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U.S. Air Force Special Operations School excels through innovation during COVID-19

  • Published
  • By by Ciara Travis
  • 492d Special Operations Wing

As the entire world faces the full force of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command School has not only increased their overall education output but also has switched to entirely remote learning to accommodate all Special Operations Forces students, world-wide.

Since 1967, USAFSOS has served as the bedrock of Special Operations Forces (SOF) education providing quality SOF education during peacetime, war time, catastrophic hurricanes and now, even during a pandemic crisis.

The transition to switch to remote learning was no easy task, as it took multiple parties great effort.

“To say it was an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ venture would be an understatement,” said Ms. Cynthia Crouch, USAFSOS Learning Management System Administrator. “Our staff worked in teams, at the commander's direction, to train all faculty to use new web conferencing technologies successfully through any device from any location.”

With new mission priorities and staff working diligently to ensure success, USAFSOS staff was able to take a project that was reserved for the future and within a month bring it to fruition.

“Before the pandemic, [transitioning to remote learning] was going to be a multi-year project,” said Mike Grub, USAFSOS Dean of Academics. “But because of the pandemic, our adaptability and new technology has allowed us to teach a much larger audience than we previously could.”

For many students, continuing their training pipeline through distance learning allowed for professional development despite the circumstances.

“The online format of the courses completely exceeded my expectations,” said one student anonymously in a recent course review. “The speakers did an awesome job engaging with the audience. The wealth of their knowledge and personal stories coupled with education of the heritage within the SOF community was fascinating to me. I almost prefer to do these classes through [distance learning].”

Throughout history, USAFSOS has played a major part in turning initial accession Airmen into Air Commandos by ensuring Air Force SOF are combat ready as part of their pre-deployment requirements.

“While we could never predict this would happen -- the spirit of our people and the vision we all share will continue the mission without degrading Air Commando qualification training to put aircraft in the air or teams on the ground to protect and defend our national interests,” said Mr. Joseph Polhamus, USAFSOS Director of Institutional Effectiveness. “These circumstances will propel us to be the preeminent educational center of excellence for Airpower in Irregular Warfare, Leadership, and Regional/Cultural studies.”

With Air Commandos scattered all over the globe, it is up to USAFSOS to rise and meet the growing training requirements. It’s unknown how long the current pandemic will be a feature of the landscape. It is a great example of the challenges that must be faced now and in the future to train Airmen.

“As we transition into this new normal, or the ‘abnormal’ -- we will continue to make sure our forces are prepared to meet whatever challenges our adversaries will throw at us,” said Grub.