At a ceremony Monday, they dissolved the long-standing Special Operations Training Center at Hurlburt Field, rolling its mission into a larger one: the Air Force Special Operations Air Warfare Center. The new center will combine training and education with weapons testing and evaluation, as well as preparing airmen to deploy for counter-insurgency operations.
The Special Operations Air Warfare Center was originally formed at Hurlburt Field in 1962 to train and deploy some of the first special operations airmen, including the elite Jungle Jim commandos, but was dissolved after the Vietnam War due to budget cuts.
As the Air Force has continued to expand its irregular warfare capability in recent years, they lacked an organization able to integrate the various efforts. The Air Warfare Center will help solve that, said Brigadier Gen. Jon Weeks, who took over command of the center at the ceremony Monday.
“This is a great opportunity to bring back those functions we started in 1962, to go back to that model of irregular warfare/building partnership capacity, testing and training all under a single commander,” Weeks said after the ceremony.
The Air Warfare Center will oversee the missions of all the units that fell under the former training center at Hurlburt, and add the 919th Air Reserves Special Operations Wing at Duke Field and two Air Guard units in Mississippi and Alabama. The move will streamline command of the various missions and could lead to some cost savings down the road, Weeks said.
Col. William Anderson, who had been the commander of the Special Operations Training Center, stepped down from his position Monday. He will be retiring from the military after serving more than 20 years.
He began working to re-create the Air Warfare Center last summer.
Since then, all the airmen involved have had to work to stand up the new center while continuing to train and educate new air commandos.
“It’s been an incredible honor to be your commander,” Anderson said to the special operations men and women gathered for the ceremony. “You can be justifiably proud of all your accomplishments in these few short months.”
He said the Air Warfare Center was an exciting place to be right now as they forge a new future for special operations command.
Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel, commander of Air Force Special Operations at Hurlburt, echoed the sentiment.
“These achievements will be felt through the special operations community for decades to come,” he said.
Among other duties, the Air Warfare Center will organize, train, educate and equip special operations forces; lead major command of counter-insurgency and irregular warfare missions; test and evaluate weapons programs; and develop tactics, techniques and guidelines for special operations missions.
Headquarters for the Air Warfare Center will be located at Hurlburt Field, with operating locations at Duke Field and Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, according to public affairs for the Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt.
About 850 active-duty and 900 reserve airmen will fall under the center’s command.
Weeks, who was previously a special assistant to the commander of Air Force Special Operations at Hurlburt, said now that the Air Warfare Center is officially up and running they can concentrate on their added responsibility of preparing airmen to deploy for counter-insurgency operations. In addition, they will be looking for ways to make the operation run better.
“Honestly, we’re going to have to look at some efficiencies and how we do business, particularly in training,” he said. “How can we possibly make this more efficient?”
He said he was honored, excited and humbled by the opportunity to command the Air Warfare Center.
“I couldn’t ask for a more professional group to serve with,” he said during the ceremony. “Today we start a new chapter of a full-force enterprise to be a model for the rest of the Air Force.”
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Lauren Sage Reinlie at 850-315-4443 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LaurenRnwfdn.