Air University Press

Col Shannon W. Caudill

  • Published

Author of Defending Air Bases in an Age of Insurgency Vol I-III

Col Shannon W. Caudill, USAF (retired), is a leadership development consultant, graduate-level leadership instructor, author, doctoral student, and Walker Executive Leadership Fellow at the University of Charleston. With over 17 years of college-level teaching experience, he has served as a faculty member and adjunct at the US Air Force’s Air War College and Air Command and Staff College, Lake Region State College, and the University of Charleston. A former Air Force colonel, he served as the Deputy Chairman of Air Command and Staff College’s Leadership and Strategy Department and led as a squadron commander (chief executive officer) for three security forces squadrons (one in combat) ranging from 95 to 1,000 people. He currently teaches leadership for Air Command and Staff College at the graduate and undergraduate levels to senior military officers, government civilian leaders, and congressional staff. He has been published in peer reviewed journals on the topics of leadership, military operations, law enforcement, insurgency, security, and terrorism, and is the editor and coauthor of the three-volume monography book series Defending Air Bases in an Age of Insurgency. Additionally, he is the coauthor of the 2020 history book Baseball in Kennesaw and the founder of an online baseball book sales business called Baseball in Georgia (

Air Force Career:
Colonel Caudill, USAF (retired), served in the Air Force for 25 years from 30 September 1991 to 30 September 2016. His final military assignment was as the Director of Support at the Jeanne M. Holm Center for Officer Accessions and Citizen Development at Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama. As the Director of Support, he was responsible for a $154 million budget, 42 facilities valued at over $200 million, educational and operational information technology, and human resources supporting over 132,000 personnel in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, Officer Training School, and Headquarters US Air Force Civil Air Patrol.

His core military career field was security forces (military police), where he worked at the unit, major command, and Joint Staff levels; commanded three security forces squadrons (chief executive officer); served in four overseas assignments; and accumulated 18 months of combat experience in Iraq. Caudill wrote numerous articles and white papers on terrorism, interagency leadership, base defense, and law enforcement, which have been published in peer reviewed journals like Air and Space Power JournalJoint Force QuarterlyAmerican Diplomacy, and The Guardian—the Joint Staff’s antiterrorism publication.

Academic Pursuits:
Shannon Caudill has taught at the graduate and undergraduate level as a member of the faculty of Air War College, Air Command and Staff College, the University of Charleston, and Lake Region State College (LRSC). As a member of the LRSC faculty, he organized and taught college classes for military members at remote locations in Greenland, Iraq, Kuwait, and North Dakota. He is currently a doctoral candidate in the University of Charleston’s executive leadership program and a Walker Executive Leadership Fellow. His dissertation research is focused on the leadership development experience of women in the Air Force officer corps.

Defending Air Bases in an Age of Insurgency

This anthology discusses the converging operational issues of air base defense and counterinsurgency. It explores the diverse challenges associated with defending air assets and joint personnel in a counterinsurgency environment. The authors are primarily Air Force officers from security forces, intelligence, and the office of special investigations, but works are included from a US Air Force pilot and a Canadian air force officer. The authors examine lessons from Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other conflicts as they relate to securing air bases and sustaining air operations in a high-threat counterinsurgency environment. The essays review the capabilities, doctrine, tactics, and training needed in base defense operations and recommend ways in which to build a strong, synchronized ground defense partnership with joint and combined forces. The authors offer recommendations on the development of combat leaders with the depth of knowledge, tactical and operational skill sets, and counterinsurgency mind set necessary to be effective in the modern asymmetric battlefield. [Shannon W. Caudill, Colonel, USAF / 2014 / 471 pages / ISBN: 978-1-58566-241-8 / AU Press Code: B-136]

Defending Air Bases in an Age of Insurgency

Authors offer their experiences from the field regarding air base security and discuss modern air support for base defense, counterintelligence enablers, commander responsibilities for air base defense, lessons from the Afghanistan theater of operations, projected technological advances in base defense, and unique operational defensive challenges at a conflict’s beginning (getting in) and end (getting out). [Shannon W. Caudill, Colonel, USAF, Retired / 2019 / 452 pages / ISBN: 9781585662418 / AU Press Code: B-154]


Defending Air Bases in an Age of Insurgency

This third and final volume in the AU Press monograph series Defending Air Bases in an Age of Insurgency provides concise principles designed to assist Air Force and Space Force commanders in better understanding their role in base defense to better protect their people, resources, and war-fighting assets. Volume I of this book was Air University Press’s number one download in 2014; Volume II was released in 2019. Volume III distills lessons and recommendations from the preceding two volumes to provide commanders the most concise view of the issues and concepts at stake in fulfilling their base defense roles.

This volume provides future wing, group, and squadron commanders and maturing Air Force and Space Force leaders some guiding principles through which they can better lead, protect, and secure their people, and air- and space power assets. Volume III outlines 10 base defense principles for commanders: (1) You Own It! (commander responsibilities for base defense); (2) Get Left of the Boom: Deter, Disrupt, Deceive; (3) Influence the Base Security Zone . . . or Someone Else Will; (4) Unity of Effort: Synchronize the Fight; (5) Everyone Must Have a Role in the Base Defense . . . and Play It!; (6) Intelligence Drives Maneuver: A Joint-Interagency Approach Is Critical; (7) Air-mindedness Includes Using Air Assets for Base Defense; (8) Law Enforcement Skills Are Critical to Base Defense and Irregular Warfare; (9) Manage the Risk: Commit Intellectual Capital to the Fight; and (10) Nowhere to Hide: Anticipate Future Threats and Develop Countermeasures. [Col Shannon W. Caudill, USAF, Retired / 2021 / 87 pp / ISBN 9781585662883 / B-169]

Q1: What prompted you to write this series?

The genesis of this book series comes from what I view as a fundamental need for Airmen to better understand base defense and its nexus with irregular warfare operations. The idea for volume I was born from my own frustration as I began my preparations for deploying to Joint Base Balad, Iraq, in 2009. I found it difficult to access relevant material on defending air bases in a counterinsurgency environment because too few had taken the time to examine and share their thoughts on these subjects. Few wrote on this subject, and those that did often found their research papers buried in a military library or lessons-learned report—or overclassified and forgotten, if written in the field. There were only three other dated studies of note on the subject of air base defense, which were primarily focused on the Vietnam experience and did not discuss counterinsurgency in any detail.

After I returned from Iraq in 2010, I cowrote an article called “Defending the Joint Force: Lessons Learned from Joint Base Balad,” which appeared in Air and Space Power Journal’s 2011 Spring editionI am deeply appreciative of the support and encouragement I received from Dr. Dan Mortensen, dean of Air Force Research Institute (AFRI), who encouraged me to write more about base defense for Air University Press. Over the course of a year and a half, Dr. Mortensen was generous with his time and advice as I labored to mature a manuscript on the subjects of base defense and counterinsurgency. The work contained in volume I, published in 2014, reopened the air base defense historiography and updated the literature in this field of study. The anthology encompassed the lessons learned from air base defense in Iraq, Afghanistan, and more recent conflicts, and explored best practices for base defenders when operating in a counterinsurgency environment. Volume II, published in 2020, examined additional lessons from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Vietnam, evaluated how best to provide base defense in dispersed operations and the pivot to the Pacific, scrutinized the strategic effect of air base attacks, reviewed the responsibilities of commanders in defending their people and war-fighting assets, and exposed base defense challenges at the beginning (getting in) and end of conflicts (getting out). Importantly, volume II featured material collected through a research partnership with the Air Force Historical Research Agency, which assessed and categorized the effects of air base attacks during the Iraq Conflict (2003–12) using Air Force history reports. Finally, volume III, published in 2021, was specifically designed to be a short read for busy non-security forces commanders to quickly grasp their base defense responsibilities. Volume III captures the more cogent lessons from volumes I and II to benefit commanders by offering ten short principles in leading an integrated base defense.

Q2: What do you want readers to take from this work?

The goal of this anthology was to stir discussion and debate about how best to protect airpower in the future. It is my hope, and the hope of my co-authors, that these three volumes will spur interest in the history of air base defense, generate healthy deliberation regarding better methods for protecting air assets in irregular warfare environments and against peer competitors, and lead to strategies and methods that better prepare Airmen for deployment to high-threat areas. Dr. Alan Vick, a senior political scientist, RAND Corporation, author of Snakes in the Eagle’s Nest: A History of Ground Attacks on Air Bases and Air Base Attacks and Defensive Counters: Historical Lessons and Future Challenges, was an inspiration for this book series and wrote the following review after volume III was released:

Defending Air Bases in an Age of Insurgency: Integrated Base Defense Principles for Commanders is the final volume of the Air University Press trilogy on air base ground defense. The first two volumes present a uniquely comprehensive assessment of integrated base defense combat lessons learned and evolving requirements. Thus, volumes I and II were directed primarily at an audience comprised of professional air base defenders, analysts, and scholars. Volume III perfectly complements the first two volumes, offering 10 principles for base commanders who typically will not have Security Forces backgrounds. The 10 principles are crisp and pithy but also well-grounded in history, offering practical advice that all base commanders would be wise to heed. The three volumes in this set are an invaluable resource and belong on the bookshelves of every air base defender, base commander, and airpower analyst. (2021)

Q3: Did any unanticipated findings emerge from your research?

Despite persistent attacks, USCENTCOM and the US Air Force were so unconcerned by the air base defense threat in Iraq that they did not track the number of aircraft damaged or destroyed due to ground attack. When the data was requested, Air Forces Central directed researchers to the Air Force Historical Research Agency to cull through history reports. After a year of research, students at Air Command and Staff College (ACSC) found that only 15 fixed-wing aircraft had been damaged across all the bases—10 in Balad and 5 in Baghdad— with zero aircraft destroyed. While the United States has been largely successful in defending its air bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, the enemy in these conflicts was not optimally trained, organized, or equipped. It would be wrong to simply cite air base defense efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan as the proper template for future defense or perpetuate the mind-set that new thinking is not needed to meet future threats. Vietnam showed what a determined, well-trained, and committed foe could accomplish in attacking air bases. In the future, the merging of competent irregular enemy forces with precision weapons and modern technology will likely be the impetus for the real change needed to treat the defense of airfields with the seriousness of purpose it truly deserves. Given the replacement cost and lengthy manufacturing timetables of modern aircraft, the USAF and its coalition partners would not be able to sustain Vietnam-level ground-attack losses. Leaders must ensure that the full spectrum of air base threats is addressed, including the traditional ground threat married with the high-tech capabilities of precision-guided indirect fire and remotely piloted vehicles. It is often said that generals try to fight the last war. The lack of enemy effectiveness against air bases in recent conflicts should not lull leaders into under-resourcing or dismissing the growing threats against air bases.

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