LACKLAND, TX- For the first time in U.S. military history, the Air Force activated a unit solely dedicated to train the service’s ground component, June 2 at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.
This ground-breaking initiative addresses the growing need for fifth-generation warriors 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,” said Col. Ronald Stenger, inaugural commander of the BA TG and special tactics officer. “We will breed quiet professionals, infused with a warrior ethos and fueled by scholarship and innovation.”
Members of the group will consolidate and streamline training for the Air Force’s conventional and special operations ground forces. These ground forces include combat controllers, pararescuemen, special operations weathermen and tactical air control party Airmen.
BA TG leadership aims to improve processes and programs across five pillars – recruiting, manpower & leadership, equipment, infrastructure and curriculum. The effort starts with successful BA leadership forging and developing Airmen for the battlefield, according to Stenger.
“Much like when the Air Force separated from the Army in 1947 to have Airmen lead air power, this allows Battlefield Airmen leaders to lead Battlefield Airmen training across the entire enterprise,” Stenger said about the group’s activation.
The BA TG, a subordinate unit of the 37th Training Wing, replaces the 342nd Training Squadron and will lead five new BA training squadrons activated later this summer. The squadrons consolidate and organize already existing training courses under BA leadership. The units include three pipeline squadrons dedicated to each career field; one instructor qualification and prep course squadron including advanced employment training such as military free fall; and a support squadron. Overall, the group is spread across eight geographically-separated squadrons and detachments in seven different states, including:
- 350th BA TS, initial entry course, JBSA-Lackland, Texas
- 351st BA TS, pararescue training course, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.
- 352nd BA TS, combat control/special operations weather training course, Pope Army Airfield, N.C.
- 353rd BA TS, tactical air control party training course, JBSA-Lackland, Texas
- Detachment 1, BA TG- training support squadron, JBSA-Lackland, Texas
The activation of the group and the squadrons also aims to reduce costs and increase efficiencies across the pipeline to produce highly-qualified Battlefield Airmen. Now, trainees will permanently move from one unit to another as they complete training required by each individual squadron. Previously, a trainee would return to JBSA, which served as the hub between attending their lengthy schools. At any given time, there are between 1,000 and 1,500 Airmen in BA training; on average, only 20 percent of those trainees will graduate as a Battlefield Airman.
“The Air Force is looking for special individuals to be part of our elite ground component as Battlefield Airmen and special operators,” said Tech. Sgt. Mario Jaramillo, a top recruiter for Battlefield Airmen in San Antonio. “We need confident, physically fit candidates who refuse to quit in the face of insurmountable challenge.”
Battlefield Airmen are the critical ground link between air assets and ground forces, according to Stenger. Battlefield Airmen are trained to operate as a ground component to solve ground problems with air power, often embedding with conventional and special operations forces. Battlefield Airmen can accomplish missions such as surveying a dry lake bed in Africa as an airfield, rescuing military personnel from behind enemy lines or calling in precision air strikes on enemies.
“This activation is more than an unfurling of a flag,” said Col. Roy Collins, commander of the 37th Training Wing, said. “It serves as a notice to all who would do us harm that America is prepared to respond with highly trained, skilled warriors, always ready to answer their nation’s call.”