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Importance of staying connected

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Paul Brister
  • 720th Operations Support Squadron
Anytime, Anywhere. To the warriors of Air Force Special Operations Command, these are more than words. They are the foundation upon which a selfless and courageous ethos is built. It is an ethos that has led the men and women of AFSOC to engage in dogged combat for over a decade. For one AFSOC community in particular, this form of warfare has led to eye-to-eye engagements with American enemies on a near-daily basis.

Special Tactics remains a relative secret within U.S. Special Operations Command. Comprised of combat control, pararescue, special operations weather, tactical air control party, special operations surgical teams, and specialized combat mission support career fields, the Special Tactics community has emerged as one of the most highly decorated in the Department of Defense. Since 2001, Special Tactics warriors have earned five Air Force Crosses, 28 Silver Stars, 11 Outstanding Airmen of the Year Awards, and 14 Sijan Awards for heroic actions in combat. As you would expect, the demands of this service are extreme. Owing to the sheer violence of modern warfare, many ST warriors pay a tremendous price for their service.

In an ongoing effort to build resiliency and provide innovative solutions to mental, physical, or psychological injuries, U.S. Special Operations Command stood up the Preservation of the Force and Family (POTFF) Task Force to address the long term well-being of Special Operations soldiers. Identifying needs within the AFSOC community, Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel, AFSOC commander, seized the opportunity and brought a team of psychologists, physical trainers, clinical social workers, family readiness coordinators, and strength coaches into the command. Thus far, the results have been staggering, helping to build a foundation of combat resiliency that will ensure AFSOC warriors are physically, psychologically, spiritually, and socially prepared for the demands of combat.

An aspect of the POTFF initiative that routinely goes unheralded is the involvement of non-profit organizations dedicated to the care and welfare of American combat forces. The Special Tactics community recently benefited from the charity of one such organization. Operation Homelink, a non-profit organization founded to support service members with the use of computer technology, donated over 200 Litl web book computers to the 720th Special Tactics Group in an effort to help families stay in touch during long deployments.

When told of the donation, Col. Kurt Buller, 720th STG commander, was stunned by the generosity. "I am exceedingly grateful for organizations like Operation Homelink and companies like Litl that continue to support our down range teammates and their families after a decade of war. This is a testament to both the compassion and the tenacity of our society. We appreciate the enduring support."

Buller's gratitude was echoed as web books were distributed to six different Special Tactics squadrons arrayed across the country. From Tacoma, Wash., and Fort Benning, Ga., to Fort Bragg, N.C. and Hurlburt Field, Fla., families were overjoyed to receive the innovative systems. Lt. Col. Jason Self, commander of the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, distributed the computers as his squadron finished preparations for their next Afghanistan deployment.

"This offered a special holiday gift to many squadron members," he said. "The donations are a gracious reminder that our nation's military is constantly backed, and the sacrifices our men and women make every day for the United States are not forgotten."

The computers were put to instant use by spouses, children, friends, and families of Special Tactics Airmen across the country. CMSgt. Troy Lundquist of the 17th Special Tactics Squadron noted that he had seen families using the computers for school research, for communicating with loved ones, and--to the relief of many parents--playing games while parents worked around the house.

Dan Shannon, president and founder of Operation Homelink declared, "we are honored to provide computers to anyone who wears, or has worn, the uniform. We are especially proud to provide this communication to the men and women of the Special Tactics community, who are literally at the tip of the spear in today's fight and who continue to relentlessly push the fight to our enemies. It is important that these proud warriors understand that while no monies were exchanged for these computers, they were not free. They were earned when each of these brave Airmen signed up to serve their country. They have been earned not only by those serving on the front line, but--just as importantly--by the spouses, parents, and children serving on the homefront."