The Air Force is setting up a new Battlefield Airmen Training Group to oversee the selection and training of elite combat ground forces airmen such as pararescuemen and combat controllers.

In a June 3 release, the Air Force said the new unit will be under the 37th Training Wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas, and will replace the 342nd Training Squadron. The training group was officially activated June 2, the Air Force said, but the five new training squadrons it will oversee will be activated later this summer.

The group will consolidate and streamline training for conventional and special operations ground forces, such as combat controllers, pararescuemen, special operations weathermen and tactical air control party airmen.

The release said the newly -formed unit will focus on training combat airmen "who integrate air and ground operations on the joint battlefield."

"Our mission at the Battlefield Airmen Training Group is to select, train and mentor airmen for global combat operations," Col. Ronald Stenger, a special tactics officer and the first commander of the new group, said in the release. "We will breed quiet professionals, infused with a warrior ethos and fueled by scholarship and innovation."

The new unit hopes to reduce costs and increase efficiencies during the training process, the release said.

Under the old system, trainees would return to Joint Base San Antonio, which served as a "hub," after finishing one school before getting the order to attend their next school.

But now, trainees will head directly from one unit to another as they finish each phase of their training.

The Air Force said the new system will improve processes and programs for recruiting combat airmen, and managing manpower and leadership, equipment, infrastructure and the curricula for training them.

The training group's five new squadrons include:

  • The 350th Battlefield Airmen Training Squadron, which will be an initial entry course for battlefield airmen at Lackland.
  • The 351st Battlefield Airmen Training Squadron, a pararescue training course at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.
  • The 352nd Battlefield Airmen Training Squadron, a combat control and special operations weather training course at Pope Army Airfield in North Carolina.
  • The 353rd Battlefield Airmen Training Squadron, a TACP training course at Lackland.
  • Detachment 1, Battlefield Airmen Training Group, a training support squadron at Lackland.

The Air Force said that at any given time, it is training anywhere from 1,000 to and 1,500 prospective battlefield airmen. But only about 20 percent of those will actually graduate.

Tragedy struck the the squadron that the training group will replace, the 342nd Training Squadron, on April 8 when its commander, Lt. Col. William Schroeder, was shot and killed by pararescue student Technical Sgt. Steven Bellino, who then killed himself.

Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter at Defense News. He previously reported for, covering the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare. Before that, he covered U.S. Air Force leadership, personnel and operations for Air Force Times.

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