HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. --
Scott Fales’ demeanor wouldn’t lead to believe the long list of accomplishments he has.
The retired Air Force master sergeant spent 20 years on active duty, primarily as a pararescueman, and in that time he saw conflict across the glove from Panama to Somalia. He’s earned a Silver Star Medal, Purple Heart, and been inducted into both the U.S. Special Operations Command Hall of Fame and the Air Commando Association Commando Hall of Honor.
“Scott epitomizes what you would think of as a ‘Quiet Professional,’” said Michael Rizzuto, chief of staff for the 724th Special Operations Group and compatriot of Fales’ for more than 30 years. “He never brags about his accolades or seeks attention, but make no mistake, he is a warrior.”
Fales spent many years assigned to the 24th Special Tactics Squadron at Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina, working as one of the primary combat search and rescue planners and designing plans for some of special operations’ most complex missions.
Upon his retirement from active duty in 1997, Fales transitioned to a position with the Joint Service Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Agency, starting another 20+ year career. His civilian duties never took him far from his passion: rescue and personnel recovery.
“I love a good combat mission, saving lives, and enjoy the challenge of depriving the enemy of opportunities to capture and hold our operators,” said Fales.
He made his way back to Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 2006, eventually working his way to his final position as director of Strategic Plans and Programs and combat development for the 724th Special Tactics Group at Pope Field, North Carolina.
‘Cut from the same cloth’
“In Special Tactics, you work with the best operators and support in the world, bar none,” said Fales. “It takes courage and a force of will to live the SOF life because it’s not just a job, it’s a calling.”
The tight-knit SOF community kept Fales engaged until the very end, where his role gave him the opportunity to help not just his pararescue brethren, but the whole ST and SOF enterprise.
“Across my 42 years, I’ve confirmed that it doesn’t matter if you’re Army SOF, Navy/Marine SOF, or Air Force SOF, the people are cut from the same tough, flexible cloth, period,” he said.
Fales’ love for his work and the care he takes in accomplishing the mission has continuously set him apart from his peers.
“His tireless work ethic and positive attitude have not changed in the 30 years I have known him,” said Rizzuto. “His extensive combat experience and expertise as a Pararescueman provides him a level of instant credibility. His absolute professionalism and his can do attitude has made him a true leader in Air Force Special Operations Command and the joint community."
Despite being a legendary figure in the ST world, Fales never saw himself as different from his peers, never being anything other than a good teammate.
“With all those phenomenal people around you, it’s hard to think you have any more impact than the man to the left or right of you,” he said.
The future of ST
Fales’ involvement in the evolution of ST dates all the way back to the days of Tactical Air Command in 1980, while his final position with the 724th STG saw him heavily invested in developing for future conflicts.
“The future was specifically designed for ST,” said Fales. “The contested environment is where ST thrives, and in this new and demanding battlespace, the coherent integration of air power and Special Tactics enabled by leadership, discipline, intellect, advanced technology and fueled by innovation will pave the way for unimagined new capabilities to surprise and defeat our enemies.”
Fales proved he was just as capable at navigating bureaucratic channels as he was in a firefight, deftly articulating the requirements his operators had and increasing their budget in a time of significant fiscal restraint.
“He led our innovation efforts, working to give our warriors the equipment that provided them a competitive edge on the battlefield over our adversaries,” said Rizzuto. “His contributions to Special Tactics and special operations will be felt for years to come.”
“Missions come and go, and don’t get me wrong, I love a good and tough mission, whether I’m in it or supporting it, but my fondest memories will always be of the people,” Fales said. “Active duty and civilian, I have met, worked with, trained with, and bled with the greatest people in the Air Force family.”
He looks back on the years and credits the tight-knit ST enterprise for keeping him together through everything. To him, special operations is a special community of like-minded, intelligent, smart, adaptive and adventurous people that he will surely miss.
“ST is my home, it’s where the mission is real, the people are even more real, and it’s where my surrogate family will always be,” Fales said. “Active duty and civilian, I have worked with, trained with, and bled with the greatest people in the Air Force family. I’ll be forever grateful to the Air Force for providing me with an opportunity to serve for so many years, and I’m even more grateful to the men and women who stand in the breach every day to stem the tide of evil.”