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Reassignment of 6th Special Operations Squadron transitions a storied legacy

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jonathan McCallum
  • 492d Special Operations Wing

The 492d Special Operations Group commander, Colonel Chris Lang, officiated a ceremony reassigning the 6th Special Operations Squadron at Duke Field, Florida, on Oct. 6, 2022. The ceremony furling the squadron’s flag honored a long history paving the way for a new mission with the 27th Special Operations Group at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, as Air Force Special Operations Command transitions to the force needed for the future.  

“I’m very proud of the men and women of the 6th SOS,” says Col. Lang. “It’s truly been an honor to serve alongside the Combat Aviation Advisors and celebrate everything they have accomplished.”

The 6th SOS history traces its origins to the Fighter Section of the 1st Air Commando Group in World War II. The direction of General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold led to creation of a special unit to support British commandos called the “Chindits” in Burma in 1944.

The unit saw multiple name changes, moves, and disbanded in 1948, to be bought back during the Vietnam War in April 1962. The unit trained in counterinsurgency and unconventional warfare while deploying to Vietnam and Central and South America to advise partner nations fighting against communist insurgencies. It closed its doors again in 1974 but eventually reactivated April 1 and redesignated as the 6th SOS on Oct. 1, 1994.

“Today we’re here to celebrate the legacy and impact of the 6th SOS had over years, in particular over the last 30 years,” said Lt. Col. Sean Williams, 6th SOS commander. “The unit had a significant impact around the world as one of the very few units to execute this mission. Today is not a finish line, it’s not the end of a mission set, it’s a milestone.”

U.S. Special Operations Command identified Aviation Foreign Internal Defense (AvFID) as part of its supported principal activities in 1990. The 6th SOS became the only Air Force squadron dedicated to that mission with Combat Aviation Advisors. Since then, CAAs conducted special operations activities by, with, and through foreign allies and to carry out AvFID and Security Force Assistance activities. These highly trained Air Commandos deploy in muti-functional teams as detachments to assess, train, advise, assist, and integrate foreign aviation forces, strengthening relationships and capabilities with allies around the world.

AFSOC CAAs have provided robust, episodic strategic engagements in support of our nation’s security objectives deploying to more than 45 partner nations and engaging on more than 40 different types of aircraft to carry out their mission. CAAs supported operations in multiple theater commands around the globe and contributed to combat operations after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

“Airmen of the 6th SOS carried on a legacy deploying to partner nations around the world,” said Colonel Caleb Nimmo, 492d Special Operations Wing commander. “Their accomplishments honor those that came before them and set the standard for future Air Commandos.”

Just over 900 airmen of the 6th SOS earned the title of CAA over the last 30 years. They were authorized wear of a special-colored beret signifying the unique skills CAAs possess to others throughout the military. On January 6, 2018, Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, then AFSOC commander, presented members of the 6th SOS with the brown beret to distinguish their distinct mission. The brown color represents a CAA’s ability to see fertile soil where others see barren land. With the transition of the 6th SOS and AFSOC’s air advising capabilities to meet future requirements, CAAs will no longer bear the brown beret.

"We are incredibly grateful for the capabilities our CAAs brought to the fight throughout the years," said Colonel Jocelyn Schermerhorn, AFSOC Director of Operations. "Our CAAs leveraged unique skills and training to build critical partnerships around the globe.  As we transition to the AFSOC We Will Need, our future Air Advisors will be an essential part of our Theater Engagement Construct, continuing the legacy of our CAAs, while enabling combatant commanders in the future fight."

The Air Commandos of the 6th SOS well and faithfully fulfilled their mission of bringing knowledge, training, and skills to meet the needs of the warfighter and partner nations in a manner that is in keeping with the squadron’s legacy of service.