Special operations mission grows on several fronts

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Maj. Gen. Michael W. Wooley assumed command of Air Force Special Operations Command during a ceremony here July 1.  (Courtesy photo)

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WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- The commander of Air Force Special Operations Command spoke at the 2006 Air Force Association Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition here Sept. 26 about the importance and growth of special operation forces.

"We're growing on a lot of different fronts," said Lt. Gen. Michael W. Wooley.

"We're starting a second wing," the general said. "We're standing back up the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Fla., and moving the 16th Special Operations Wing from Hurlburt Field to Cannon Air Force Base, N.M."

The 1st SOW standup is scheduled for Nov. 16.

Special operations have grown to two wings with more than 13,000 Airmen and many types of equipment, the general said.

"We've got 570 slots that we're looking for people with aviation, language and maintenance skills to fill," General Wooley said. "We're growing. We will have an equal capability at Cannon as we do at Hurlburt Field, and we're doubling our capability in foreign internal defense, and the need for that type of individual in today's Air Force will continue to grow."

Following General Wooley's remarks, Tech. Sgt. Scott Innis, a combat controller with the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron at McChord AFB, Wash., shared his experiences of his days in Afghanistan while in direct and indirect fire with enemies.

"I was stationed in the Helmand Province," Sergeant Innis said. "The area is a well-known safe haven for the enemy and anti-coalition forces."

The sergeant spoke of the situations he faced while deployed in Afghanistan and displayed photographs of the fire-base, which is a staging area of operation.

"We used B-52 Stratofortresses, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, UH-60 Black Hawks, AH-64 Apaches and MH-47 Chinooks," Sergeant Innis said. "We had some members of the (Afghanistan national army) with us as well."

The sergeant emphasized the many different elements that compose special operations forces, such as aircrafts, weapons, technical skills, situations servicemembers may face and the many dangers in deployed areas.

"There were times where I thought I was going to die," Sergeant Innis said. He was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor for his actions while deployed in Afghanistan.