Air Force Special Forces Careers
As commissioned officers, graduates of the Air Force ROTC program will have three options of Special Forces Careers: Combat Rescue Officer (CRO), Special Tactics Officer (STO), and Tactical Air Control Party (TACP). Every Special Warfare career is highly specialized and requires high-levels of mental and physical strength along with fearless commitment.
Combat Rescue Officer (CRO)
When servicemen are injured and rendered immobile on the front lines, their life depends on a swift, effective evacuation. Responsible for organizing and strategizing recovery operations, Combat Rescue Officers provide the insights and skill essential for rescue missions to succeed. These highly capable and courageous Airmen not only train, equip, and develop necessary survival skills in rescue personnel, but will often deploy into direct combat as a member of the rescue team themselves.
Special Tactics Officer (STO)
Special Tactics Officers lead teams of enlisted special operations airmen to seize and control airstrips, guide airstrikes that support ground units, conduct combat search and rescue, and much more, often in collaboration with similar forces from other branches. STO’s are the Air Force’s all-purpose special forces leaders.
In order to become a CRO or STO, a cadet must be superbly physically and mentally fit. This site gives information on the minimum requirements to pass the Physical Abilities Stamina Test (PAST) used by Air Force Special Operations. However, simply meeting these minimum standards will not be sufficient to pass the selection process. Cadets interested in CRO/STO fields have a very specific application process that includes two phases of training while in ROTC, and if selected, the approximately 2-year-long training pipeline after commissioning. First, cadets submit a Phase I application package to Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) once they have completed field training. If selected, cadets attend the week-long “Selection” program at Hurlburt Field, Florida. During this program, cadets’ physical, mental, and leadership abilities are constantly being evaluated. After Selection, the few cadets who pass all physical tests and meet the leadership and cognitive selection criteria are offered a slot in the CRO/STO training pipeline, which closely resembles the training of Navy SEALs and is designed to allow only the best and brightest candidates through.
Tactical Air Control Party (TACP)
There are few things that can change the course of battle like a properly executed air strike. As members of Air Force Special Warfare, Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) specialists imbed with Army and Marine units on the frontline with the incredible responsibility of calling in an air strike on the right target at just the right time. These highly trained experts go through intense physical, mental and technical training in order to withstand the demanding conditions of battle and provide their team with the firepower they need for continued success on the battlefield.