Special Warfare AFROTC weekend provides hands-on career field exposure to cadets

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Kim Bender, Air University Public Affairs

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala.-- The first-ever Special Warfare Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Weekend, or SWAW, took place April 8-10, 2022, at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado, for cadets to gain experience in and exposure to the selection process for the high-demand, low-density 19Z career fields.

The goal of the SWAW is to recruit and prepare cadets interested in Air Force Special Warfare to become better candidates for the screening and selection process, as they are the only officer Air Force specialty codes that require a pre-commissioning screener. The career fields include Special Tactics, Tactical Air Control Party and Combat Rescue.

Both AFROTC and USAFA have historically not filled their annual commissioning slots and this could impact mission readiness. For this commissioning year, AFROTC only filled 25% of the 19Z slots allocated.

“AFSPECWAR selection and training are physically and mentally demanding to ensure our future second lieutenants are prepared to lead our enlisted personnel in conflict. Unfortunately, the initial exposure cadets typically receive is at the actual screening,” said Col. John Graver from AF/A3S Air Force Special Warfare and SWAW lead. “SWAW is an opportunity to get exposure to the career fields and these demands in a purely hands-on training and educational setting, thereby providing foundational skills they may take back to their detachments to develop or refine their own Special Warfare Clubs.”

The SWAW was organized by an SW cohort led by Col. Graver and USAFA cadets from the SW Club to formalize the outreach to AFROTC Detachments. The weekend’s event included 21 cadets from Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico universities throughout the northwest and southwest regions.

The event exposed cadets to many facets of the Special Warfare including AFSPECWAR history and application process, troop leading procedures and tactical decision making, patrolling and reacting to contact, tactical combat casualty care, water confident events, land fitness and ruck marching, leadership reaction events, decision making, and interviews.  At the end, cadets conducted an interview and received feedback on their performance over the weekend according to the eight SW attributes they will be selected upon should they aspire to join AFSPECWAR.

“The number one feedback from cadets was that they wished they had more time, so we know we are close to hitting the mark on confirming the foundational skills and events to garner interest in SW and provide a better candidate for the selection. These formalized lesson plans, operational risk management, and strength and conditioning programs tested at SWAW will be available soon for detachments to access,” said Graver. “We want to create options for cadets so attending courses like this are not the only access points for such information and exposure.” 

These courses build upon one another as SWAW provided a condensed version of the Special Warfare Orientation Course professional development training event held at USAFA June 4-17 and June 18-July 1, 2022. 

SWOC is a 2-week Professional Development Training for AFROTC and a summer program for USAFA cadets. SWOC is a condensed version of what USAFA cadets in the SW Club receive over the course of their academic year.

AFROTC detachments with interest in developing or refining their cadet Special Warfare Club may reach out to Col. Graver for access to formalized information at john.graver.1@us.af.mil