Ex-commando inspires youth for special operations

Ex-commando inspires youth for special operations

Lt. Col. (Dr.) Arnold T. Stocker, a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) in Broward County, Florida, has served in the military for more than 40 years and operates South Florida Tactical Athletes, a preparatory school for those wishing to join the most coveted jobs the U.S. military has to offer. During his military career, Stocker has completed two special operation duties as a former Army Special Forces medical sergeant (with combat diver certification) and Air Force Pararescueman. Regardless of branch of service, special operation programs have a high standard of acceptance and a passing rate of lower than 10 percent. According to Stocker, thousands will try out, a hundred will get chosen for selection training and less than 10 will graduate. “To come to our program takes a lot of guts, dedication and motivation,” Stocker said. “We get men and women who are a cut above the rest; many of them are former athletes who think they are in great shape, but it’s not about being the fastest or strongest. It’s about expanding your circle of comfort and your mind, developing as a young adult and learning to work as a team.” Four days a week Stocker and four other instructors, a former pararescueman, a Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer, and two Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance members, coach more than 20 men and women in running, swimming, water confidence, and team building exercises for two to three hours. Each week participants spend two days in the water and two days on land. They also participate in one extended training session a month on the weekend. The training includes warming up, calisthenics, underwater tasks, rucksack marching, sprinting, working together and listening to directions. “Each day is different and when people come to our program, we brief them beforehand but they don’t really know what to expect,” Stocker said. “We provide them with a challenge and we focus on proper form and technique; with that comes the speed.” Stocker envisioned SFTA to be the beginning step for future special operations men and women who will one day lead the nation’s defenses. So far, the program has trained more than 100 men and women since 2012, but Stocker’s journey training others to follow in his footsteps started 6 years prior. While visiting his home state of Pennsylvania, a friend told Stocker that his son would like to become a pararescueman. “He’s the first guy I can say I prepared to become a PJ (pararescueman),” Stocker said. “It’s an awesome feeling for me and every one of the instructors at SFTA, when one of ours makes it through selection. We aren’t just giving them a physical challenge, we are setting them up for the rest of their lives.” Stocker is versed in special operations, but his military journey began in the Air Force as a jet engine mechanic and then he later joined an aeromedical evacuation team on C-141 Starlifter aircraft. He wanted to join the pararescue career field, the military’s combat-search-and-rescue tip of the spear, but didn’t know how to swim. He hired a swim coach to learn stroke techniques and was later sent to the pararescue indoctrination course. “I failed the swim.” Stocker said. “I do (SFTA) because when I was training there was no program around. I told my swim instructor what I wanted to do and he had no idea about water confidence training. I also do it because I enjoy training and mentoring.” Today as a traditional reservist, Stocker oversees patient triage from aircraft to hospital and acts as a patient’s advocate while confirming patients are kept in stable conditions before the next echelon of care. He has two daughters and says the greatest challenge has been juggling his family, anesthesia profession, his reserve duty and SFTA. He couldn’t do it without the help of his instructors and his love for helping others. One other SFTA instructor who works with Stocker, former pararescueman Mike Mahoney, said he also does this job for the enjoyment of developing young adults into great men and women. “Just the other day I had one of those moments when I saw a guy swimming and I thought to myself, wow that’s good form,” Mahoney said. “I wanted to know who that person was, and it turned out to be one of our students who came to us not knowing how to swim. Now he’s working as a lifeguard and wants to become a pararescueman.” Leo Fernandez, one of the participants who joined SFTA not knowing how to swim said Stocker and the coaches have changed his life, both physically and mentally. “I can honestly say I would not have stood a chance in selection without Colonel Stocker,” Fernandez said. “He has worked with me on my swims and has taught me how to get out[…]

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SERE: ‘We do our best so they can do theirs’

SERE: ‘We do our best so they can do theirs’

Training Liberty Airmen to survive, evade, resist and escape in any environment so that they can return home with honor, is what 48th Operations Support Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialists live for. SERE specialists train Airmen on an array of skills needed for survival. The program contains a dozen training courses to include; Local Area Survival, Conduct After Capture, Combat Survival Training, Water Survival Training and Emergency Parachute Training. “We put aircrew in an environment that’s new, and we force them to adapt,” said Staff Sgt. Derreck Day, the 48th OSS SERE Training NCOIC. “If they ever find themselves in these situations they’ll have the muscle memory and the tools available to overcome challenges they may be faced with.” A combined effort of the 48th Fighter Wing, 100th Refueling Wing and 352nd Special Operations Wing SERE teams ensure that USAFE aircrews receive the best training possible in the U.K., and provide Airmen with a plethora of resources to draw knowledge from. “Having three wings within such a close proximity is great for the SERE program,” said Tech. Sgt. Derek Owens, the 48th OSS SERE Group Operations NCOIC. “They all have their own SERE team, and we can come together to provide great training with far more capabilities with the assets provided by each wing.” Pilots and other aircrew are required to receive refresher training on these skills every three years. “SERE training helps aircrew survivability by teaching us some of the basics on how to survive in a multitude of environments if we have to eject out of our aircraft,” said Lt. Col. William Wooten, 492nd Fighter Squadron commander. “They teach us how to handle situations and the postures we need to assume if we are captured by the enemy, focusing on always trying to get home. The training SERE specialists give us is extremely realistic and they are constantly analyzing and updating their teaching methods based on real-world incidents. These professionals make it their mission to make sure that we come home to our family with honor and dignity.” Since World War II, pilots and other aircrew have undergone SERE training for a survival mindset at home and abroad. The training taught in current times has been refined with years of experience and lessons learned poured into it. “The SERE program here has been going on for a long time, so we’ve had time to improve,” said Owens. “We stay in tune with all of the tactics, technique and procedures that the bad guys are trying to employ on us, and we tailor our training so we can continue to give them the latest and greatest skills they need to survive, evade, resist and escape.” NORFOLK, UNITED KINGDOM 07.25.2018 Story by Senior Airman Malcolm Mayfield  48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs   //ENDS// Story extracted from DVIDS  

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AF Recruiters Learn About Innovations for Next-Gen Special Ops Airmen

//From Defense.gov// For the first time in the Defense Department, a series of career field specialties is using human performance monitoring and a data collection system, as well as specialized recruiters. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Jette undergoes a body composition measurement test at the 350th Battlefield Airman Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas June 28, 2018. Jette is a special operations recruiter based in Fresno, Calif. DoD photo by EJ Hersom Because of high attrition rates in its special operations career fields — pararescue, combat controller, tactical air control party and special operations weather technicians — the Air Force stood up the 350th Battlefield Airman Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, and the 330th Recruiting Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph in Texas. Recruiters also focus on the special operations support career fields: survival, evasion and resistance and explosive ordnance disposal. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Josh Smith, the special warfare preparatory course superintendent for the 350th BATS, has been a pararescueman, or PJ, for 25 years. He said his team was tasked to stand up the squadron within 121 days. They shadowed the Army’s and Navy’s special operations programs and used their best practices to model this new program, he said. The team received “amazing support” from Naval Special Warfare at Great Lakes Naval Training Command in Illinois, Smith said. “And we’re using the same contract for our coaches, so some of their staff could help us set up the program here,” he added. “It’s been an amazing partnership between the two organizations.” Pilot Course On June 5, 2017, the first battlefield airmen preparatory pilot course ran through its first eight-week iteration. Smith said the course’s goal is to “create a program focused on creating that fitter, faster, stronger, more mentally resilient warfighter.” He said one area the Navy would like to increase training on is psychology. “We really try to focus on that communication, team building, the character tributes of leader, integrity, professionalism, trainability and teaching them how to improve in those areas,” Smith said. “This generation knows how to text, but they need to work on communication.” Smith said the team was tasked to improve production by 10 percent, but were able to improve it by 20 percent overall. They were able to eliminate the two-week pararescue development course, and tactical air control party candidates went from a 30 percent graduation rate to 66 percent. Air Force Maj. Heath Kerns, 330th Recruiting Squadron commander and a special tactics officer, said the squadron pulled recruiters from 27 different squadrons across the Air Force who showed an aptitude and interest as well as other qualifications to head up this new squadron, specializing in recruiting for the three Air Force special forces career fields and its support career fields. “Instead of worrying about 160 jobs, [our battlefield airmen recruiters] can get really smart on six jobs,” Kerns said. The Air Force has learned that potential special operations recruits are not motivated in the same ways as recruits from the larger force, he explained. “They don’t care about the benefits or the money. They care about the challenge,” Kerns said. “I wanted to know, ‘What’s the hardest thing in the world I could do?’ I wanted to become the most elite [and] challenge myself in the worst ways possible,” he said of his own motivation. Kerns said the recruiters’ mission is to scout, develop and guide the future warriors for their combat calling. With this new program, the recruiters work hand-in-hand with the squadron ahead of time and have developers, retired operators, who will work with the recruits to make sure they can pass the physical training test and be ready for battlefield airmen prep before arrival. Recruiter Training To help recruiters understand what the course is like, about 90 of them attended a one-week version of the course, June 25-29. “This week has been excellent training. Simple things like you normally swim with goggles, but now you have a face mask fogging up, and your nose isn’t used to having dead space, so it’s trying to breathe in but it’s not [able to],” Kerns said. “We can now absolutely understand that even though my applicant passed the test well in a different environment, he may show up here and freak out and his score may look bad. We understand the process now because we’ve lived it. It’s going to change the way our recruiters go back and work with the candidates.” He said having the partnership with the active-duty community has also been helpful. “I reach out to my brothers and tell them, ‘If you want me to replace you with quality people, I need you to provide these things.’ It’s been a great partnership,” Kerns said. A computer displays up to 300 data points monitoring[…]

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126. Sleep-optimizing training. Part 1

Dr Sara Alger is a DOD sleep research scientist and has a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. She discusses the science of optimally learning and training in regards to the critical role sleep plays in encoding, retaining and retrieving new, complex information. This is important for all Operators, trainers and educators. Read more

Special-Operator Trainers Outline Evolution of the Battlefront Airman

From Defense.gov Candidates training to be special operators evolve to the enemy that’s developing by adapting and trying to overcome it, two Air Force special-operator trainers said yesterday at the Pentagon in the Defense Department’s “Showcasing Lethality” briefing series. “From the battlefront and the training enterprise, from our standpoint, we are the foundation of what builds our battlefront airmen, to include our combat control operators, our pararescuemen, our [tactical air control party] operators and our special operations,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Robert Gutierrez Jr., superintendent of standards and evaluations for Air Education and Training Command’s Battlefield Airmen Training Group, at Joint Base-San Antonio-Lackland in Texas. He and Air Force Master Sgt. Thomas J. Gunnell, a tactical air control party craftsman assigned to the 26th Special Tactics Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico, provide some of the most rigorous training that goes into being a battlefield airman. “We try to basically build individuals that would never quit, [and] get them through arguably some of the hardest DoD training that’s out there,” Gutierrez said of the mostly junior-enlisted candidates, many of whom are right out of high school. While the two trainers said their attrition rate used to be up toward 80 percent and 90 percent, it’s now closer to 69 percent. “It’s still pretty rough, and it’s extensive and hard,” Gunnell said of the selection and training processes. Changes in Training “How we have come to this point is honestly through innovation and change,” he said, noting implementation of courses, such as an eight-week pilot program called the Battlefront Airmen Preparatory Course, which has added to changes in training. “We are making individuals that come through from [basic military training] fitter, faster, stronger and more mentally resilient,” Gunnell said, “[while we] familiarize them with the training and the types of environments we’re going to put them in.” Gutierrez emphasized how the jobs that result from the intense training involve huge responsibilities. “In some instances,” Gutierrez said, “they’re E-4s [or] E-5s controlling million-dollar aircraft, [and they] are responsible for lives and making the right moral and ethical decisions on the battlefield.” Yet, the trainers don’t just build war fighters — they build responsible noncommissioned officers and train them to go out and “do the fight,” Gutierrez said. “We’re building the best candidates out there in the world,” he added. They agreed that today’s technology, which produced equipment such as unmanned aircraft and sophisticated munitions has taken training a long way in recent years. Full-on Operators Gunnell said trainers must turn candidates into “full-on operators” for the operational force because they’re essential in light of the operations tempo made necessary by numerous global threats. Training is now more science-based, with strength and conditioning coaches, athletic trainers and even physical therapists, he noted. “We have operations psychologists that are sitting there watching and assessing these candidates to make sure we are taking the right individual that’s going to make the right decision when it’s needed,” he said. Emphasizing that safety is their No. 1 concern, the trainers said they prepare candidates in all environments to meet the needs of building a fitter, faster, stronger and mentally resilient airman to support any given effort. Gunnell said today’s candidates are “amazing” in their physical and mental abilities. “We’re not getting the same guys, probably, that [Gutierrez] and I were when we first came in,” he said. “The [people] we’re getting now are stronger and smarter. Their aptitude levels are just unreal. “It’s awesome to see them grow from young airmen,” said he continued. “We put them out on the battlefield … in Afghanistan and Iraq, everywhere all over the world, and they just take it and come back with a little experience. They get a little confidence, and then we’re able to grow a little bit further. I teach them so much based off what I’ve learned. But then they come back with that experience. They teach the next crop of guys coming in.” Training special operations candidates is becoming more lethal, Gunnell said, drawing on experience from war in Afghanistan and Iraq. “We’ve been doing this for 17 years now, and it’s helped us grow the nation’s young people and [produce] some incredible individuals.” //ENDS//

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146th ASOS builds partnership during warfighter exercise

EDINBURGH, IN, UNITED STATES 06.15.2018 Story by Staff Sgt. Brigette Waltermire  137th Special Operations Wing   EDINBURGH, Indiana – The 146th Air Support Operations Squadron (146th ASOS), Will Rogers Air National Guard Base (WRANGB) in Oklahoma City, worked with new and old partners during Warfighter 18-5 (WFX 18-5), June 5-14, 2018, at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center near Edinburgh, Indiana. Warfighter is a nine-day, 24-hour warfighter exercise that brought together the 146th ASOS with the Oklahoma National Guard 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (45th IBCT) and for the first time, the Minnesota Army National Guard 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division (1/34th ABCT). Eight participants from the 146th ASOS squadron were split between the two units to provide continuous planning assistance for the Army training audience. “Our contribution to this exercise is to support our two aligned partners,” Master Sgt. Christopher Vaughn, 146th ASOS tactical air control party (TACP) noncommissioned officer in charge. “It is our opportunity to integrate with all the different army entities and shops that we will work with when we deploy.” Warfighter 18-5 (WFX-18-5) was conducted to help battalions under the 34th Infantry Division reinforce Army battle drills in a computer-simulated combat environment. Conducting these operations in a virtual battlefield allowed the Soldiers to fine-tune standard processes and see the real-time combat results of battle plans, actions and decisions. “It’s extremely important to build a team mission command, but it’s more than that – it’s getting to know each other,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Kemp, 1/34th ABCT commander. “We have a whole year to build that and trust, and this past week has been critical for that.” In the past, the 146th ASOS had only worked with infantry brigades (the 45th IBCT and the 79th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in California), so integration with the armored brigade has offered the squadron an opportunity to expand their skill set, said Lt. Col. Craig Ilschner, commander of the 146th ASOS. “They behave and operate differently from an infantry brigade, so it has been a learning experience for us… but the 1/34th have been great working with us and helping us better understand the way they operate,” he said. During the exercise, the 146th ASOS acted as a realistic asset during the training and generated requests for air support that were received from the division. Their job during the exercise was to help the Army fire support officer create a joint tactical air request and help submit close air support requests through the Air Force. Master Sgt. Benjamin Lake, 146th ASOS chief of weapons and tactics, was one of four 146th ASOS members who worked directly with Soldiers in the 1/34th ABCT mobile tactical operations center in 12-hour shifts. This was the fifth warfighter exercise for him, and he said each one has been better than the last. However, he also said WFX-18-5 has been particularly special because of the integration between the 146th ASOS and the 1/34th ABCT. “The training right now is to help us integrate with the 1/34th ABCT and to let them know what we’re doing,” said Lake. “We’re really learning how their particular brigade operates.” The 146th ASOS participates in warfighter exercises when necessitated by their Army partners. As a longstanding partner, the 45th IBCT is not new to the processes of the 146th ASOS. In 2008, the 146th ASOS was established as a tenant unit on WRANGB to support the 45th IBCT and 75th IBCT. They deployed with the 45th IBCT to Afghanistan in 2011 and have regularly been on missions and training exercises since 2013. Their training has evolved over the years to coordinating joint air support for joint and combined operations, such as during Operation Allied Spirit in 2016, in which the 45th and 146th replicated a multi-national division in an operational environment with 12 other countries. “Our relationship overall has really evolved from basic tactical execution with the TACP six years ago to joint operational planning,” said Chief Warrant Officer Rowdy Isbill, targeting officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 45th IBCT. “Our relationship as a guard element with the 146th rivals any active duty unit.” For Ilschner, WFX 18-5 was not only an opportunity for training and building the 146th ASOS’ existing working relationship with the 45th IBCT, but it also served as proving ground for their new partnership with the 1/34th ABCT. “This is the foundation of what will be a relationship that I expect to grow and improve over the next several years,” Ilschner said. “We like to be experts at what we do, and we align well with the 1/34th because they have the same training mindset and operational paradigm.” //ENDS// Click HERE for the original story from DVIDS.

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Maximize Performance; Q&A with Team ST Coach Shawn

Sanderson Performance’s Coach Shawn; founder of Team ST, sits down with Specialtactics.com to talk workouts and maximizing performance. 1)    What were your primary goals when developing Team ST? When developing Team ST I first looked at what the requirements to graduate selection are and why so many applicants were unable to make it. I then compared that against my own experience and what I thought were the limiting factors that made selection more difficult. In the end it came to one of two things: 1- Mindset, most guys that didn’t make it decided, at some point, that this job wasn’t for them and they quit. The fact of the matter is, they were right, and there is nothing I can do or say to anyone that will change their perspective when they are confronted with that level of stress, other than take it in a little at a time and eventually you’ll be done. 2- Injury, those that did not quit, either washed out due to an acute injury, or developed a sustained injury from overtraining that lead to a failure to train (FTT). This is typically not due to a lack of fitness. Everyone that made it to this point successfully completed the PAST, some of them actually already met or exceeded grad standards before they even started. How is this possible? They trained to the test, in a low threat environment, and never built the foundation to survive the 10 weeks leading up to the test. Skipping crucial elements leads to failure. This is what drove my primary goals, which are: –  Attack limiting factors that cause trainees to fail –  Build a foundation in athleticism that will translate to efficient movement, both biomechanically and neurologically – Build resiliency and reduce risk of injury from the volume achieved during selection – Provide a “team like” setting for candidates to start holding each other and themselves accountable, because NO ONE graduates on their own.   2) The market is flooded with free and premiere workout programs.  How is Team ST programming unique and why have athletes chosen Team ST over the competition? At the end of the day, you get what you pay for; there are some decent free programs and some great premier programs. However, what I have found is that the majority of “pre-selection” programs are limited to a 6-12 week canned training plan and are composed of high volume work similar to what the candidate will see at selection. This sounds like it makes perfect sense; however, the issue arises when the athlete hits a plateau or sustains an overtraining injury and falls behind in their fitness levels. Even worse, if this is the only training they do prior to showing up at selection, they typically already have an ailment that is bothering them or they are to a point where 10 more weeks of high volume training will break them, literally. Additionally, there typically isn’t any kind of team atmosphere with these unless guys have a local network and they are able to run the same programs together. Team ST solves these problems by providing programming specifically designed to build a foundation that will aid them in withstanding the rigors of selection.  Additionally, the programming is constantly changing in order to prevent plateaus or regressions in performance. Finally, Team ST is truly a worldwide “team.” We have members from all over the world who are sharing their performance on the team leaderboard, discussing nutrition protocols and recovery techniques, and asking whatever questions they can think of regarding the team or training concepts. All of this is happening within the training app. The feedback that I have received so far, is that guys are feeling stronger, healthier and are having less complaints of chronic pain than when they were following other programs.   3) Who is Team ST designed for?  Is Team ST tailored for the athlete preparing for the PAST or for the athlete attempting to meet selection grad standards? Team ST is designed far anyone who wants to maximize there performance and increase there chances of surviving selection. We typically conduct the PAST  (or the operators PT test for phase 2 candidates) through the various training cycles. We won’t test the grad standards here as they aren’t applicable to building the athletes capabilities. If you have a strong foundation, you will keep up with the progression just fine throughout selection. Because of this, I can say with confidence, that an athlete who conducts consistent training with Team ST for at least 20-24 weeks will have a significant advantage physiologically than someone who simply builds up to a 6 mile run, 4K meter swim and high rep body weight calisthenics. As I stated earlier, I have seen guys enter with grad standard numbers and not graduate[…]

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Training to Strengths & Weaknesses

The Problem A common mistake guys consistently make when training for selection is how and where they focus their energy while training. Too often, candidates are spending time in the exact opposite manner as they should be to prepare for what could be considered the biggest hurdle of their entire life.   Battlefield Airmen selection courses are built around a set of standards that must be met prior to graduation. Simple concept, right?  But the point I want to make is that in order to graduate, you must meet ALL of the standards. Selection courses and the instructors assigned to them don’t care if you can run a 5’30 mile, knock out 30 pullups and swim like Michael Phelps if you can only do 30 push-ups. Likewise, if you can do [spp-timestamp time="1:15"] interval underwaters and perform 50m underwaters all day but can’t tread water for 2 minutes, you’re a failure in the same capacity as the guy that sucks at everything. The above shouldn’t come to anyone’s surprise- it’s a simple concept to grasp: you must pass all the standards in order to graduate. But there is an inherent tendency to not apply this concept when we are training. As humans, we naturally gravitate to events we are strong in and reluctantly avoid items we are poor at. Think about it- we do this in the academic classes we sign up for in school, the sports we choose to play and how we workout while at the gym.  We naturally enjoy doing things we are good at and do them more often than things we are poor at.  By doing this, we become better at the things we were already good at and remain lousy at the items we sucked at to begin with. The Solution This tendency ultimately sets us up for failure when training for selection. By avoiding your weak points, you are failing to neutrale your greatest threat for course failure. To combat this phenomenon, you need to be cognizant of this trap and FOCUS ON IMPROVING YOUR WEAKNESSES WHILE MAINTAINING YOUR STRENGTHS.  Come to grips with the fact that you suck at some things. But embrace the challenge of turning your weaknesses into a strength. The benchmark for determining your strengths and weaknesses can be as simple as utilizing the graduation standards of your selection course as a guideline, such as Indoc.  The PAST is not a good standard to use as it is considered a baseline requirement to enter selection.  If you train to solely pass the PAST, you will not be successful.  Train past the PAST. Identify your weak points and make it a personal challenge to be better at your poor events.  It is often said a special operator is a Jack of All Trades, Master of None.  Embrace that mantra.  There is no need to be great at one thing, but you do need to be good at everything. Now go kick some ass.  

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