Special Forces, Air Force

The U.S. Air Force (USAF) Special Operators provide U.S. forces with the ability to move personnel into contested areas as well as perform search-and-rescue (SAR) missions behind enemy lines “anywhere, anytime.” The U.S. Air Force’s Special Operations Command (AFSOC) is composed of more than 16,000 members, although the actual special operators make up a much smaller portion of the organization. In 2012, the current members of AFSOC included two active-duty wings, one reserve wing, one National Guard wing, and two overseas groups. This entry discusses the history, missions, and air assets of the USAF Special Operations Forces.


The AFSOC’s history dates back to the Second World War. The 1st Air Commando Group was established on March 29, 1944. General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold charged Lieutenant Colonels ...

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