24th Special Tactics Squadron: USAF Tier 1 component to JSOC

24th Special Tactics Squadron operators
24th Special Tactics Squadron (Photo: USAF)

24th Special Tactics Squadron is the secretive Tier 1 unit and one of the United States Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). The U.S. Air Force Tier 1 component to Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) alongside SEAL Team 6 – DEVGRU, Delta Force, and Intelligence Support Activity (ISA).


The unit HQ is at Pope Field, North Carolina. The 24th Special Tactics Squadron operators are generally elite forward air controllers who accompany the ST6, Delta Force, etc. and coordinate the delivery of air support and their extraction if necessary. Because they need to accompany the “operators,” they need to master the same skills.

24th Special Tactics Squadron emblem
24th Special Tactics Squadron emblem (Photo: USAF)

24th Special Tactics Squadron operators are also trained in conducting classified and clandestine operations such as direct action, counter-terrorism, counter-insurgency, hostage rescue, and special reconnaissance.

The unit has some of the best trained, most experienced personnel that can direct close air support and administer combat medicine in the field. In fact, many other Special Missions Units do not have their own JTACs or Combat Medics – they rely on the Airmen with the 24th Special Tactics Squadron.

Selection and training

The selection and training pipeline for 24th Special Tactics Squadron is incredibly long and difficult, with attrition rates exceeding 95%. The operators are roosted from other AFSOC units, so basically, the unit comprises the Combat Controllers and Pararescuemen. CCT specializes in providing Joint Terminal Attack capabilities by coordinating with close air support and providing information to establish landing zones and insertion routes. Both of these skills are critically important to battlefield success.

The Pararescuemen specialize in going behind enemy lines to recover downed aircrews and extract and provide medical care for Special Operations personnel. They’re trained in immediate combat trauma care, as well as recovery methods and combat skills.

U.S. Air Force 24th Special Tactics Squadron training fast rope
Members from the U.S. Air Force 24th Special Tactics Squadron, Fort Bragg, complete helo, fast rope, and hoisting training during exercise (Photo: USAF)

Both of these specialties usually work to augment existing forces. CCTs are attached to Special Forces ODAs, SEAL Teams, and teams from Delta and DEVGRU. They primarily work individually as part of another unit. Pararescue can operate individually as a combat medic or operate as a combat trauma team aboard dedicated air assets.

How special they are; there are some inside stories that most Tier 1 unit, when are deployed to a certain mission, want to have the 24 Special Tactics Squadron for any rescue they would need.

History and engagement

The 24th Special Tactics Squadron was formed on 14 October 1941 as 24 Air Corps Interceptor Control Squadron. The unit was activated on 21 October 1941. The unit has changed many names and forms through the years until it was constituted in its current form. On 31 March 1992, the unit was finally redesigned as 24th Special Tactics Squadron.

In recent years the 24th Special Tactics Squadron has been heavily involved in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the unit was part of the JSOC groupings Task Force 121, Task Force 6-26, and Task Force 145.

In 2003 members of the unit were involved in two combat jumps in the initial phases of the Iraq War alongside the 3rd Ranger Battalion. The first combat jump was on 24 March 2003 near the Syrian border in the Iraqi town of Al Qaim, where they secured a small desert landing strip to allow follow-on coalition forces into the area.

usaf pararescueman colon lopez
Pararescueman Senior Master Sgt. Ramon Colon-Lopez wearing the artifacts now displayed on a mannequin at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (Photo: USAF)

The second combat jump was two days later near Haditha, Iraq, where they secured the Haditha Dam. After the initial phase of Afghanistan and Iraq operations, they fought alongside other Tier 1 units in dozens of publicly known and unknown missions.

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