Future officers forfeit summer to train with Special Tactics

An ROTC cadet swims during a physical training competition --called a "monster mash"-- at a Special Tactics orientation course at Hurlburt Field, Fla., July 29, 2016. Run twice a summer by the 24th Special Operations Wing, 48 cadets spent a week learning what it takes to become a Special Tactics officer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

An ROTC cadet swims during a physical training competition --called a "monster mash"-- at a Special Tactics orientation course at Hurlburt Field, Fla., July 29, 2016. Run twice a summer by the 24th Special Operations Wing, 48 cadets spent a week learning what it takes to become a Special Tactics officer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

Air Force ROTC cadets bear-crawl during a physical training competition --called a "monster mash"-- at a Special Tactics orientation course at Hurlburt Field, Fla., July 29, 2016. Run twice a summer by the 24th Special Operations Wing, 48 cadets spent a week learning what it takes to become a Special Tactics officer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

Air Force ROTC cadets bear-crawl during a physical training competition --called a "monster mash"-- at a Special Tactics orientation course at Hurlburt Field, Fla., July 29, 2016. Run twice a summer by the 24th Special Operations Wing, 48 cadets spent a week learning what it takes to become a Special Tactics officer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

Air Force ROTC cadets wade into the water during a physical training competition --called a "monster mash"-- at a Special Tactics orientation course at Hurlburt Field, Fla., July 29, 2016. Run twice a summer by the 24th Special Operations Wing, 48 cadets spent a week learning what it takes to become a Special Tactics officer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

Air Force ROTC cadets wade into the water during a physical training competition --called a "monster mash"-- at a Special Tactics orientation course at Hurlburt Field, Fla., July 29, 2016. Run twice a summer by the 24th Special Operations Wing, 48 cadets spent a week learning what it takes to become a Special Tactics officer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

Master Sgt. Ismael Villegas, section chief assigned to the Special Tactics Training Squadron recruitment, assessment and selection team, quizzes ROTC cadets during a Special Tactics orientation course at Hurlburt Field, Fla., July 29, 2016. Run twice a summer by the 24th Special Operations Wing, 48 cadets spent a week learning what it takes to become a Special Tactics officer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

Master Sgt. Ismael Villegas, section chief assigned to the Special Tactics Training Squadron recruitment, assessment and selection team, quizzes ROTC cadets during a Special Tactics orientation course at Hurlburt Field, Fla., July 29, 2016. Run twice a summer by the 24th Special Operations Wing, 48 cadets spent a week learning what it takes to become a Special Tactics officer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. --

During the summer, most college students are enjoying a much-needed break from their studies or working a part-time job to pay for school.

Instead, nearly 50 Air Force ROTC cadets across the nation chose to push through grueling workouts and leadership challenges during a week-long Special Tactics orientation course here.

Run twice a summer by the Air Force's only Special Tactics wing, Airmen from the 24th Special Operations Wing taught 48 cadets what it takes to become a Special Tactics officer.

“It’s a chance for the cadets to come in here to get a feel for what Special Tactics careers are like,” said John Thomas, director of the recruiting, assessment and selection section at Special Tactics Training Squadron. “It’s an opportunity for them to get a look at us and for us to get a good look at them as prospective Special Tactics Officers.”

Special Tactics officers lead Special Tactics Airmen and other special operations forces to integrate, synchronize and control air power for ground missions. Specifically, STOs plan and execute precision strike, global access and personnel recovery missions. 

Because of the demands of the STO career field, there was a heavy emphasis on physical training and leadership during the course. The events included ruck marching, water confidence orientation, a medical kit carry and a Monster Mash, a combination of Special Tactics physical challenges.

“We put them through physical and leadership scenarios to give them a better background on what it takes to be a leader in the Air Force,” said Thomas. “We put them in front of young officers who have shown themselves to be successful leaders; it shows the cadets what characteristics and qualities to emulate.”

The week is similar to a selection process for Special Tactics officer candidates, according to Thomas. Cadets are placed in teams, where each one is afforded the opportunity to lead as a training leader or an assistant training leader.

“No matter what you come to do in the Air Force, I believe that what you’ve experienced here this week will make you a better officer and leader,” said Col. Michael Martin, commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing during a face-to-face meeting with the cadets. “At the end of the day, you’re going to serve this nation one way or another in the Air Force and that’s a great thing.”

More than 80 cadets across the nation submitted applications to their detachment commanders to attend the summer program here.

Luke Raines, an ROTC cadet from the University of Maryland, applied for the training to get a better understanding of what he would have to do to become a STO.

“Since 9th grade in high school, as soon as I found out the Air Force had Special Operations, this is what I’ve wanted to do,” said Raines. “This week allowed me to get hands-on experience and information on the career. If you want to become a STO out of ROTC, this is an event you should seriously consider applying for.”

To select the cadets, the RAS cadre considered their Physical Ability and Stamina Test scores, completion of ROTC field training and ranking in their detachments.

“We’ve already invested in you. There are a lot of individuals that wanted to come to this and you made the cut,” said Martin. “You have the ability to make an educated and informed decision and you can help mentor and shape other cadets in your detachments who show interest.”

For cadets interested in Special Tactics orientation course, ROTC detachment commanders will receive next year's application in February, with an April suspense. Click here for more information about joining the Special Tactics community.