Air Force Special Warfare programs for ROTC, USAFA cadets

  • Published
  • By By Maj. Nate Roesler, Air University Public Affairs

Air Force Special Warfare created a formalized special warfare cadet program to help Air Force ROTC and U.S. Air Force Academy cadets prepare to be special tactics, combat rescue, or tactical air control party officers.

This program was developed in response to cadets arriving at selections for special warfare, the only specialties requiring a pre-commissioning screener, without access to proper procedures to practice many of the graded events, according to Col. John Graver, individual mobilization augmentee to the director of Air Force Special Warfare.

“We want cadets to know what they need to prepare for, and to have the knowledge to do so safely and effectively,” Graver said. “Historically, neither the Air Force Academy nor AFROTC filled all of their commissioning slots for Special Warfare, which down the road impacts mission readiness.”

According to Graver, many cadets who are interested in special warfare train without any curriculum in place to properly prepare them for success when they go to special warfare selections.

“Another concern we have is safety,” he said. “Some facets of special warfare training and selection are inherently dangerous if not practiced correctly. Our training materials help cadets know how to practice these exercises safely. This program includes lesson plans, risk management, and physical strengthening plan and is something that we feel can take an interested cadet and get them ready for the next level.”

The program was tested at two-week Special Warfare Orientation Courses over the summer at USAFA, concluding on July 1, 2022. Over 60 cadets took part in the approved professional development training and summer program under the guidance of over 30 uniformed and civilian staff from USAFA, major commands, and Air Force and Army flying units.

Cadets were exposed to over 20 topics in order to recruit and prepare them for selection.  These included land and water fitness, troop leading procedures, small-unit tactics, decision making, and planning and executing global access, precision strike and personnel recovery missions.

Cadet Raymond Bates from Indiana State University’s AFROTC Detachment 218 learned that, “being a leader is about inspiring and trusting your team.” He said he embraced the missions where he, “had to choose the best course of action while processing a lot of information.”

“SWOC exceeded my expectations, with a better understanding of the physical standards and in-depth practical experience of the 19Z [Air Force specialty code] to bring back to my detachment,” said Cadet Kailen Jordan of AFROTC Detachment 005 at Auburn University, Ala. “The course provided an opportunity to see how I lead under stress, something difficult to learn elsewhere. SWOC was an amazing opportunity that deepened my excitement about trying to be part of the Air Force Special Warfare community.”

Cadet Maxwell Spear of AFROTC Detachment 630, Kent State University, Ohio, enjoyed the experience getting to work with cadets of the same mindset.

“I enjoyed how the events were structured, building upon one another,” he said. “In the higher-stressed events, I learned to not worry about future events and instead live in the moment and focus on what is directly in front of me.”

Additionally, cadets can participate in Special Warfare AF Reserve Officer Training Corps Weekend, or SWAW, which first began last academic year.

“We want to provide interested cadets as many opportunities as possible to prepare,” Graver said. “Between weekend events, two-week courses, and hopefully many more Special Warfare Clubs at detachments, we can prepare as many cadets as are interested to succeed as special warfare officers. It’s an extremely challenging and rewarding career like no other and it’s one the country needs young men and women to go into.”

AFROTC detachments with interest in developing or refining their cadet Special Warfare Club should expect to receive a message this fall on these opportunities, and may reach out to Graver for other information at