For the first time, two special tactics airmen integrated into Marine Raider training to learn how to lead a joint ground force.

The officers from the Special Tactics Training Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida, spent four months, from January to April, immersed in the first phase of Marine Special Operations Command’s seven-month Individual Training Course.

The two airmen took part alongside nearly 100 Marines.

Col. Michael Martin, commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing, said he’s on a quest to provide joint training opportunities for his force.

In addition to sending airmen to train with other services, the wing has also implemented a three-week Leadership Development Course, which had its first run in mid-May.

The two special tactics officers brought the skills they learned from MARSOC to the new internal leadership training.

The course incorporates ground force commander training, similar to what the airmen experienced during their time with the Marines. The goal is to become better partners and leaders within the joint environment.

“We wanted to get some of that DNA blueprint of being a MARSOC Raider imprinted on some of our guys,” Martin said.

Sending more airmen to joint training allows them to return to the Air Force and share those best practices with other future leaders, he said.

“It has really fueled the diversified discussion of what are the best things for us to train in our own Leadership Development Course,” Martin said.

Two Air Force special tactics officers trained with Marines during the MARSOC Individual Training Course. (Senior Airman Ryan Conroy/Air Force)
Two Air Force special tactics officers trained with Marines during the MARSOC Individual Training Course. (Senior Airman Ryan Conroy/Air Force)

Training with Marines

The squadron sent two airmen because “we never send one — we always have a buddy team,” Martin said. “The intent was to put these guys in a position to better learn how to troop lead and how to make decisions and evaluate risks in advance of combat control school.”

The two officers were chosen because they’re still in training and haven’t gone to an operational unit. One will next head to combat control school and the other to air traffic control school.

Martin said the training prepared the airmen to “be the best they can be as leaders and being responsible for men and women going through the training pipeline.”

The two special tactics officers — the Air Force is not releasing their names because they are preparing to serve in special operations — told Air Force Times that learning from the Marines increased their abilities to lead.

“When we go to our schools, we’re working with just airmen or special tactics officer students,” said one, who’s been in the Air Force for three years. “The biggest difference was, while we were learning these new skills, we were also learning how to operate with members of a sister service, which is going to be huge for us later in our careers.”

The Air Force wants more integrated training since troops from each service work together on the battlefield. (Senior Airman Ryan Conroy/Air Force)
The Air Force wants more integrated training since troops from each service work together on the battlefield. (Senior Airman Ryan Conroy/Air Force)

Real-world experience

The first six weeks of the MARSOC training taught the participants the skills they would need for the duration of the course, the airmen said. This included communications and medical training.

After that was three weeks of Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training, followed by two weeks of amphibious assault training in Key West, Florida. The final four weeks of the course focused on ground tactics.

“The most valuable thing we learned was how to go about the planning process from guys that have experience doing that in the real world, and how to utilize all of the people on your team,” said the second officer, who has been in the Air Force for about nine months.

“The Marines were very accommodating and were very welcoming to us,” he said. “Three, four, five years from now, we’ll absolutely be able to call up any one of our teammates and work together in an operational environment.”

Integrated training is vital, he said.

“We can both be more successful because we’re not going to be working in a vacuum, no matter where we’re operating at,” said the airman who’s been in for three years.

The Air Force will continue to send airman to MARSOC training as well as to Army Ranger School.

Charlsy Panzino covers the Guard and Reserve, training, technology, operations and features for Army Times and Air Force Times. Email her at cpanzino@militarytimes.com.