DUKE FIELD, Fla. — A lone security forces airman cuts through plumes of purple smoke while battling opposing forces before taking cover behind a building with his own ammunition flying through the streets of the fictional village.
The sound of gunfire consumed the ‘city’ made up largely of shipping containers as the determined service member joined his wingmen in bringing a wounded airman to an evacuation point. It was a small taste of what any DAGRE must be prepared for in an emergency environment.
Deployed aircraft ground response elements provide security for Air Force Special Operations Command assets and personnel in environments where security is unknown or deemed inadequate. They are highly specialized members of the security forces who receive more training than their counterparts and can perform a variety of defensive operations in remote environments.
“I joined initially because I thought it was one of the coolest slots in my unit,” said Senior Airman Amahd Rasheed, a member of the 919th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron. “Everybody wanted to be ‘that guy’ so they could do those missions and wear that DAGRE tab.”
The first step for Rasheed in achieving his goal was passing the 919th SOSFS assessment. In this training phase, DAGRE candidates learn and perform many of the tasks they will have to demonstrate during their qualifying course. The assessment includes ruck walking, sleep deprivation, shooting, land navigation, and a host of other tasks and skills.
He was successful and moved on to the next stage of his DAGRE training at Hurlburt Field with the 371st Special Operations Combat Training Squadron. Here, Rasheed completed the Air Commando Field Skills Course, the first stop for all Airmen supporting Special Operations Forces.
“Most Airmen on this course learn to get by while supporting special operations,” said Dirk Baier, course director for the ACFSC. “In this course, they learn to descend, to shoot, to move, to communicate and to get out of a bad situation.”
Airmen on this course work in support functions such as medicine, communications, logistics, and other career areas that supply AFSOC’s special operations forces.
At the ACFSC, air commandos from bases around the command learned advanced weapons tactics, participated in tactical combat casualty care training with lifelike robotic mannequins, learned defensive driving, practiced combat and mastered some security techniques.
“This course is focused on field tactics,” Baier said. “It gets them used to the remote places typical of DAGRE.”
According to Baier, the DAGRE program is relatively new. Management recognized the need for a capability similar to the Ravens (a team that provides security to Air Mobility Command cells) to protect AFSOC assets and personnel.
“The difference is that our security teams tend to operate in more remote environments,” Baier said.
For Rasheed and his fellow DAGRE candidates, they combined the skills learned in the ACFSC course with their DAGRE qualifying training.
“When they come to us, we hone the skills they learned at ACFSC and their transition into the security forces,” Tech said. sergeant. Thomas Geerts, non-commissioned officer in charge of the DAGRE qualification course. “We expect a lot from them and train them in a whole new range of skills.”
The qualification course moved trainees to various locations in the Eglin Range over the course of five weeks. Some days are for academics and other days they cover their combat boots in Florida red clay.
“Every day was like Christmas Eve where you were up all night,” Rasheed said. “I never knew what to expect next with all the different classes and trainings that were planned for us.”
Students learned advanced tactics on weapons that many had never used before and had to complete tasks associated with higher skill levels, such as mission planning.
DAGRE trainees participated in close combat drills, small unit tactics, tactical security details and incorporated some of the lessons from their experienced instructors into their operations.
“They’ve spent a lot of time doing urban operations and recovery, normal security forces have those skills as well but we’re honing them,” Geerts said. “As we transition to a new style of warfare, these small, specialized teams are going to become more important.”
The training of Rasheed and his wingmen culminated in a field exercise, where the instructors validate the knowledge the students had to retain over the past few weeks.
During the exercise, they defended cells from opposition forces, defused tensions with local nationals and secured a forward operating base nestled in the woods where they planned their mission.
At one point, they had to secure and protect the encampment from enemy fire while providing emergency medical care to an injured resident.
Once the team successfully completed their culminating exercise, the instructors decided who would graduate and wear the DAGRE tab, and who would return home to their unit without one.
Two months of training, demonstrations and academics for the team taking the courses culminated in a graduation ceremony in December 2021. Rasheed was the first 919th Special Operations Wing Citizen Air Commando to graduate from the complete course and earn the tab in four years.
“My family and my team motivated and pushed me throughout training,” Rasheed said. “I felt like I was in a cloud, I was so excited to have passed and finally graduated. I would highly recommend this course to others”
While one journey has ended here, another has begun for Rasheed and other new DAGRE team members who are fully trained and ready to defend AFSOC assets and SOF members wherever the Nation needs it.
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