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USAFSOS courses craft diplomatic warriors

  • Published
  • By Rachel Arroyo
  • Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs
An instructor lit a Molotov cocktail and threw it at his target to illustrate the type of explosion this cheap, homemade weapon produces.

Audience members could feel the heat produced by the massive fireball that swallowed the test site.

Lt. Col. Dan Wilson, chief of the irregular warfare division of the United States Air Force Special Operations School, was participating in the Dynamics of International Terrorism demonstration.

The weapons demonstration is hosted by USAFSOS in conjunction with its Dynamics of International Terrorism course, a weeklong class introducing students to terrorist threats posed worldwide and corresponding antiterrorism measures.

Dynamics of International Terrorism is one of 16 specialized, special operations focused courses USAFSOS offers AFSOC personnel free of charge.

"Our courses deliver college-level material that is cutting edge," said Col. Eric Ray, USAFSOS commandant.
"Subject matter experts from across the nation are brought on to academically challenge the individual."

Through education, USAFSOS seeks to shape "3D warriors" skilled in defense, diplomacy and development.

Air Commandos must be warriors, but they must be culturally aware negotiators as well, Wilson said. The school provides that cultural context.

Since its establishment in 1968, USAFSOS has been working to produce these culturally savvy warriors. In its first year, the school graduated 300. Now, USAFSOS graduates about 3,000 annually, Wilson said.

AFSOC Airmen are indoctrinated into special operations with an overview of the command and U.S. Special Operations Command in the Introduction to Special Operations Course.

Following Introduction to Special Operations, students move on to mid-level education, which includes Dynamics of International Terrorism, the Contemporary Insurgent Warfare Course, and the Insurgency and Foreign Internal Defense Course, to name a few.

Advanced Special Operations Forces education continues in a variety of theater courses and the Mission Commander's Course, which is tailored to allow commanders to exchange experiences and review scenarios as a means of bolstering leadership.

Capt. Justin Mahoney, who teaches Insurgency and Foreign Internal Defense, said USAFSOS aims for its students to continue SOF-focused educational development with more advanced courses as they become seasoned professionals.

Classes give students a macro-level perspective of the issues.

"These courses help individuals understand the dynamics of the conflicts they are going to be involved in," Mahoney said.

For example, in the DIT course, students listen to firsthand experiences of Sept. 11 and Khobar Towers survivors. They see how body armor and bulletproof glass withstand a variety of munitions.

Capt. Michael Small, a Dynamics of International Terrorism instructor, said his class provides great predeployment training.

"This course helps prepare students before they go downrange so they don't have a false sense of security," Small said.

Instructors in all classes encourage an open dialogue. The school's non-attribution policy allows for academic freedom and exchange.

While enrollment priority goes first to AFSOC personnel, SOF and SOF enablers, the courses are open to Department of Defense employees.

Most courses offer Community College of the Air Force credit.

Ray, USAFSOS commandant, said he recognizes taking a week off from work to attend a course can be difficult. For this reason, USAFSOS is willing to tailor education to meet the needs of the individual.

Prospective students can issue a mobile education team request by phone or online. Instructors are willing to provide briefings on station for AFSOC personnel, be it over a lunch break or as a part of Wingman Day.

Training to promote an understanding of AFSOC priorities and cultural awareness is worth it, Ray said.

"We teach guys how to shoot, how to survive, but some of the things they learn here could help prevent them from getting into physical situations downrange."

For course information or to issue a mobile education team request, visit