Sunday, November 19, 2006

Air Force Special Tatics Officers

So much is made of other special operations soldiers, that the Air Force STO's are often overlooked and mostly unknown to the general public. I feel that the everyone in the military deserves our gratitude and appreciation for their service. But, I have a profound respect for any special operations warrior. They have unique abilities and an unmatched dedication to each other and to the completion of their mission.
Air Force has its own version of Rangers
STOs have to go through tough training

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. - His eyes rolling back as his lungs filled, rescue swimmers brought Nathan Carlson to the side of a dive pool. He refused to leave the water because that would have signaled the end of his dream of being an elite special tactics officer, the Air Force's version of the Navy SEALS or Army Rangers.

Carlson and seven other men recently began a grueling weeklong course hoping to be selected to start the two-and-a-half-year STO training program. Only two would make the cut.

The men would go for days on a few hours of sleep and have to fight their bodies and minds as they pushed themselves beyond limits while enduring psychological tests.

"This is their ticket to the special forces game," said Capt. Frank Rodriguez, a training officer with extensive combat experience. "The level of intensity they show us during this week is the level of intensity they need to show through the entire process."

But surviving physical and mental strains aren't enough. Officers in one of the least publicized of the military's special forces also need serious academic skills. Many have engineering degrees.
70 strong

Those who make it through the audition will travel with SEAL or Ranger teams behind enemy lines to set up air traffic control, scope out landing zones and do high-tech reconnaissance. There are 70 STOs (pronounced "stows") in the Air Force. Because they do front-line combat jobs, they are an all-male force.

Capt. Dennis Cook, an Army Ranger at Camp Rudder on Eglin Air Force Base, where Rangers go through their final and most difficult training, said STOs have long been among the elite special forces

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