016, at Melrose Air Force Range, N.M. Airmen assigned to Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., were trained and tutored by U.S. Army Green Berets over a four day period to get an in-depth experience of all the facets of tactical ground operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shelby Kay-Fantozzi/Released)

Airmen participating in the Green Beret Experience infiltrate a training area Dec. 15, 2016, at Melrose Air Force Range, N.M. Airmen assigned to Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., were trained and tutored by U.S. Army Green Berets over a four day period to get an in-depth experience of all the facets of tactical ground operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shelby Kay-Fantozzi/Released)

Airmen participating in the Green Beret Experience set up a target for an airdrop Dec. 13, 2016, at Melrose Air Force Range, N.M. Airmen assigned to Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., were trained and tutored by U.S. Army Green Berets over a four day period to get an in-depth experience of all the facets of tactical ground operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shelby Kay-Fantozzi/Unreleased)

Airmen participating in the Green Beret Experience set up a target for an airdrop Dec. 13, 2016, at Melrose Air Force Range, N.M. Airmen assigned to Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., were trained and tutored by U.S. Army Green Berets over a four day period to get an in-depth experience of all the facets of tactical ground operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shelby Kay-Fantozzi/Unreleased)

Tech. Sgt. John McDaniel, 27th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron, demonstrates proper air drop bundle securing practices during the Green Beret Experience, Dec. 12, 2016 at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. In addition to creating the bundles, U.S. Army Green Berets taught participants to call the airdrops in to aircraft, and prepare a drop zone. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Amstutz/Unreleased)

Tech. Sgt. John McDaniel, 27th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron, demonstrates proper air drop bundle securing practices during the Green Beret Experience, Dec. 12, 2016 at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. In addition to creating the bundles, U.S. Army Green Berets taught participants to call the airdrops in to aircraft, and prepare a drop zone. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Amstutz/Unreleased)

Airmen assigned to Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., participate in M-4 shooting drills during the Green Beret Experience, Dec. 12, 2016. Taught by U.S. Army Green Berets, the Green Beret Experience is a four-day event featuring weapons and ground operations training intended give Airmen an idea of what it’s like to be a member of the Army’s elite ground force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Amstutz/Unreleased)

Airmen assigned to Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., participate in M-4 shooting drills during the Green Beret Experience, Dec. 12, 2016. Taught by U.S. Army Green Berets, the Green Beret Experience is a four-day event featuring weapons and ground operations training intended give Airmen an idea of what it’s like to be a member of the Army’s elite ground force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Amstutz/Unreleased)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --  

The United States Special Operations Command owes its existence to Operation Eagle Claw, a joint mission that fell apart over the deserts of Iran in 1980. Since USSOCOM’s 1987 activation, Special Operations Forces from each branch of the DoD have trained extensively on how to work as a team.

For members of Have Ace-West led by U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 John Bryant and U.S. Army Master Sgt. Justin Hummer, that joint training needed a dose of reality and adrenaline—so Cannon’s Green Beret Experience was born.

“I saw a gap,” Hummer explained. “There’s a lot of Joint Special Operations University courses that teach SOF personnel how to work with each other, and a lot of individuals at Cannon have been to those courses. There’s a lot that you can get out of a slideshow, but there’s also a lot you can get from being down on the ground executing the mission with the right people.”

In October, Have Ace-West laid a plan for a five-day training experience at Melrose Air Force Range for Airmen who might not otherwise get to train directly with Soldiers in the Special Operations community.

Already in its second iteration, the experience is expanding, bringing in more Air Commandos and more diverse training.

“GBX is becoming more robust each time,” Hummer said. “Initially, the participants were able to go to the range, do some small unit tactics and work in an urban environment, and then we did a full mission profile.”

December’s most recent experience tacked on two more pieces of essential ground operations knowledge.

“During this training rotation, we built aerial delivery bundles with the supervision of Cannon’s Aerial Delivery Riggers, then established an austere environment drop zone where the students were able to watch the bundles being delivered via the MC-130J aircraft,” said Hummer.

Airmen also conducted a Call For Fire with an AC-130W gunship, then trained for close-quarters battle in an urban environment.

The experience strives both to boost morale and educate Air Commandos on the trials and triumphs of working on the ground.

“Having talked to folks in places like maintenance and other sections, we wanted to give them a better understanding of what we do, why we’re here, and what the Air Force role is in supporting ground operations,” Hummer said.

The joint operations concept hit home toward the end of the week with a full mission profile, a training experience with myriad moving parts that takes Air Commandos as close as they can get to the real deal.

“It’s really cool to see Airmen practicing the training we’ve provided them over just three days, exchanging rounds with an opposing force and understanding how they’ll react to being shot at in the streets,” Hummer said. “We then added in those additional stressors of a casualty and opposing forces. It’s a training environment, and the Have Ace-West instructors all guide them and lead them through the experience, but it feels realistic.”

Air Commandos interested in taking part in the experience should request more information from their supervisor. The next experience is slated for mid-March, and the Joint Ground Liaison Office hopes to expand to 6-8 Airmen from each of Cannon’s groups.

“We’re aiming for the groups to send the hard-charger type individual,” said Hummer. “The one that’s there working hard every day. We don’t dictate the specifics here, all we want is people who are motivated to train.”

Motivated Air Commandos might just get a chance to take a hands-on approach to learning the ins and outs of joint Special Operations.

“I want the Airman that’s turning wrenches on an engine to understand how important their job is at the end of the day,” Bryant said. “After GBX, they will have a better understanding of how their work supports the operator on the ground during training or real world missions, and they can have greater satisfaction in their job.”