6th SOS recognized as leader in safety, uniqueness of mission

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster, Air Force Special Operations Command commander, presented the System of Cooperation Among the Air Forces of the Americas (SICOFAA) Award to the 6th Special Operations Squadron here April 24.

This internationally recognized award promotes safety in Western Hemisphere air forces by recognizing the flight safety accomplishments of the hemisphere's military organizations. The award is presented annually to one organization in the U.S. Air Force.

The 6 SOS's exemplary execution of its challenging and unique mission made it the ideal recipient of the award. The award is open to any U. S. Air Force organization below the numbered Air Force level involved in defense, training, transport, refueling, rescue, warning, command and control, weather, or operations other than fighter, attack, bomber, or reconnaissance.

"I am extremely proud of our Air Commandos," said Lt. Col. David Tabor, 6th SOS commander. "This gets to the heart of what we do and the way we do it. We fly and fight in every area of responsibility, with eight different airframes, and we did it all in 2008 without a single class A or class B mishap."
Colonel Tabor also noted a variety of other accomplishments that make the 6th SOS stand out above the rest.

The 6th SOS is the only AFSOC squadron that simultaneously conducts rotary and fixed wing flight operations both at home and deployed.
In addition, the squadron flies non-U.S. Air Force aircraft such as the Russian Mi-17 Hip and An-26, Spanish Casa 212 and Casa 235, BT-67 Gooney Bird, the OV-10 Bronco, the Cessna 208 Caravan, and the DHC6-300 Twin Otter, said Colonel Tabor.

The end result was more than 2,000 hours flown in C-130 and UH-1 aircraft, and more than 2,500 hours in non-Air Force inventory aircraft - all without a mishap.

"No one in the U.S. military does what the combat aviation advisors of the 6th SOS do on a daily basis," Colonel Tabor said. "The squadron is a model for the future irregular warfare capability being developed within the Department of Defense, not just because of the expansion in aviation foreign internal defense, but because of the safe and professional manner that characterizes our training and operations."

The accomplishments of the 6th SOS are all the more remarkable given that they operate outside of American military standards - and must bring those standards with them. 

In addition, flying and fighting with partner nation indigenous forces poses a unique safety challenge. Combat aviation advisors must plan and operate with less-trained personnel, sporadically maintained aircraft, and across cultural and linguistic divides.

Operating in austere environments, in small teams and with sometimes limited communications back home, the squadron recognizes the need for a robust and creative risk management process.

The 6th SOS cannot afford operational risk management to be a top-down program, but one that is understood and embraced at all levels of operation.

"There's nothing standard about what we do," Colonel Tabor said. "So we bring a consistent approach to risk management. This award is indicative of the hard work and professionalism that is the hallmark of the 6th SOS, and of AFSOC."