A Commando’s Job is Never Done: Air Force Special Operations Command has gotten “a little rusty” in some of its special tactics skills after focusing primarily on counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for the last 11 years, said AFSOC Commander Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel. Speaking at AFA’s Air & Space Conference Sept. 18, Fiel said he is not “that concerned” about atrophied skills, but acknowledged the command will have to reprioritize some of its training as the US focus shifts to the Pacific. “I am concerned, though, about [our] operational tempo. We have folks who have gone over there [Afghanistan] 20 times and more,” said Fiel. There is even one U-28 squadron that has consistently deployed to the desert for 75 days to return home only for 75 days. “They are getting tired,” he added. To combat the problem, the command has started basing more chaplains and certain medical specialties inside the squadron to reduce the amount of time commandos spend waiting at the clinic or for therapy. “In the past if you went to psych there is probably a good chance they were working to get you out of the squadron,” admitted Fiel. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, however, “just pushed out a memo saying it’s OK to say, ‘I have a problem.’ There is still a stigma we have to tackle. It’s something we will never be finished with. We just have to constantly keep at it.”
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.