Infantry: February 16, 2005

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For the first time in over thirty years, U.S. Air Force enlisted personnel are regularly engaged in ground combat. This is because everyone running convoys into Iraq has to help out with security. At first, this was a problem for the air force. Their regular security forces were busy providing increased base security, and their special operations people were working hard with SOCOM. Finding a lot of air force people who were handy with small arms proved a challenge. Air force basic training only involves a week of field training, including learning the basics of firing a rifle. Airmen fire those rifles once every two years. So the air force created a special four week combat course for airmen headed to Iraq. The course is taught by many airmen who already have combat experience in Iraq.

The air force does have ground combat troops. They have 30,000 men and women assigned to this security force duty. The security forces are trained and equipped as light infantry, although their primary job is base protection and police work. These security troops regularly train with infantry weapons (mainly assault rifle, pistol and light machine-gun.) Each major air base also has an Emergency Services Team (EST), which is basically a SWAT team formed from security forces volunteers. The EST personnel get more intensive training in weapons and tactics. 

The army also has security forces similar to those of the air force. There are 35,000 army military police (MPs). Because of this similarity, the air force has sent hundreds of their security personnel to Iraq to help out army MPs. This work involves guarding prisons, as well as convoy protection. While the air force security troops doing convoy protection get more publicity, there are actually more air force security personnel involved in guarding prisons, and air bases, in Iraq. Nevertheless, for the first time since the Vietnam war, the air force people regularly assigned to ground combat duties.

 


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